Sunday, May 31, 2009

Who Will Break from the Pack?

Which evangelical leader will it be?

To break free of the pack's stranglehold?

To finally recognize the groundbreaking Bible studies done in the last thirty years and all the related issues of justice and fairness?

Which evangelical leader will it be who finally stands up and speaks out, like Peter at Pentecost?

To finally say, with force and love, "We've been wrong on the question of gays and lesbians. It's high time for us to get it right, to receive everyone with open arms, and to move on to a better day."

Might it be Bill Hybels at Willow Creek in Barrington, IL? He did it years ago with women, when he declared, "It's not about gender, it's about gifts. If you have the gift to preach, then preach!" He paid quite a price for that, but today's evangelical community has benefited immensely by Hybels' vision, courage and leadership.

Might it be Rick Warren at Saddleback in Orange County? I doubt it. There's too much at stake for him, and I suspect Orange County money has him by the throat.

If Billy Graham were 15 years younger, he might do it. When he tore down a rope dividing an auditorium into black and white, he led the way in America's struggle to break free from segregation.

For a few moments, Ted Hagard might have been the one to finally speak out and speak up when his charade was revealed, but he caved under enormous pressure and hightailed it out of town with his scarlet letter, H, sewn to his career. Might he redeem himself some day? Perhaps; only time will tell.

What about Rob Bell and the Mars Hill Community. He's certainly breaking ground and taking the lead, sometimes at great peril to his career, in a lot of categories. He's brave, creative, and willing to work well and unconventionally with the Scriptures. Time will tell.

Maybe Erwin McManus at Mosaic in Los Angeles, a creative community of faith in the heart of the city. He's had so many chances on this one, but nothing yet.

There are a host of other evangelical leaders scattered around the county who lead strong ministries - Ken Wilson from Ann Arbor Vineyard, Mark Brewer at Bel Air Presbyterian, who might someday make the break. Ken Wilson is surely pushing hard in his community for a greater diversity and understanding of the faith. Mark Brewer is leader Bel Air into new avenues of vision and service for the city of Los Angeles.

Who will break from the pack finally?

I feel a great sorrow for the evangelical community - they have painted themselves into a corner on this one, and no one seems to know, exactly, how to get out and save face.

Sort of like the Roman Catholic Church - after centuries of saying "Latin only" and "No meat on Friday," they changed - it wasn't easy, and they didn't exactly save face. But hats off to them for making the transition.

There is no way to save face in such an improbable position.

One can only say, "What I believed then, I believed with all my heart, but times change, and so do my understandings of faith, God and the Bible. I'm moving on to some new attitudes and doctrines. Let's build bridges and heal the wounds."

Western churches did it with slavery; many did it with women, though some still hold on this one. And while the liberal end of the church has pretty much worked its way through the biblical and theological matters pertaining to ordination and marriage for the GLBT community, the evangelical church struggles and stumbles along, increasingly frustrated with a position increasingly difficult to defend.

Perhaps like Pentecost, it will take a strong visitation from the Holy Spirit.

And to whom shall that visitation come?

Who will be the first to break from the pack?


  1. Adam Hamilton came just shy of saying he believes gays and lesbians should be fully included in the Church.

    Worth a listen.

    I think you are dead on about Rick Warren, its about money for him.

  2. just have to add my agreement that I think ken wilson is the one to watch. i think he has the intellectual chops and the compassion needed...