Openly Gay Leaders to Speak at Unconditional Conference at Andy Stanley’s North Point Church
Stanley, a prominent evangelical pastor, has come under scrutiny for recent comments regarding homosexuality in the church.
North Point Community Church, led by pastor Andy Stanley, is hosting the Unconditional Conference, which is billed as a “premier event for Christian parents with LGBTQ+ children, ministry leaders, and health care professionals.”
The conference is being held Sept. 28 and 29 at the suburban Atlanta church.
Andy Stanley, son of the late Charles Stanley, is an influential pastor in evangelical Christianity. Some Christian leaders have expressed concern about recent comments he has made about homosexuality. In an opinion piece published by WORLD Magazine in January, Southern Baptist Seminary professor Denny Burk addressed a video in which Stanley contended that churches must adapt and learn how to include gay people in the life of the church.
“Stanley’s message comes across as a straightforwardly affirming position on homosexuality in the church. He valorizes the faith of homosexuals as head-and-shoulders above the faith of straight Christians,” Burk wrote.
Stanley is a featured speaker at the conference put on by Embracing the Journey, a ministry started by Greg and Lynn McDonald, parents of a son who identifies as gay. They have written a book, also called Embracing the Journey, that is a guide to help parents learn “to love God, the people He created, and the church, even when they seem to be at odds.”
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Jeff Johnston, a gender issues analyst and staff writer at Focus on the Family, told MinistryWatch he has concerns about the conference. He has read parts of the McDonalds’ book and is also aware of speakers at the conference who are what he calls “gay revisionists”—they have revised what the Bible says about homosexuality. Openly gay speakers Justin Lee and Brian Nietzel are joined by David Gushee in believing that same-sex monogamous relationships are acceptable to God, Johnston said.
Johnston, who left homosexuality and has been married for 30 years, believes the conference may mislead attendees about what the Bible teaches about homosexuality and gender identity.
“Something has to change: either how you view the Word or you begin to allow God’s Word and God Himself to transform you,” Johnston said. He had to grapple with this in his own life, and it was the church that helped him and told him the truth.
According to Johnston’s research, speakers at the Unconditional Conference embrace a narrative that Christians don’t deal well with these issues and are even hateful toward homosexuals. In contrast, Johnston said he heard a gay researcher recently say that, in his experience, families who embrace religious faith respond better to their children’s revelations of same-sex attraction and gender issues than non-religious families.
“Love your children, but hold on to God’s design about sexuality and relationships,” he said.
It may be hard to do both at the same time, but Jesus is the model of loving and speaking the truth at the same time, he added.
While Jesus commands his people to love sinners, the church cannot truncate the Gospel, Johnston said. “God is truth and that truth is not in opposition to His love. God’s truth about sin leads us in love to tell people that [this sin] is harmful to your soul.”
Johnston is also concerned about how the conference may deal with identity. “The way we talk about homosexuality and transgenderism is as if that is the person’s core identity and very being, rather than thoughts, feelings, attractions, and behaviors.”
His personal testimony is that the understanding of homosexuality as a false identity pierced his heart, and he realized he didn’t have to identify that way.
Some of the conference speakers have fallen into believing these false identities are unchangeable, Johnston says, rather than encouraging those struggling to “join humanity as male and female” then enter into God’s family as a son or daughter.
“I just [feel] grief that this is a conference that appears to be leading people astray on this issue. You don’t encourage people to embrace a false identity or to engage in something God calls a sin,” he emphasized.
Instead, he would emphasize the power of the Gospel and Holy Spirit to lead people to repentance, forgiveness, and transformation.
While Johnston wouldn’t encourage families impacted by these issues to attend the Unconditional Conference, he offered other resources like the Restored Hope Network, ReStory Ministries, along with Focus on the Family resources about responding to homosexuality and transgenderism.