Stanley brushes aside what the Bible says about homosexuality as “clobber” verses, as if those texts somehow harm gay sinners. He even suggests that a change of theology is in order if churches can’t welcome gay people into their midst.
I just finished listening to Pastor Andy Stanley’s Sunday morning sermon to North Point Community Church. I have to say that it is one of the most subversively anti-Christian messages that I have ever heard. Stanley says at the outset that he is preaching the message as a response to Albert Mohler’s column in World magazine titled, “The Train Is Leaving the Station.” In that article, Mohler criticizes a North Point-hosted conference that features gay-affirming speakers.
Stanley never explicitly names Mohler in his message, but he does say at the outset that he does not hold to the same version of Christianity that Mohler holds to. The rest of Stanley’s message certainly bears that out. Indeed, the entire message is an apologia of sorts for North Point’s decision to host gay-affirming speakers and for North Point’s teaching on sexuality. Stanley writes,
“[Mohler] is actually accusing me of departing from his version of biblical Christianity. So I want to go on record and say, I have never subscribed to his version of biblical Christianity to begin with, so I’m not leaving anything. And if he were here he would say, ‘Well, Andy, I’ve never subscribed to your version of biblical Christianity.’ And that’s okay. We can agree to disagree, but this is so extraordinarily misleading. In my opinion, just my opinion, his version of biblical Christianity is the problem. His version, this 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 blobbed on to the message.
Bottom line, that version of Christianity draws lines. And Jesus drew circles. He drew circles so large and included so many people in his circle that it consistently made religious leaders nervous.”
Stanley frames the message as if this imbroglio is merely a misunderstanding and that critics like Mohler just don’t get it. Stanley says that North Point didn’t host a bible or theology conference. Rather, it was a “pastoral” conference designed to restore the relationships of parents to their gay children. He further contends that North Point has not changed its teaching on sexuality. He says that North Point continues to teach that biblical marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that sex outside of marriage is not God’s best. Sounds pretty Christian, right?
Well, not really. Actually, not at all. Stanley immediately follows that affirmation by saying that some gay Christians find this teaching too hard to follow. He says gay people at North Point know what the Bible says about marriage, but they choose to enter gay marriages anyway because they don’t want to spend their lives alone. They don’t want to live without love and a family, so they marry a same-sex partner and then just add that to following Jesus. Stanley says that North Point doesn’t draw “lines” to keep those people out of the church. Rather, they draw “circles” of inclusion so that they can remain at North Point as gay “married” couples. In Stanley’s words,
“[Gay Christians] choose a same sex marriage, not because they’re convinced it’s biblical. They read the same Bible we do. They chose to marry for the same reason many of us do, love, companionship and family.
And in the end, as was the case for all of us, and this is the important thing I want you to hear me say, it’s their decision. Our decision is to decide how we respond to their decision. Our decision as a group of local churches is how are we going to respond to their decisions? And we decided 28 years ago. We draw circles, we don’t draw lines. We draw big circles. If someone desires to follow Jesus, regardless of their starting point, regardless of their past, regardless of their current circumstances, our message is come and see and come sit with me. And this is not new. This is who we are. It’s who we’ve always been. And this is why I love our church and this is why I’m so extraordinarily proud of you. We aren’t condoning sin, we are restoring relationships, and we are literally saving lives.”