The standard position among evangelicals has been that they hate the sin of homosexuality, but love homosexuals. James MacDonald, the pastor at Chicago’s Harvest Bible Chapel, has ended that posturing by admitting to what every person in the transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual community has known for years.
“I grew up in a culture, high school, college, certainly, certainly in college, even young men in ministry where there was a lot of joking about homosexuality,” MacDonald said to five other pastors during a discussion. “Oh you fag, oh you this, oh that, gay jokes all the time between the brothers.”
MacDonald brought these conservative and influential mega-church pastors to Chicago for The Elephant Room, a day-long, live discussion among them that was simulcast to 18 locations across North America on March 31. Turning to Steven Furtick, the pastor of the Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, MacDonald asked “What do you think about that Steven?”
Furtick said “I don’t think it’s helpful, I don’t think it’s constructive. I think I’ve been guilty of taking shots for the sake of humor, for the sake of, for the sake of crowd reaction, and it’s done nothing, but harm my ministry because then at times when I want to seriously address that issue I’m already working at a deficit.”
Perry Noble, the pastor at New Spring Church in Anderson, South Carolina, also admitted to attacking gay men and lesbians.
“I’ve not done as well in that area as I should,” Noble said. “That’s something that I’ve tried to clean up really hard over the past year because we’ve got a lot of people really wrestling with that in our churches.”
As recently as March 6, Noble said in a sermon on greed that if Christians gave more to churches they could convert more gay men and lesbians.
“Maybe there would be less homosexuality in the world today if there were less greedy Christians who actually cared enough to tithe and spread the gospel,” Noble said in that sermon which was posted on iTunes.
MacDonald said he had sworn off gay slurs several years ago.
“I’m just not going to joke about something that grieves the heart of God, holds people in bondage, causes so much woundedness,” he said.
The lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gay community should not get too excited by these confessions. These pastors do not regret their insults and jibes because of any damage they have done to us. It is their own credibility that they are concerned with.
“Based on the amount of intense feeling that there is in our culture right now it’s something we’re going to have to address very seriously so I really don’t have shots to be wasting in terms of making jokes about it if I’m going to effectively be a part of change,” Furtick said.
David Platt, the pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, had a similar view.
“When we joke about homosexuality we’re contributing to the idea that homosexuality is a preference not just sin,” Platt said. “I think we need to be wary about joking about anything that is a sin issue.”