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Max Lucado Apologizes for Language About Homosexuality After National Cathedral Backlash

Evangelical megachurch pastor Max Lucado has apologized for language he used in a 2004 sermon on same-sex marriage after the LGBTQ community objected to him acting as guest pastor at Washington National Cathedral Feb. 7, saying it contradicted the Episcopal Church’s stance supporting LGBTQ inclusion.

More than 1,600 people signed a petition protesting the Cathedral’s decision to host Lucado, citing the earlier sermon in which Lucado called homosexuality a “sexual sin” and said “the Bible never minces words regarding God’s feelings toward homosexual activity.”

The popular author and teaching minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, apologized in a Feb. 11 letter to the cathedral community, saying, “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.”

He said that instead of his message about the Holy Spirit, which he intended to “bring comfort in these chaotic times,” many “only heard my words from many years ago.”

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Both the cathedral’s dean, Rev. Randy Hollerith, and Washington Bishop Mariann Budde, have apologized for hosting Lucado, saying that doing so had caused pain to “many members of the LGBTQ community.”

Lucado clarified in his letter that he believes in the traditional biblical understanding of marriage, but also “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. Over centuries, the church has harmed LGBTQ people and their families, just as the church has harmed people on issues of race, gender, divorce, addiction, and so many other things. We must do better to serve and love one another,” he said. 

He also echoed the message of Rev. Hollerith, who had initially defended the decision to let Lucado speak, saying “when we only engage with those with whom we agree on every issue, we find ourselves in a dangerous (and lonely) place.”

“I share the Cathedral’s commitment to building bridges and learning how to listen—to really listen—to those with whom we disagree,” Lucado said. “That work is difficult, it is hard, it is messy, and it can be uncomfortable. But we need it now more than ever.”

In a virtual forum hosted by All Saints Church in Pasadena, California Feb. 14, Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the retired Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican communion who presided over the service where Lucado preached, commended Rev. Hollerith and Bishop Budde for apologizing.

“And I think what they saw as their sin in this—if I can say it that way—is that they failed to listen, or to take as seriously as they might have, the feedback they were getting about how painful this would be to some or many in the LGBTQ community,” he said. 

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.