This was originally an email that I sent to our church’s plant’s Launch Team, and then posted on social media.
I’d like to catch you up on some important details about Prodigal Church. It’s a very long story that I will make as short as possible!
First, if you know my story, you know that it was a miracle that I ever came to faith. I had completely derailed my life, made every mistake imaginable, and was actually enjoying myself. When I realized how much God loved me, felonies and all, it changed me. It still amazes me.
Not only does it amaze me, but it has convinced me that the gospel really is good news of great joy for all people. It has convinced me that if this is open to me, then it is open to everybody. If you’ve ever heard me teach, you’ve probably heard me shout that, desperate that everyone in the room will believe it and step into this reality.
So, when we announced last year that we were starting a new church, I knew that it had to be a place where anyone could come. I even said things like, “The only people who won’t be welcome at Prodigal Church will be people who make other people feel unwelcome.” That’s probably too strong of a statement but it makes the point.
It begged the question: “What kind of person would potentially feel unwelcome at Prodigal Church, or any other church for that matter?”
It didn’t take long to realize that there are lots of people who would probably feel unwelcome, specifically, the millions of people who are a part of the LGBTQ community.
A few years ago I remember having an intense emotional experience about this. I think at the time I would have called it an “issue” I was wrestling with. But it isn’t an issue- we’re talking about people: moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles. People who, frankly, I haven’t been around much. I’ve been in full-time vocational ministry for 18 years, and I can count on one hand the amount of people I’ve talked to who are LGBTQ. They were almost never in my circles, which begged the question why? There are literally millions of Americans that identify as LGBTQ, and many of them are Christians, so why wasn’t I interacting with them? What I realized a few years ago was that my easy answers to these questions didn’t sufficiently address the complexities of the LGBTQ community.
When we announced that we were starting a new church last year, I knew that I had to resolve this. I still had a traditional view of marriage and sexuality, but my head and my heart weren’t in alignment. My heart grieved for how badly the church has treated this community, and also for the fact that I had ignored them for so long. I let easy answers keep them at bay and explain them away, but I couldn’t do that any more.
Lindsay and I have spent the past year, especially the past six months, studying Scripture, reading everything we could get our hands on, listening to various viewpoints, talking to pastors all over the country, and praying endlessly about this, and we had no idea we would land where we are. About a month ago, after spending the year obsessively focusing on this, we both changed our minds.
We no longer believe what we once did about the LGBTQ community, and we cannot create a community that discriminates against them in any way. To be as clear as I can be: I do not think that the six verses in the Bible that address same-sex behavior are referring to what we see today with monogamous, consenting, same-sex relationships in a covenant of marriage. I believe that Paul and Moses were addressing something much different. This is not the position that I had for the first 16 years of my ministry career, but it is what I believe today. I’d be happy to share the resources that have led me to this understanding.
I know that for many of you this will be a brand new idea, and quite a surprise that I have arrived here. Trust me, I didn’t see this coming either! It wasn’t until the past couple of months that I became convinced of this. Not the best timing, you could say, but we woke up every day and simply took the right next step, and this is where we are.
That being said- if this is too much of a stretch for you, I completely understand! We’ve been stretched for years, and it would be unrealistic and unloving for us to expect you to change your perspective and understanding quickly, or even years from now. You may never change your mind, and that won’t change my opinion of you.
If you have likely contributed to us financially, and this is too much of a stretch for you, I want to offer to refund your gift entirely. This may not be what you agreed to, and I promise that I didn’t see this coming when we invited you to participate, so please let me know if you would like to be refunded. Again, I will completely understand.
Just a side note: If this has caused you to question my character or my motives, I understand that as well. I’ll just say this: this won’t make things easier for us. The easy route would be to continue ignoring this, and try to build a big church by leveraging my history in the East Valley. Frankly, if we had seen this coming, Arizona might not have been at the top of our list, only because we have hundreds of people who are hoping and expecting me to be who I’ve always been and believe what I’ve always believed. So much has stayed the same in that regard, but this particular belief has changed.
Again, if you would like to explore the content that Lindsay and I have been exploring, I would be happy to share that with you. Just let me know. If you’re not a big reader, I also have hours and hours of video content that I can share with you, along with a podcast or two.
This conversation is very important, but our primary message is that there is a God who has come running off the porch to embrace us in our mess. Our mission is still to tell everyone we know about the radically inclusive love of God, seen so clearly in the life and teaching of Jesus. What will define us is our relentless pursuit of people who feel like there’s no seat at the table for them. There has been a resurrection, and that is really, really good news.
I would love to hear from you. If this update has created a fork in the road for you, and you can no longer continue with us, I totally understand, just let me know.
If this update has made you curious about all of this and you’d like to learn more, please let me know.
If this update has caused you great excitement, and you’re ready to move forward with us, please let me know.
Regardless of your response, I still have so much love, respect and gratitude for you all, whether you agree with me or not. We may not all have uniformity of opinion on this, but I know that we are united by our love and devotion to Jesus Christ, the risen King.
Love you guys,