He said a lot, however, last May, when a sermon from the pulpit of North Point Church in Atlanta included this:

“A gay person who still wants to attend church after the way they’ve been treated—I’m telling you they have more faith than I do,” Andy Stanley said in the clip. “They have more faith than a lot of you.”

Millions of people including me have watched this video and thought about it; many have written about it, such as hyper-critic Seth Dunn of Arizona:

“Unlike overtly liberal churches, Stanley’s church claims to accept the Bible as God’s inerrant word. That he claims to believe the Bible is precisely what makes him so dangerous. He pretends to believe. North Point Ministries should be viewed along the same lines as the Watchtower and the Latter-Day Saints. Andy Stanley is a wicked man, leading a “church” full of sinners straight to Hell.”

Rev. Dunn said exactly what he thought, it appears. But I’m not so sure about Rev. Stanley.

Stanley is a famous and influential pastor, but he is also the son of an even more famous and influential father, the Rev. Charles Stanley. The elder was pastor of Atlanta’s First Baptist Church for 50 years or so. He generated quite the stir when he went through a divorce some years ago.

There were critics then, and there are critics now.

I’m not a critic. I do not know Andy Stanley, and he does not know me. But I listened to what he said. I think he did not say all he wanted to say. Which is common for ministers.

That is how I answered the question put to me across the dinner table after church this last Sunday. It went something like this: “Why do you like this congregation so much?”

She was a new attender, and I am the recently installed pastor of a gathered congregation of 25 souls. That’s how many attended this past Sunday to sing, pray, and extend the right hand of Christian fellowship.

My answer to her question was, of course, divided into three parts, one of which was something like this: “I can say what I think.”

What I mean is this: I don’t have to hold back in how I interpret Holy Scripture and how I apply it to the issues that confront us, both privately and publicly. The congregation is ahead of me on some issues, and they are eager to hear what I have to say on others. It is a refreshing freedom for a person who has been preaching for more than 50 years!

But I am not so sure Andy Stanley has all the freedom he needs.

I listened to his sermon and then explored the internet for reactions. One involved the question, Would you perform a gay wedding? To which Stanley answered: “I don’t know. Maybe if it was my granddaughter’s wedding?”

I think he knows.

I think underneath these halting, halfway measures is a hearty endorsement that wants to find its voice.  Stanley is in a closet and needs to come out.

I know. I was there once. I don’t think I ever opened that closet door and went in; and I don’t think I ever pushed anybody into the closet and locked the door. But often I feel like I was born in the closet of condemnation, took a long time to figure out where I was and why, then gradually opened the door and eased out. I want to say to the younger Stanley: it is mighty fine out here, out of that closet of gay condemnation. Come on out!

Stanley has cracked open that closet and is peering out, wondering what would happen to him if he said in public what he seems to think in private: namely, being gay is no sin, living gay is no sin, preaching gay is no sin. It is, in fact, the gospel.

Stanley is almost there. He said in that sermon last year, “”We have some things to learn from a group of men and women who love Jesus that much and who want to worship with us,” he continued. “I know the verses; I know the clobber passages, right? We got to figure this out.”

I think he has it figured out. He just needs to say it. He will discover that thousands of the people within the sound of his gospel voice have already figured it out. They know what the gospel says and are waiting for him to say it.

He wanted to say more last year. Maybe this is the year!

Published On: January 30th, 2023 / Categories: Commentary /

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