In a poignant post, Brian McLaren responds to an Asian pastor who writes him,
“I have regarded Brian as my mentor in coping with expressing my Christian faith in the postmodern world but now I have to break ranks with him – it leaves me devastated…”
The issue, for this pastor, is homosexuality. Brian has been honest about his stance on issues of human sexuality, but he hasn’t shouted it with a bullhorn either.
As background, however, you should know that Brian presided over a wedding ceremony of his son and his son’s husband — a news item that led Patheos blogger TMatt to suggest that we no longer refer to Brian as an evangelical. Christianity Today blogged about it. Brian graciously responded.
Brian did not make a public issue of his son’s sexuality. Others did. But it has brought Brian’s perspectives to the fore, and I’m assuming that’s how this Asian pastor decided to part with Brian. Brian, for his part, has written another gracious response, in which he clearly states his view on homosexuality and how he got there:
It’s much easier to hold the line on the conservative position when nearly all gay people around you are closeted and pretending to be other than they are. Eventually for some, the pain of pretending will become greater than the pain of going public. Whenever a new son or daughter comes out of the closet, their friends and family will face a tough choice: will they “break ranks” with their family member or friend, or will they stay loyal to their family member or friend – which will require them to have others break ranks with them?
In my case, I inherited a theology that told me exactly what you said: homosexuality is a sin, so although we should not condemn (i.e. stone them), we must tell people to “go and sin no more.” Believe me, for many years as a pastor I tried to faithfully uphold this position, and sadly, I now feel that I unintentionally damaged many people in doing so. Thankfully, I had a long succession of friends who were gay. And then I had a long succession of parishioners come out to me. They endured my pronouncements. They listened and responded patiently as I brought up the famous six or seven Bible passages again and again. They didn’t break ranks with me and in fact showed amazing grace and patience to me when I was showing something much less to them.
Over time, I could not square their stories and experiences with the theology I had inherited. So I re-opened the issue, read a lot of books, re-studied the Scriptures, and eventually came to believe that just as the Western church had been wrong on slavery, wrong on colonialism, wrong on environmental plunder, wrong on subordinating women, wrong on segregation and apartheid (all of which it justified biblically) … we had been wrong on this issue. In this process, I did not reject the Bible. In fact, my love and reverence for the Bible increased when I became more aware of the hermeneutical assumptions on which many now-discredited traditional interpretations were based and defended. I was able to distinguish “what the Bible says” from “what this school of interpretation says the Bible says,” and that helped me in many ways.
Please read the whole post: A “farewell, Brian McLaren” moment – Brian McLaren.