Andy Stanley’s recent comments concerning homosexuality were ambiguous at best and a complete capitulation to the spirit of the age at worst. In any case, even ambiguity is unacceptable for a Christian pastor—much less one with the influence of Stanley. Stanley is not an outlier in the wider evangelical movement. He was raised a Southern Baptist. He received his formal theological training at an evangelical seminary. He is a leader of leaders, a well-known author, and a highly sought-after speaker. As evangelical pastors go, he is near the top of the proverbial heap.
For these reasons, some kind of clarification would be in order concerning his recent remarks about homosexuality. Perhaps an interview with a journalist or even a press release will appear in the next couple of days. At the very least, a statement to his church is needed and would go a long way toward clarifying the issues. Whether or not he’ll actually talk to a reporter or make a statement, I do not know. But if he did, here are the questions that need to be answered.
1. Do you believe that the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is sin? Do you agree with the Bible?
This is not a question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. We are not talking about adiaphora or theological trivialities. We are talking about what is fast becoming the watershed moral question of our day. Pastors, you will not be able to duck this issue. You will not be able to obfuscate indefinitely. The spirit of the age is moving definitively away from Biblical sexual norms, and Christian pastors are either going to take their stand with scripture or they are going to sell-out the authority of the Bible. At the end of the day, this is the bottom line. What does the Bible teach and are you willing to preach it and live it?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Titus 1:7-9 “For the overseer must be…holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
2. Are practicing homosexuals allowed to become members of your church? Would you baptize a practicing homosexual?
One of the most troubling aspects of Stanley’s story is at the very end. Stanley describes seeing a divorced couple in one of his church’s Christmas services. The wife was accompanied by her new boyfriend, and the husband was accompanied by his male partner. Stanley celebrated the apparent reconciliation in this “modern family” and said that it was a “microcosm of the church.” This statement raises all sorts of questions, but the obvious one is this. Is Stanley saying that he would allow practicing homosexuals to join his church? Would he baptize into membership those who are in open rebellion against Jesus? Would he facilitate the illusion that they are right before God? Again, this is not adiaphora. The answer to this question will be the difference between heaven and hell for parishioners. How strict will be the judgment for a shepherd who declares to sinners “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 6:14; 8:11; Jas. 3:1).
This raises another question that begs to be answered: Why wasn’t church discipline invoked when a man forsook his wife and divorced her? The divorced couple seemed to be working things out for themselves, and the church appears to have had very little role in sanctioning the infidelity of this man. The failure of churches to practice redemptive church discipline is an open scandal not just at this church, but at countless other evangelical congregations. It is the reason that so many non-Christians look at our churches and conclude that the pews are full of hypocrites. When churches fail to discipline, the critics are right. Eventually, there will be no difference between the church and the world where redemptive discipline is absent.
1 Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Corinthians 5:1-2 “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst.”
Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
3. Are practicing homosexuals allowed any positions of leadership or responsibility in your church? If so, what positions?
Different churches have different approaches to the participation of non-members in the life of a congregation. Most churches (including my own) welcome non-Christians to attend our services. It is come one come all in our Sunday morning services. We would hope that all manner of sinners (including homosexual sinners) would sit under the preaching of the word and experience the grace of the gospel. That being said, most churches also place some limits on the participation of non-members and non-Christians. What limits are there at North Point? Apparently, practicing homosexuals are allowed to be a part of the church’s welcome committee. This strongly suggests that they themselves are not only members but also allowed some position of leadership and responsibility. Would they also be allowed to join a small group? Lead a small group? Teach a small group?
2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
Jude 1:4 “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
No doubt there are many other questions that could be asked, but these are the ones that I think are the most obvious. The answer to these questions will be the difference between faithfulness and apostasy. The stakes couldn’t be any higher.
I have a hard time believing that Andy Stanley wishes to abandon the church’s two thousand year old ethic on human sexuality. I could be wrong, but a wholesale rejection of the Bible’s teaching just seems unlikely to me. I’m holding out hope that he will offer a correction of the impression left by his remarks. I’ll be the first in line to rejoice when he does.