Andy Stanley, the pastor of an Atlanta-based megachurch, spoke out from the pulpit Sunday after he led a controversial, two-day conference geared toward “support[ing] parents and LGBTQ+ children in their churches.”
The North Point Community Church pastor addressed the “Unconditional Conference” during his Sunday message, which was not live-streamed, according to The Roys Report.
Listen and subscribe to CBN’s newest podcast, DC Debrief with John Stolnis:
Stanley’s message was purportedly in response to the widespread criticism he and North Point have faced following news he would be hosting the Sept. 28-29 conference, which included LGBTQ-affirming speakers.
Among the critics was Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Mohler argued the event marked Stanley’s departure from a biblical understanding of sexuality, which sees marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman for life.
Mohler stated on a recent episode of his podcast, “The Briefing”:
[A]s a theologian, I just feel a responsibility to say that what this represents is a departure from historic, normative, biblical Christianity. I think both sides understand this is the most basic disagreement we could imagine, so are sex and gender. It’s over ontology and being; it’s over Scripture, the authority of Scripture, and the interpretation of Scripture. It’s over God and the Gospel. It just doesn’t get any more basic than this, but I do recognize the gravity of the words I’m using when I say that what we see here is a departure from historic, normative, biblical Christianity. I say that because I believe that’s exactly what it is, and I believe Christians ought to take note of it.
The Georgia pastor reportedly said he “never subscribed to [Mohler’s] version of biblical Christianity.”
“This version of biblical Christianity is why people are leaving Christianity unnecessarily,” Stanley said. “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 glommed on to the message’s bottom line, that version of Christianity, draws lines.”
“And Jesus drew circles,” the preacher continued. “He drew circles so large and included so many people in His circle, that it consistently made religious leaders nervous.”
Stanley went on to explain he supports the view “biblical marriage is between a man and a woman,” but applied qualifiers to that statement, making his exact stance on the matter somewhat unclear.
He explained some who struggle with same-sex attraction “are convinced that traditional marriage is not an option for them” and, as such, commit “to living a chaste life.” However, the pastor continued, “For many, that is not sustainable, so they choose same-sex marriage — not because they’re convinced it’s biblical. … They choose to marry for the same reason many of us do: love, companionship.”
Stanley added that, once two people make a decision to enter into a same-sex romantic partnership, it is “our decision” to determine “how are we going to respond to their decisions.” North Point, he reportedly explained, has taken the stance that, “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.”
Although Mohler has not yet addressed Stanley’s latest statements from the pulpit, other Christian thought leaders have responded to the pastor’s explanation for his conference.
Andrew Walker, an ethics and public theology professor at SBTS and author of “God and the Transgender Debate,” outlined what he sees as Stanley’s “distinction between doctrine and pastoral practice.”
“What does that mean?” Walker wrote. “It means the doctrine has not officially changed, which is why he can technically affirm a ‘biblical view’ but, for all practical purposes, there is a pastoral accommodation that allows for LGBT-identified persons to disobey Scripture and remain in good standing as a Christian.”
He continued, “What Stanley considers as a failure to live up to an unattainable ideal, Scripture calls sinful. Nowhere in the messages was there any expectation that someone would turn from their same-sex relationship. This is an example of unbounded empathy that listens (which is good) but never invites toward transformation (which is not good).”
Read Walker’s full response below:
I was able to listen to Andy Stanley’s messages from today on the topic of same-sex attraction and marriage.
What’s clear from Stanley’s teaching is that he’s drawing a distinction between doctrine and pastoral practice. What does that mean? It means the doctrine has not…
— Andrew T. Walker (@andrewtwalk) October 2, 2023
Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, wrote Sunday that Stanley’s view is “subversively anti-Christian.”
“The message is anti-Christian because it tells unrepentant sinners that they can inherit the kingdom of God — a message that the Bible roundly contradicts,” he explained in the article on the CBMW website.
Stanley has faced criticism for a handful of theological stances in recent years, including his view of the Old Testament, from which he argued Christians should “unhitch” themselves.
In 2018, he conceded at the end of a sermon series that the Old Testament is “divinely inspired” but argued it should not be “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church.”
“[First century] Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish Scriptures,” he said, preaching on Acts 15. “Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.”
Several Christian leaders criticized Stanley for those remarks.
In fact, during a recent conversation with CBN Digital, author and Atlanta-based Pastor Michael Youssef explained his concerns over Stanley’s statements about the Old Testament.
“Get ‘unhitched’ from the Old Testament?” Youssef said. “This would be like saying, ‘I love this big, beautiful, tall building, but the foundation is not really necessary. Just let’s get rid of it.’ You get rid of the foundation, the building will not stand for very long.”
“If you understand the Bible … it is one book, not two books,” he continued. “Often, I liken it to a house. The Old Testament is that house, with a foundation and the walls, but it’s lacking a roof. The New Testament is the roof and, therefore, together, you have one building — a house. … One without the other doesn’t really make a lot of sense and, so, all of our foundational structure in the Old Testament that says constantly, for hundreds of years, ‘Christ is coming, Christ is coming,’ the New Testament say, ‘Hey, He’s here.’ The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament.”
***As the number of voices facing big-tech censorship continues to grow, please sign up for Faithwire’s daily newsletter and download the CBN News app to stay up-to-date with the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.***