ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)—Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley is being criticized for a recent sermon illustration involving a gay couple in which Stanley labeled adultery, but not homosexuality, a sin.
Stanley preached the sermon April 15 which had been discussed on a handful of blogs in subsequent days before gaining wider attention May 1 when Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote about it on his website.
“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?” Mohler wrote of Stanley’s congregation, which is nondenominational and located in Alpharetta, Ga. “This hardly seems possible, but it appeared to be the implication of the message.”
Stanley’s sermon, titled “When Gracie Met Truthy,” focused on the tension Stanley said exists between Jesus’ teachings on grace and truth. The sermon was part five in a series on the meaning of “Christian.”
To illustrate that tension, Stanley—who has preached at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference and is the son of Charles Stanley—told a 10-minute story about a husband and wife who attended North Point. The wife discovered that her husband was in a relationship with another man, and about six months later, Stanley said, the husband and wife divorced. But several months after that, the now ex-husband showed up at North Point—with his partner. Their presence together angered the ex-wife.
“She got in his face, and she said, ‘This is my church, you caused this problem. You can go to any church you want to in Atlanta, but this is my church. I need a ... drama-free zone,’” Stanley said.
The gay couple did go to another church—Buckhead Church, which is one of North Point’s campus churches that shows Stanley’s messages on a large screen.
Stanley—who used graphics of stick figures during the sermon to illustrate his point—said he learned about the gay couple’s attendance at Buckhead Church during a conversation with the woman. She told him that not only was the gay couple attending Buckhead, but that they were serving on one of the church’s “guest services teams.”
“And so, I said to her, ‘He’s still married, right?’” Stanley recounted, referencing the ex-husband’s partner. “She said, ‘Yeah, the divorce has taken longer than they expected. It’s kind of getting dragged out.’”
Stanley then called the ex-husband on the phone.
“I called my buddy and said, ‘OK, I know things have been awkward between us, but look—and I’m glad you’re in church, that’s a good thing, and I’m glad you’re at one of our churches, that’s a good thing—but your partner, he’s still married. See, this is just good old-fashioned adultery. You’re in a sexual relationship with someone else’s husband.’ I said, ‘So you can’t be on a guest services team.’”
Stanley eventually met face to face with the couple. The couple also met with Jeff Henderson, who at the time was Buckhead’s campus director.
“Jeff said, ‘You’re married. This is just adultery. You can’t serve on a guest services team.’ Understandably, they left the church. And, you know what? If I were them and saw the world the way I saw it at the time, I would leave, too. Who wants to go to church that says, ‘Oh, we want you to come help us. ... oh, you can’t help us.’”
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