June 16, 2016
How can the church be light when it doesn't confront darkness? That was the difficult question posed to the elders of California's Southwest Church, where lead Pastor Gerald Sharon was just forced to resign. A former member of the Saddleback Church staff, Sharon surprised Southwest's leadership by insisting the church should soften its stance on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The internal discussion soon soured, when it was clear that Sharon wanted to depart from biblical teaching. Although Southwest's elders gave the pastor a chance to reconsider, he refused.
Left with little choice, leaders signed a unanimous letter affirming the church's stance on sexuality. "Southwest believes that all sexual expressions are based on personal choices, some right and some wrong in the eyes of God," the statement read. "While Southwest does not believe that being active in same-sex attraction is right in the eyes of God, we welcome anyone to our church. We strongly stand against those who have used the Scriptures as a means to do harm or cause bias towards members in the LGBT community. We believe we can disagree, while not being disagreeable. We believe in civility and healthy dialogue." In his resignation letter to the church, Sharon wrote that he would not join the elders "in affirming the aforementioned papers since I believe they will limit the church's ability to love people where they are."
Unfortunately, Sharon embraced the culture's lie that "love" means accepting -- and even celebrating -- people's wrong choices. If someone is struggling with unhealthy attractions of any kind, they should be welcomed and helped in our churches. We don't get our lives together and then come to God -- it's because we come to God that we can get our lives together. But if, as time passes, they have no desire to change their lifestyle, the church has an obligation to deal with that person. The same would be true of infidelity or any other sexual sin. Leaders, particularly those in the pulpit, are called to even greater responsibility. Theirs must be an uncompromising stand for truth, rooted in real love that cares more about the person's temporal and eternal wellbeing than society's approval. A man who turns his back on the clear teachings of Scripture not only creates division, but compromises the church's ability to impact the world for Christ. Southwest Church should be commended for recognizing the danger to its witness and standing up for God's Word! After all, how can Christians be salt and light to the world if we can't be it in the church?
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.