The ultra-conservative Calvinist complementarian crowd has been seeking evidence to convict Andy Stanley of “liberalism” for years, and now they think they’ve found the smoking gun.
Except their “evidence” would only hold up if the jury were made up of people who see the world exactly as they do. But yeah, if the son of Charles Stanley is charged with seeing the world differently than Al Mohler, he’s definitely guilty as charged.
Once again, the baseline assumption is that Mohler & Co. possess the only version of biblical truth and all things must be measured against their standards. Yet what they uphold is a theology of hate and fear and narrowmindedness that would leave queer kids taking their own lives rather than being loved and understood by their families.
What is Andy Stanley’s great offense against the created order? His church agreed to be the site for a sold-out conference to help parents of LGBTQ kids learn to love their children while maintaining their Christian faith. Isn’t that awful?
“His church agreed to be the site for a sold-out conference to help parents of LGBTQ kids learn to love their children while maintaining their Christian faith. Isn’t that awful?”
According to Mohler and those like him, it is indeed awful because one cannot be a “Christian” and not scorn the LGBTQ community. It is for them an article of faith.
Conference publicity advertises an opportunity to find the “quieter middle space” on this volatile topic.
In an online opinion piece condemning the conference and Stanley both, Mohler replied: “In truth, there is no ‘middle space’ on these issues, and it is no longer plausible to claim that such middle space exists.”
This conference, he asserts, “is designed as a platform for normalizing the LGBTQ+ revolution.”
The snark of Mohler’s disdain for families with LGBTQ kids comes through in this line: “Biographical background on speakers Justin Lee and Brian Nietzel indicates that both men are in what are now described as ‘same-sex marriages.’” (Emphasis mine.)
They are not merely “described as” same-sex marriages; they are same-sex marriages — legally. The church does not get to define what constitutes a legal marriage in the United States. But remember, these are the same folks who want the church to control the state anyway.
Mohler isn’t alone in castigating the “Unconditional” conference. Right on cue, Focus on the Family also is outraged by the event and considers it unbiblical.
When I read about all this tempest, I decided to reach out to the source of the storm, which is not Andy Stanley or Al Mohler. The conference is designed and sponsored by Embracing the Journey, a ministry headed by Greg and Lynn McDonald, who are my friends.
Caveat here: To say Greg and Lynn are my “friends” is not to say they share all my beliefs. I’ll claim the label “liberal” if you must apply it, but they are not that. They are, instead, exactly what they’ve billed the conference to be: Christians who want to love Jesus and love their gay child at the same time. They are faithful, devoted, loving, kind, exemplary people. They are not demons out to destroy the church.
“They are faithful, devoted, loving, kind, exemplary people. They are not demons out to destroy the church.”
Read more about their ministry here. As I wrote in that 2020 interview: “They’re not concerned with labels like ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ because they’re more interested in talking about ‘relationship.’”
Here’s what you need to know about this conference that Al Mohler says is “a clear and tragic departure from biblical Christianity” and shows Andy Stanley’s move toward apostasy:
- Andy Stanley didn’t plan or promote the conference. It is the work of the McDonalds, who are faithful members at North Point Church. They believe the idea came to them from the Lord.
- Andy Stanley didn’t ask to speak at the conference. He was invited by the McDonalds — after the event location had been booked. And what he’s been asked to speak about is not a topic that’s likely to generate new heat. So his critics ought to wait and see before they criticize.
- North Point Church isn’t “sponsoring” the event. The church is merely the site of the conference put on by Embracing the Journey, which is solely responsible for paying the bills and taking the heat.
- The conference speakers do not represent anything close to the extreme of LGBTQ advocacy. Every one of them embraces orthodox Christianity by any measure other than the view of Mohler & Co.
- The point of the conference, its reason for being, is “to support parents and LGBTQ+ children in their churches.”
- The conference is sold out already. More than 500 people are attending.
And here’s a final important fact: About half those registered to attend the conference work somewhere in ministry-related jobs. This tells us the urgency of finding a “quieter middle space” for pastors and ministry leaders with gay kids. These are the very families most at risk of burying children due to suicide, the very families most likely to experience fractures, the very families most likely to drive their own children from the church.
If Andy Stanley is apostate for allowing Greg and Lynn McDonald to use his church property to love on parents with gay kids and tell them about the love of Jesus, there’s nothing left of the church to celebrate. That’s not a journey most of us want to embrace.
Mark Wingfield serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. He is the author of Why Churches Need to Talk About Sexuality and Honestly: Telling the Truth about the Bible and Ourselves.