Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Andy Stanley: Adultery No, Homosexuality Maybe

Albert Mohler's blog post today was shocking, to say the least.  After discussing the mega church in general the core was a recent sermon by Andy Stanley, pastor at the third most influential church in America, North Point, in Alpharetta, Georgia, north of Atlanta.

The sermon was entitled, "When Gracie Met Truthy," and was delivered April 15, 2012. You can watch it here.  I watched the entire sermon, but the part referenced begins about 20 minutes in.

In the sermon, Andy tells the long story of North Point members where a husband who is discovered having a homosexual affair, leaves his wife for his male partner. Then they show up at church and the wife gets mad and tells them to go somewhere else to worship. They go to North Point's Buckhead campus, and it happens to be a volunteer recruitment day, so they sign up to be Host Team members (greeters). The hitch, Stanley explains, is that the gay partner's divorce from his wife is not final, so they can't be Host Team members because that's adultery.  Mohler writes:
The most puzzling and shocking part of the message was the illustration and the account of the homosexual couple, however. The inescapable impression left by the account was that the sin of concern was adultery, but not homosexuality. Stanley clearly and repeatedly stressed the sin of adultery, but then left the reality of the homosexual relationship between the two men unaddressed as sin. To the contrary, he seemed to normalize their relationship. They would be allowed to serve on the host team if both were divorced. The moral status of their relationship seemed to be questioned only in terms of adultery, with no moral judgment on their homosexuality.
Was this intended as a salvo of sorts? The story was so well told and the message so well constructed that there can be little doubt of its meaning. Does this signal the normalization of homosexuality at North Point Community Church? This hardly seems possible, but it appeared to be the implication of the message. Given the volatility of this issue, ambiguity will be replaced by clarity one way or the other, and likely sooner than later…
I never take things like this at face value. It's so easy to misconstrue statements. I have great respect for both Andy Stanley and Dr. Mohler. So I watched the entire sermon today. And, I have to admit, Dr. Mohler's concerns are legitimate.

Perhaps it's just an unfinished story as far as whether the openly gay couple (both of whom divorced their wives specifically to pursue each other) were allowed to ultimately serve the church as an open, practicing homosexual couple.  But if the church told them no, you'd think Stanley would have said so.  That is just as germane as his clear stance on adultery, and an important cultural and moral issue these days, obviously.   Stanley in his third message taught that we judge the believers, not the unbeliever, and one wonders why he didn't address the obvious sin of a member leaving his wife for another man.  Dr. Mohler asks in his blog whether Stanley will clarify his position.  Stanley's sermon, left as is, is indeed giving the gay community a clear impression of approval (see the gay poster's reaction below to the sermon in his online review of their Buckhead campus).

What was totally creepy to me was Stanley's screen graphic stick figures of the two gay partners having dinner with the daughter, the ex-wife, and her new boyfriend as a modern family and how it's a "microcosm of the church."  Is fellowshipping with your adulterous ex who is now living in an openly homosexual relationship the church?  Stanley describes how they all sit together in church now, and how the gay partner is advising the daughter on educational choices.  Stanley says it's the "mess" inherent in having truth and grace.

In the early part of his sermon he mentioned Matthew the tax collector and how Jesus incorporated him into his band of disciples, despite the notorious reputation these men had.  Well and good.  Who disagrees with that?  But no doubt Jesus had "the talk" with Matthew about unethical practices and ripping people off.  We see Zaccheus repenting and giving back 4 fold where he had over collected.  But Stanley gives no such indication that anything was said to these two men, then or now.  Is he hoping they'll just one day get it by osmosis?

North Point members who have written to Stanley so far have been contacted by an a staff person who has said that he is not authorized to comment on pastor Stanley's sermon.  This is two weeks after the fact, but it seems this is just now coming to light nationwide.

Follow Up: I found this later today.  It's clear from the online comments of one active gay attendee to the Buckhead campus of North Point who heard the sermon that he, for one, has come away with the understanding that homosexuality is acceptable.  Here is his review post on insidepages.com:
Blown Away by Buckhead Church
I have some experience with Northpoint Church from when I lived in Atlanta around 10 years ago. I have a ministry background as well. I recently moved back to Atl to be near my family. Long story short... I came out about a year ago and have been looking for a place to worship. Buckhead was my first try and I was very nervous. However, the message... from the series Christian (week 5)... absolutely blew me out of the water. FWIW... they are NOT anti-gay. VERY far from it. You need to watch the message to understand. I was amazed as I worshiped with 8-10 other gay folk in the middle of the church. It was quite an experience!
April 16, 2012
 Yes, Jesus loved "tax gatherers" and other sinners, as should we.  But we see Him telling them to stop sinful practices that made them notorious in the first place.  Andy hinted at this in talking about the "truth" aspect, applied it to adultery very strongly, but distanced it so far from his striking homosexual relationship example that if he was hoping they would "get it" they didn't it seems.  At least we know for certain Mike L and his 8-10 other gay friends didn't.

One person in the blogosphere encouraged Dr. Mohler and others to view the next sermon in the series, #6, which was preached April 22, 2012.  Indeed, Andy does seem to give a bit more of his thinking on the issue.  He points to Luke 15 and the whole "lost" motif of Jesus' parables.  Jesus was criticized for "eating with sinners" etc. by the Pharisees.  Stanley makes the point that we don't see Jesus here condemning some of the very practices that were sinful and opposite of Himself.

But in retelling the account he makes some subtle changes to Luke 15's wording.  He paraphrases, "There is more joy in heaven when one lost is found," yet the actual verse says, "There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents...."  That's a big difference!  Jesus was all about repentance and he agreed, in front of these tax gatherers and sinners that yes, they are sinners in need of repentance.  So Jesus didn't dodge the issue.  In fact, I've heard preachers make the point of how would you feel to be one of those "sinners" in the audience and suddenly Jesus is calling you "lost" and a "sinner" needing repentance?  Stanley did restate it correctly when he repeated Jesus' words a moment later.

Stanley's problem is this:  no one in Jesus' day was saying that ripping people off was OK.  But with homosexuality that's exactly what our culture is saying today:  No repentance needed because they are not lost.  By contrast, the prodigal repents in the end and admits his error, "I have sinned..."  To not recognize this critical difference and deal with it in his sermon is a huge mistake.  Our culture is like the adulterous woman who wipes her mouth and says, "I have not sinned" (Proverbs 30:20), not like the prodigal son coming home repentant.

Did Stanley Tweet Response, Then Erase It?
This tweet by Stanley appeared briefly on May 8 10:24pm, according to Stand Up For the Truth, then was deleted.  But Google cached it and that is what is pasted below:
Twitter / AndyStanley: Dang, if I had known being ... 
Dang, if I had known being unclear would get me this much attention I would have started being unclear a long time ago.
GW confirmed that this is Stanley's actual twitter name, and also found a RT (retweet) on Google of this by joshhuffman.

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