Max Lucado is one of the most prominent pastors in the United States, if not the world. He’s not known as a fire-and-brimstone type of guy, nor as a risible Robert Tilton-style charlatan who claims he can heal you, if only you put aside a fair chunk of your paycheck and give it to him — I mean, God.
He hasn’t been hit by sex scandals like Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard or Carl Lentz. He isn’t a figure that wades too far into the political tides. He simply believes the Bible’s view on marriage is still relevant, no matter what direction society moves.
When Lucado was invited to preach at Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral, he didn’t speak on that subject; he preached on the Holy Spirit instead.
However, his very presence was enough for the left-wing mob to demand an apology.
Lo and behold, the mob got it.
According to The Christian Post, Lucado was invited to preach at a virtual service on Feb. 7 at the Episcopal Church’s Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul, better known as the National Cathedral. Lucado isn’t an Episcopalian, but the head of the nondenominational Oak Hills Church in San Antonio.
While the Episcopal Church in America is known for its liberal policies on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Lucado isn’t outside of the Christian mainstream. His most controversial remarks on the subject, in a 2004 piece that’s cited ad nauseam by his opponents, invoked the slippery slope argument to question if recognizing gay marriage would lead to “legalized polygamy and other deviations.”
“Who’s to say that one man can’t marry five women? Or two men and two women? How about a commune marriage? Or a marriage between a daddy and a daughter, or a woman and giraffe? Don’t underestimate the evil bent of the human heart,” Lucado wrote.
This piece came to wider attention in 2013 when Britney Spears was bashed for naming Lucado as her favorite author.
When the U.K. Independent reported on the story at the time, it called Lucado a “preacher with extreme views on gay rights.” It did note, a bit further down in the article, that Lucado’s stance had been qualified in his subsequent writings.
“Jesus loves his gay children. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. This includes homosexuality. He made them, came for them, and died for them,” Lucado wrote in 2011.
Aside from a 17-year-old piece that wasn’t outside the mainstream of Christian dialogue in the period before widespread recognition of gay marriage, you don’t see much cited when it comes to Lucado’s “extreme views on gay rights.” Furthermore, he wrote this piece only one year removed from a near-schism in the American Episcopal Church over the ordination of Gene Robinson, an openly gay bishop.
After a divided vote on whether to approve his elevation to bishop, according to The New York Times, another bishop said the church “divided itself for millions of Anglican Christians around the world, brothers and sisters who have pleaded with us to maintain the church’s traditional teaching on marriage and sexuality.”
That bishop, Robert Duncan, would eventually split from the church, but at the time he was one of the most prominent Episcopal prelates in the United States.
Times change, in other words. Lucado’s message on gay marriage has changed, as the Independent noted. When a petition called for Lucado to be disinvited, however, it mentioned only his 2004 remarks.
“To cite one example, in 2004 he wrote of his fears that homosexuality would lead to ‘legalized incest’ and likened same-sex marriage to incest and beastiality,” the petition read. “Fear-mongering and dehumanizing messages from powerful speakers like Lucado have been used to justify rollbacks of LGBTQ rights and to exclude LGBTQ people from civil protections and sacred rites. To our knowledge, Lucado has not publicly renounced these views.”
“Matthew Shepard’s remains were entrusted to the care of this cathedral,” the petition continued, referencing the gay college student who was killed in 1998 and was subsequently interred in the cathedral. “Inviting a man who preaches the kind of dangerous theology that promotes oppression of and violence toward the LGBTQ community does not honor that trust nor serve his memory.”
Initially, the National Cathedral stood by the invitation.
“Let me share why we invited Max to preach. We have to come out of our corners, find common ground where we can, and find ways to live with and see each other as the beloved children of God that we are,” the Rev. Randy Hollerith, the dean of the National Cathedral, said in a Feb. 6 response to the petition on Change.org. “We have all grown too accustomed in our silos and echo chambers. In order to start the process of rebuilding, we need to hear from each other.
“That does not mean we will always agree. In fact, I don’t agree with Max’s views on LGBTQ issues. We can still hold our convictions and cling to our values in the midst of disagreement. But the work that we cannot ignore is the vitally important task of what Isaiah called ‘repairing the breach.’
“That starts, first and foremost, with those with whom we disagree. When we only engage with those with whom we agree on every issue, we find ourselves in a dangerous (and lonely) place. My hope is that all churches and faith communities will find ways to open their doors to perspectives different from their own.”
Hollerith found out with a decided quickness that we were already “in a dangerous (and lonely) place.”
One gay Episcopal priest told the Episcopal News Service that “Max Lucado’s theology has a body count,” and that “[i]t feels deeply disrespectful for an Episcopal church … to publicize Lucado without any mention of this.”
The organizer of the petition said she was “very sorry to those who are hurting today and those who will continue to hurt as a result of this decision” and that the signatures on the petition “will serve as a record of the voices Dean Hollerith and Washington National Cathedral chose not to hear.”
Hollerith would apologize four days after Lucado’s sermon, saying that “[i]n my straight privilege I failed to see and fully understand the pain he has caused. I failed to appreciate the depth of injury his words have had on many in the LGBTQ community. I failed to see the pain I was continuing. I was wrong and I am sorry.”
Lucado would also apologize for his words 17 years ago.
“In 2004, I preached a sermon on the topic of same-sex marriage,” he said in a letter Thursday to the cathedral community, according to CBN. “I now see that, in that sermon, I was disrespectful. I was hurtful. I wounded people in ways that were devastating. I should have done better. It grieves me that my words have hurt or been used to hurt the LGBTQ community. I apologize to you and I ask forgiveness of Christ.
“Faithful people may disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but we agree that God’s holy Word must never be used as a weapon to wound others. To be clear, I believe in the traditional biblical understanding of marriage, but I also believe in a God of unbounded grace and love. LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ families must be respected and treated with love. They are beloved children of God because, they are made in the image and likeness of God.”
I don’t believe this would have been any different had he offered this apology before he preached the sermon, however, or even if he’d never made his remarks from 2004. There was plenty of textual evidence to indicate Lucado regretted his words 17 years ago. Nobody bothered looking for it. The petition didn’t include it — because that wasn’t the point.
There was a retired Episcopal bishop who stuck up for Lucado before the woke whirlwind hit. In a video that aired after Lucado’s sermon, he said that church needed to be a place for “all the people of God — all — and sometimes that includes we don’t agree with much at all.”
That bishop was Gene Robinson, the gay prelate whose ordination threatened to tear the Episcopal Church asunder in 2003. There’s a lesson to be learned from that, but darned if the mob will try their hardest to avoid it.
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