Andy Stanley’s Sermon On LGBTQ+ Issues Evokes Both Condemnation And Praise


Andy Stanley’s sermon on Sunday, which sought to clarify his stance on LGBTQ+ issues, is evoking condemnation from nonaffirming Christian leaders and praise from ones that affirm same-sex relationships.

Author and talk radio host Michael Brown spent his daily program on Monday responding to Stanley’s sermon at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. (North Point has not yet published the sermon, but The Roys Report published audio of the sermon on Monday.)

“Pastor Andy, you’ve got to do better,” said Brown. “You’ve got to make some radical changes to be in full conformity with the will, heart, and mind of God as a pastor and shepherd. … Let’s reach those who are hurting (and) let’s also rebuke sin and call it what it is.”

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Similarly, Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote an op-ed in response to Stanley’s sermon. “This is not Biblical Christianity,” wrote Mohler. “It is Andy Stanley’s own invention, and it is not plausible. … (It is) something new and completely irreconcilable with the gospel, with discipleship, and with holiness.”

However, author and speaker Jonathan Merritt described the pushback to the sermon as “sad but expected” from many evangelicals. “Stanley and North Point are trying to do something most evangelical churches are failing at,” Merritt told The Roys Report. “And that’s to have honest and productive conversations about how parents of LGBTQ children can love their kids.”

On Sunday, Stanley addressed comments by Mohler in an earlier op-ed accusing Stanley of departing from “biblical Christianity.” The comments came in response to last week’s Unconditional Conference at North Point, which featured numerous gay-affirming speakers, advising parents and ministry leaders on how to minister to kids identifying as LGBTQ+.

Stanley replied in his sermon, “I have never subscribed to (Mohler’s) version of biblical Christianity to begin with, so I’m not leaving anything.”

Stanley said Mohler’s version of biblical Christianity is “why people are leaving Christianity unnecessarily. It’s the version that causes people to resist the Christian faith because they can’t find Jesus in the midst of all the other stuff and all the other theology and all the other complexity that gets glommed on to the message.”

Later in his message, Stanley affirmed marriage as between one man and one woman. He stated North Point and its network of 150 partner churches teach “fidelity in marriage and sexual purity outside of marriage.” 

But Stanley also presented a range of options that Christian-identified LGBTQ individuals follow. He said some commit “to living a chaste life” and forego traditional marriage. “For many, that is not sustainable,” preached Stanley. “So they choose same-sex marriage — not because they’re convinced it’s biblical. … They choose to marry for the same reason many of us do: love, companionship. … And, this is the important thing I want you to hear me say: it’s their decision.”

Stanley noted that gay Christian authors Justin Lee and Brian Nietzel — both speakers at last week’s Unconditional Conference — had been invited to speak “on several occasions” to North Point’s Parent Connect groups.

Stanley described the two men as “bridge builders” and “compassionate Christians who don’t want another generation of LGBTQ+ kids that feel like, ‘Hey, who I think I am is incompatible with at least attempting to follow Jesus.’”

Drawing lines vs. circles

In his sermon, Stanley explicitly differentiated North Point from churches that exclude LGBTQ-identified people.

“Jesus drew circles,” he preached. “He drew circles so large and included so many people in his circle, that it consistently made religious leaders nervous. His circle was big enough to include sinners like me. … We decided 28 years ago, (we) don’t draw lines, we draw big circles.” 

Brown, who told The Roys Report he had spoken directly to Stanley on Monday about his concerns, responded at length.

“The truth is that Jesus drew both circles and lines, and if we don’t do both, we hurt those we are called to help,” wrote Brown in an op-ed. “Jesus (drew) a massive circle that invited sinners of every sort and stripe, including you and me, and laying out clear lines as well.”

Brown explained he “categorically rejects” how Stanley had invited speakers who are in same-sex relationships to advise parents in the church. “They say that you can practice homosexuality and follow Jesus at the same time,” said Brown. “This is terribly misleading and dangerous for the gay-identifying kids as well as for their parents.”

In a statement to The Roys Report, Justin Lee, founder of Nuance Ministries, who is in a same-sex relationship, claimed he didn’t “take any position on topics like same-sex marriage or sexual behavior” at the recent conference.

“My primary message was that Christians should look to Jesus and to Scripture — not to me or any human source — for determining what is God’s will,” said Lee. “And that Christians who follow Jesus’s example can treat others with love and empathy without compromising on truth.

Lee claimed that, following his sessions, several parents came up to him “in tears, thanking me for offering them practical advice on how to love their LGBTQ children even when they cannot agree with their life choices.” He noted this aspect “often gets glossed over in theological debates.” 

Dialogue and differing approaches

Merritt, author of “Learning to Speak Jesus from Scratch” and a self-described “gay progressive Christian,” called North Point’s approach “incredibly risky, messy and difficult.”

He added: “There is no way to have conversations around this issue that are productive and helpful that will not anger half of Christian America or more. That’s the nature of the issue.”

However, a colleague of Mohler’s at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, ethics and public theology professor Andrew Walker, posted online that he had spoken to Stanley over several years regarding these issues. Similar to Brown, Walker recounted those conversations as “kind and respectful.” 

But following Stanley’s sermon, Walker said Stanley is “gaslighting” his critics. “(It’s) as though dissent from North Point’s ministry model is soaked in animosity, contempt, and hatred toward LGBT family and friends.”

“Stanley is attempting to be more compassionate than Jesus, which is impossible,” added Walker. “Scripture embraces truth and love as mutually reinforcing (1 Cor. 13:6). This sort of third-way ‘quieter middle space’ is neither biblically faithful nor practically sustainable.” 

For his part, Merritt, whose father is longtime pastor and former SBC president James Merritt, criticized Walker’s colleague, seminary president Mohler. He called Mohler “a high-minded theologian in an ivory tower” who has never pastored a local church. 

Jonathan Merritt stated: “It’s very easy to make theoretical proclamations about what should be done in a church. But it’s much more difficult for ministers on the ground to actually love their people well. You ask any pastor in America, and they’ll tell you that’s true.

“In such a fraught and divisive moment, Stanley is working overtime to find ways to help parents love their kids.”

In his sermon, Stanley spoke of how he heard from North Point youth leaders that several “high school and middle school students” in the church “(came) out about same-sex attraction.” Stanley added the students had not “engaged in any same-sex behavior.”

Stanley said that to formulate study materials to help these youth, he and youth leaders spoke to “about 15 gay adult attenders, who attended our campuses that we had contacted through the years.” He said he asked questions such as, “How do you wish the church had responded when you came out? And, “What would have made a difference in your life?”

In his post, Walker responded, “This is an example of unbounded empathy that listens (which is good) but never invites toward transformation (which is not good).”

The theology professor summed up his objections. “What Stanley considers as a failure to live up to an unattainable ideal, Scripture calls sinful,” said Walker. “Nowhere in the message was there any expectation that someone would turn from their same-sex relationship.”

Jason Truett Glen, who teaches philosophy at Liberty University shared and praised Walker’s post as reflecting “grace and accuracy.”

Glen stated: “There’s no doubt that (Stanley) believes he’s in the right on this … as many pastors do when they throw God’s revelation under the bus in order to pitch a ‘kinder, gentler’ Christianity that supports their vocation.”

This piece was originally published at The Roys Report.

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