Is Rob Bell (Finally) Pro-Gay Marriage?

Is Rob Bell (Finally) Pro-Gay Marriage? March 18, 2013


I’ve heard for a long time that Rob Bell is affirming of gay marriage and of full gay inclusion in the church. It is alleged that this is why Zondervan broke ranks with him, and some have wondered if it’s part of the reason that he left the pastorate of Mars Hill Bible Church.

Well, this morning there seem to be two pieces of evidence that Rob is, in fact, no longer holding his tongue about GLBT issues:

First, at HuffPo, Greg Carey reports that Rob said this at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco last night:

“I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

Greg provides the link to the recording as a source for that quote. Grace Cathedral is an uber-liberal Episcopal church, and has been supportive of gay rights for many years. It doesn’t surprise me that Rob got this question here, nor that he answered it in this way.

Second, I received Jeff Chu’s new book in the mail last week. Jeff is an openly gay Christian and editor for Fast Company. His book, Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, is not a book like Justin Lee’s or Andrew Marin’s that struggles through the biblical verses and looks for ways to be gay and Christian. Jeff is gay and Christian, and unabashed about both (he interviewed me for the book, and he’s sat in my living room.

On the back of the dust jacket of Jeff’s book is this endorsement:

“In telling these stories–chief among them his own–Jeff has done an extraordinary thing, showing us all to the God who is big enough and loving enough and true enough to meet all of us exactly where we’re at. This book is moving, inspiring, and much needed.” (Rob Bell, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About God and Love Wins )

Surely, Rob knows that endorsing a book like this, and affirming marriage equality at Grace Cathedral, would out him as a supporter of gays in the church and in society. We’re still waiting for an unequivocal statement by him, but I think that’s just a matter of time now.

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  • Isn’t the answer he gave at Grace Cathedral unequivocal enough? Seems pretty cut and dry.

    • I got the impression Tony was thinking more of a public statement in a more public venue than a single church. Like a tweet, or blog post, or interview or something.

      • It used to be that speaking in a public space like a church was considered “public.” It has to be online or in print directly from the source now to be definitive?

  • John

    I completely agree with Collin. If you give that answer in an open space where you know that it could be repeated (and was), you are speaking your true mind. Good for Rob.

  • castaway5555

    Glad to hear it … though this will end whatever remaining links Bell has to the evangelical hate-machine. Yet his move will help millions of evangelicals to rethink their views.

  • Collin and John — I agree that those are pretty strong statements, but perhaps what Tony is getting at is that they still leave some wiggle room.

    “…showing us all to the God who is big enough and loving enough and true enough to meet all of us exactly where we’re at.”

    “I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

    I think those could be “wiggled” into statements about love and practice, but not necessarily unequivocal regarding what he personally thinks. That being said — I really like those statements.

    It is probably true that he may start saying ever stronger statements at some point in the future.

  • Perhaps what Tony is getting at is that there statements still leave some wiggle room. They could be explained away as statements about love and praxis, but not necessarily unequivocal about what Bell personally thinks. Either way, they are statements that will certainly firm up Bell’s critics in what they already think of him.

  • The Grace Cathedral quote comes close, but it’s not as unequivocal as I would like. First, it recognizes and supports love regardless of gender which isn’t the same thing as supporting marriage. (It’s possible to say gay people can love each other, without thinking marriage should be open to them – if for example you think marriage is about producing and caring for natural children or some such thing.) The other thing is, the comment seems far too halting. It’s like he’s saying he supports these things, but only because that’s the way society is going and he’s tired of fighting the tide.

    All that said, these moves are definitely steps in the right direction. Let’s hope for more of the same!

    • I agree, Marta. Too much wiggle room

      • In Rob’s defense, he never answers anything without leaving wiggle room. Isn’t that what he’s become known for?

        • Collin — I have thought of that as well. It’s one of the things I do like about him.

      • Also, I just listened to the actual recording of him saying it—and he says it VERY matter-of-factly and it adds a definite weight to what he actually said. It came across as “I am gay affirming” even if he didn’t put it that simply.

        • paul

          That was a considerate thing to do Collin (i.e., “listen” to his statement actually being made by him). It’s so easy to forget that the written word is devoid of tonal and visual clues and nuance (the largest elements of communication), lending it to the distortion of the voice of the reader-or worse, the readers baggage. yay you.

  • Oops — sorry. It looked like the first comment didn’t go though (looked like it had vanished into the vapers of the internet).

  • What is it about Rob Bell that Christian “leaders” become like elementary school boys who have a crush on little Suzy, but can’t admit it? It’s like we really love Rob and want to agree with him, but we know the evangelical machine will destroy us if we let on. So instead of standing up and declaring our “love,” we punch him and call him names and hope he gets the message. I’m so sick of the church thinking it’s our place to be God’s police force and pull our gun on whoever steps outside our comfortable little box that’s filled with our own unscriptural (since that’s our chosen measuring stick) views and stances on things. It’s interesting to me how little Christ said about the “moral” issues when He walked the earth, and how MUCH he had to say to the religious establishment about their holier than thou attitudes and burdening the people with inappropriate rules and expectations and pointing out the sins of others, while they ignored their own.

    Having grown up “in the church,” I found Rob’s interview very compelling and thought provoking and agreed with probably 90% of what he said. Each week, as I sit and listen to “my” traditional Baptist pastor, who “tows the party line,” I agree with probably 90% of what he says, too. Either way, we have to be discerning; not just sponges. Take what you feel the spirit it telling you is true and ignore the rest.

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  • Joshua Bogart

    Good for Rob. I’m over Christian Bigots big time.

  • Steve

    What wrong with leaving “wiggle room”? Didn’t Jesus do that all the time? Give to caesar what is caesar’s etc…

  • paul Valentine

    Rob Bell’s hair is statement enough for me… cute.

  • I spent the past half hour unsuccessfully searching for the article, but back when Bell quit his job as pastor, I read a professional story about him speaking to a crowd on his club tour. Someone asked about gay people in the church, and he said something along the lines of “They’re just people trying to love and follow Jesus, same as anyone else. Now can we as a church move on to something that matters?” which according to the article got the biggest applause of the evening. Really a shame I can’t find it, but even if it didn’t get noticed then, this isn’t the first time he’s stated this position.

    • Of course I made one last try and found it immediately. This article from way back in July 2012, says:

      While taking questions from the audience, one listener challenged him on the topic of the church’s acceptance of gay members, given the event’s location in West Hollywood. “Some people are gay, and you’re our brothers and you’re our sisters, and we love you. We love you,” Bell said to the loudest applause of the night. He continued, “[Gay people] are passionate disciples of Jesus just like I’m trying to be, so let’s all get together and try to do something about the truly big problems in our world.”

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  • A Medrano

    Well, apparently I’ll be hated here. :/

  • Hellsander

    Americans do be crazy….

  • Tim Webb


    When is Rob Bell, or you for that matter, going to affirm marriage or union between more than two partners? You claim to support LGBT rights, but what about the “B”? Bisexuals can’t marry multiple partners of more than one gender. And more self-identify as bisexual than gay or lesbian.

    Thanks, Tim

    • Since when does “Bisexual” mean “Polyamorous”? Bisexuals just happen to be attracted to both men and women. Which would be no different from a straight man being attracted to two different women by nature, but falling in love with one of them and getting married.

      • paul

        It is “different from a straight man being attracted to two different women” (I don’t know what you mean “by nature”).

        This is a poor analogy, but it gets the message across. Kind of like the need for food and water and a moral culture says you have to choose: “you can have food or water, but you cannot have both.”

        One of the questions we all confront is how to distinguish between need and want. What criteria does one use to determine that? For that matter, what criteria does one use to determine what is permissible and what is not?

        • By “nature” I meant the person’s sexual orientation they were born with.

          And please explain to me how it’s any different.

        • By “nature” I meant “because they were born with that sexual orientation.”

          And please explain to me how it’s any different. A bisexual person being attracted to two different types people and finding a partner to marry, and a straight person being attracted to two different types of people and finding a partner to marry are the same thing.

          • paul

            The difference is the bisexual is ‘naturally’ attracted to two different genders and the straight man (in the scenario you mention) is attracted to one gender, but two people of the same gender.

            • Right…that’s what I said. And I am still wondering where the logic fails. Bisexuality does not equal polyamory. To think that a Bisexual would want to be married to two people at the same time (man-woman, man-man, woman-woman) is an absurd misunderstanding of what bisexuality is.

              • paul

                Sorry, I mis-understood you. I thought you were equating bisexuality to a straight person being attracted to two different types of people both of the same gender.

                I agree that bisexuality does not equal polyamory. Funny though, I know bisexuals who consider it to be monogamy of sorts to be exclusive with ‘just one member’ of each gender. I also know bisexuals who are married and monogamous, and bisexuals who are married and “play” on the side with their spouses permission, and couples that do three ways, and other scenarios as well. (I know all these people and scenarios from a support group “Making Mixed Orientation Marriages Work”).

                • I’m quite sure there are more straight couples in “open” marriages and relationships than there are GLBT people on the planet.

                  Struggling to maintain monogamy is not unique to gays or bis.

              • Tim Webb

                Collin, I never said bisexuality must equal polyamory. Some bisexuals choose a relationship with a woman or man or other gender. But (many) others do not want to be constrained to having a relationship with only one other person. Thus some countries are now offering triad marriages or multiple partner civil unions to allow for bisexuals. Google it.

                The point is, just being pro-gay marriage doesn’t allow marriage for all.

    • Who is asking for it? If a group of people feels compelled to be married to more than two people, they are entitled to raise the issue and it would be considered.

      Your logic is faulty. If a man were sexually attracted to both blonds and brunettes, does it logically follow that he would need to have sex with both in order to affirm his sexuality.

      • Tim Webb

        Curtis, not all agree that they have to be forced into your view of marriage. Certainly not all bisexuals wish to have multiple partners. But some (many) do. Hence triad marriages (in the Netherlands) or multiple-partner civil unions being tested in some countries. Love is not bound by gender, nor is it bound by number.

        • If somebody wants to petition the government for the right to have multi-partner marriage, they are free to file that petition and then we’ll talk about it. Until then it is only speculation. And it is an entirely separate issue from two-partner gay marriage.

          We already have a form of civil “triad marriage” with regard to children. It is very common in the U.S. for children to have more than two legal guardians, and for a child to be raised by more than two parents in the U.S.

          Bring up a specific proposal and we can talk about it. But the entire issue is a distraction from the question of gay marriage that is currently being considered.

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  • 2 Timothy 4:2

    The Bible clearly says that practicing homosexuality is against God. it does not matter how you read it, you cannot get around it. Just like Adultery is against God and also lying. People need to repent of it and receive God’s forgiveness. He has given us the power to change through the power of the Holy Spirit. we just need to believe that. God still loves people who are gay, but nowhere in the Bible does it condone the behaviour.
    I think that Rob Bell now needs to own up and say that he no longer believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. He is leading many people astray and the Bible clearly says to avoid such people.

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  • Samantha

    This subject is covered in the book, SOME MEN ARE FROM MARS, SOME MEN ARE FROM URANUS on kindle. Amazing book.