The following question appeared under my last blog entry.
“Has anyone noticed that Derek Webb has been touring with JNAPP? Or that she has been touring with him… Maybe you could provide a blog post about Derek. I’ve been wondering for about a year now where he stands on some things.”
The short answer is that, yes, I have noticed. But, no, I don’t know where he stands on the big question asked by Larry King—Can you be gay and Christian?
I used to be a big fan of Derek’s music, but I’ve had a tough time listening to his work ever since his “Mockingbird” album (which I wrote about here). I wrote a blog post last year about the controversial song “What Matters More” from his latest album because I thought the song wasn’t straightforward about the gospel. This song was a bridge too far for me. In short, I haven’t been following Derek or his music anymore.
Until all the publicity surrounding Jennifer Knapp last week, I didn’t even know that Webb had been touring with her. But when I heard about it, I decided to do some poking around to see what Derek has been up to since the release of his album last year. As the video above confirms, he is in fact touring with Knapp. That being said, I don’t think his touring with her tells us anything definitive about the big question.
While surfing around, I also discovered that Derek played at a conference of “The Gay Christian Network” (GCN) early this year. According to the GCN website, the GCN is “a nonprofit ministry supporting Christians worldwide who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).” The GCN’s mission is “sharing Christ’s light and love for all.” The GCN’s statement of faith says that “We believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians are full participants in God’s kingdom.” Despite this statement of faith, the GCN has members on both sides of the big question (read about it here).
I read all of that, and I was naturally curious to know if Derek was sympathetic to the views of the GCN. I found two items that spoke to this question. The first item is a podcast interview that Derek gave to the leaders of the GCN. You can listen to it below.[audio:http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio/gcn112709.mp3]
The second item is an interview with TheChristianManifesto.com. Here’s the relevant exchange:
What is your stance on the Gay Christian Network in Nashville, Tenn. and the work they’re doing?
Yea, I played an acoustic show as a part of their conference in Nashville. I’ll tell you the truth as an organization, I really like the idea. First of all the GCN wouldn’t have to exist if churches were doing their jobs. If Christ followers were actually following Jesus, then an organization like that wouldn’t have to exist where gay people who are on a spiritual journey, a uniquely Christian spiritual journey, would have to band together because there is no other safe place for them to go and worship and learn and study. So now it’s unfortunate that it should have to exist, and it shouldn’t. That said I like the fact that in their official documentation they leave it very open for people in their community to have very, very different opinions about the particular morality of the issue. I like that they weren’t setting themselves up to say “here’s what we are.” Instead they’re a catch-all for any disenfranchised Christians or people who are spiritually curious, who have been alienated because of their sexuality. That I was really encouraged by and being there with them I was really encouraged by that.
So what do we make of all of this? It’s difficult to say. I think most Christians will see red flags in remarks like the ones above. Nevertheless, I can’t find any instance in which Derek has stated unambiguously what his views are on the moral status of homosexuality. It looks like he’s trying not to speak definitively either way. I suppose the best case scenario is that Derek takes a traditional view on the question though his iconoclastic approach sometimes makes it appear otherwise.
I’m puzzled that Derek feels the need to rebuke the “church” for not doing its job, but then has no rebukes at all for a para-church group that does not promote the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality. The GCN says that it wishes to “educate and encourage the church.” Yet it does not affirm the church’s 2,000-year-old teaching on human sexuality. How does this serve the church? And given GCN’s refusal to support the church’s teaching, how can Derek be thankful that a group like this exists? Even saying that it’s necessary for it to exist? At the very least, Derek’s remarks about the GCN need clarifying.
The most loving way to relate to any kind of sinner—including homosexual ones—is to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). That means being forthright about their spiritual destitution apart from Christ and about the grace of God available in the gospel. It means calling sinners to repentance and telling them that Christ Jesus came to save sinners—including homosexual ones (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:15). My hope is that Derek is at least speaking more clearly about these things in private. His public statements are anything but clear.