The rising wave of homosexuality in the church has reached the shores of the evangelical world, forcing us to respond. Several weeks ago, a Southern Baptist pastor (Danny Cortez) and church voted to embrace the LGBT community, even though they may still be in a relationship. In his own words: “So now, we will accept the LGBT community even though they may be in a relationship. We will choose to remain the body of Christ and not cast judgement. We will work towards graceful dialogue in the midst of theological differences. We see that this is possible in the same way that our church holds different positions on the issue of divorce and remarriage. In this issue we are able to not cast judgement in our disagreement.”
Al Mohler, president of Southern Serminary and one of the top influencers in the SBC (as evidenced by the over 22,000 Facebook ‘shares’ on his rebuttal) wrote a strong blog post against pastor Danny Cortez entitled “There is No ‘Third Way’“. The issue is whether the Southern Baptist Convention soon meeting in Baltimore will seat and officially recognize Danny Cortez’s church as a member church in good standing although they have changed their stance on homosexuality. It seems that Southern Baptists will have to draw a line in the sand and vote.
But here’s what troubles me about Mohler’s response: in an issue that needed to be dealt with using a surgical scalpel, Mohler chose instead to employ a sledgehammer, doing irreparable harm where none was needed. Here’s Mohler’s definitive response: But, there is no third way. A church will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviors and relationships are sinful, or it will affirm them. Eventually, every congregation in America will make a public declaration of its position on this issue. It is just a matter of time (and for most churches, not much time) before every congregation in the nation faces this test.
Mohler makes a classical logical fallacy known as a “false dichotomy,” forcing the reader into one of two extreme choices when there are in fact numerous others. Although he might not believe it or teach it, I fear that many reading his blog will take his assertions to an unhealthy extreme and reject not just the homosexual lifestyle, but homosexuals as well. It’s the classic ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater.’ It’s one thing to affirm the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality (that it is sinful), but another to unnecessarily burn all bridges with the homosexual community. Mohler’s hard-lined, grace-absent response seems to encourage us to pick up our torches and start burning.
For the record: I believe and have publicly taught the Bible’s stance that homosexuality is sinful. And yet there is at least one practicing homosexual (that I know of) regularly attending my church. She and I spoke directly on her homosexuality. I told her the Bible’s stance. And yet she was still in church this past Sunday, seeking God. Why? Because I tried my hardest to balance grace and truth in my relationship with her. Homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes, but it’s not the ‘unforgivable sin’ that Mohler is making it out to be. His response will unnecessarily embolden Baptists and churches to destroy what little chance we have left to build any bridge of the gospel to the homosexual community.
If Mohler comes out so strongly against this issue, a needed counter of grace would be for him to share about his personal friends in the homosexual community that he is building evangelistic relationships, that he hasn’t condemned them all to hell because of one particular sin. Look at Jesus. He was able to make strong pronouncements of the truth. He didn’t waver. And yet notorious sinners flocked to Jesus and loved hanging around him. Why? Because Jesus fully embodied grace and truth, something I saw lacking in Mohler’s response (high on truth, lacking in grace).
There is a third way. You can hate the sin yet embrace the sinner. We do it every week when the divorced, the addicted, the gossipers, the jealous, the bitter, the coveters and the greedy flock to our churches. We can do it with the homosexual community as well. We can embody grace and truth, embracing the homosexual that walks through the door without condoning their lifestyle. Every week I do it as a pastor when I embrace couples that I know are cohabitating, the husband who is a drunkard, the wife is obsessed with material things, the teenager who is hooked on pornography. Homosexuality is not the ‘unforgivable sin’ that many elevate it to.
I know that Mohler’s blog will embolden pastors to take a ‘strong stand’ at the Convention and make a ‘historic vote’ against homosexuality in the church. I know that my blog will reach only a fraction of Mohler’s readers and will embolden far less. But here is my plea: there is a ‘third way,’ one that maintains our scriptural integrity (on the Bible’s stance against homosexuality) and yet maintains a bridge to the ever growing homosexual community. Jesus embodied grace and truth. So can we.