I grew up going to Charles Stanley’s First Baptist Church in Atlanta. I left Atlanta in the early 90s for New York City, where I’ve been ever since. I had heard that Charles’ son Andy had become a pastor and founded his own church and I was excited thinking that Atlanta would have another solid pastor. So, the disappointment and sadness in having to write this is personal and great.
In May of last year (2012), we posted an article by Christine Pack about Andy Stanley who had made some disturbing comments about homosexuality. Or rather I should say, it’s what he left out that was disturbing. In a sermon last year he told the story of a married man who was cheating on his wife – with another man. The man and his gay lover began going to Stanley’s church and eventually wanted to get more involved by volunteering at the church. As Stanley related the story in his sermon, he told the man that he couldn’t begin volunteering at the church as long as he was living in sin. However, the only sin he mentioned, specifically, was that of cheating on his wife. He said nothing about the homosexual relationship being a problem.
Many Christian writers blogged about this story but were unwilling to form any firm conclusions about it. They said things like “it seems like” or “it appears that”, or “apparently”, Stanley won’t say publicly that homosexuality is a sin. But no one was willing to state as a matter of fact that Stanley doesn’t teach that homosexuality is a sin. Now, we have more evidence, and I think it’s safe to say he really won’t declare the clear Biblical truth that homosexuality is in fact, a sin.
Stanley was invited by the White House to deliver the pre-inaugural sermon on Monday of this week, the day Obama was ceremonially sworn into his second term in office. (He was officially sworn in the day before, on Sunday, January 20th).
This brings up several problems right off the bat. First, this White House would never invite a pastor who had ever publicly expressed any sentiments about the sinfulness of homosexuality. After being vetted by the White House, it’s pretty safe to say that Stanley has never said anything publicly that would offend those who endorse and celebrate homosexuality. And that in itself is disturbing.
The second problem is that Stanley accepted this invitation to honor a president who has more flagrantly shaken his hand in the face of God than any American president in history. For a Christian pastor to accept such an invitation without intending to preach a clear Gospel message of sin, repentance, grace and salvation doesn’t make any sense. And according to the reports, Stanley did no such thing.
One of the clearest signs that a person is in direct and open rebellion against God is when they embrace and celebrate homosexuality. Obama’s inauguration was a flagrant embrace of that sin and Stanley knowingly threw himself into the middle of it and never said a word about it.
The Reverend of this Episcopal church, Luis Leon, is as much opposed to God on this score as Obama is. Leon delivered the inaugural “benediction”. He leads a church that welcomes gay members and affirms their lifestyle. It’s also the church Obama attends in Washington.
Let me be clear, there is no problem with a church welcoming gay visitors. Gays are sinners no different than the rest of us. But it is allowing them to become members (and leaders) while still unrepentant and actively involved in their sexual sin that the church can’t allow. Paul makes very clear in the New Testament that people continually involved in sexual sin cannot be a part of the church until they can control their actions – and that goes for heterosexual sex sins as well.
Leon’s church has had openly gay and non-celibate priests as well as a gay bishop. And they announced this summer that the church would bless same-sex partnerships and ordain transgender priests. Is there a more clear way to declare that you view the God of the Bible as an enemy than to celebrate your violation of His most visible and basic commands?
That’s who Obama invited to give the prayer, to an unknown imaginary god, at his inauguration. And Andy Stanley accepted the invitation to deliver the inaugural sermon and didn’t mention a word about sin and repentance and grace and salvation. In other words, he didn’t preach the Gospel.
But he did find time in the sermon to praise Obama and to suggest that due to his empathetic reaction to the tragic murders in Newtown, CT, that Obama should be the nation’s “Pastor-in-Chief”. So we have Andy Stanley suggesting that a president who openly embraces and celebrates what the Bible clearly calls sin, should be known as the nation’s top pastor!