It’s Pandering, Not A Panda Ring
While Mr. Worley and his Baptist church sermon, in a curious follow-up to another post, suffer the pains of freedom of speech…
The Anti-Defamation League, which fights hatred, prejudice and bigotry, condemned Worley’s statements. “Pastor Worley’s videotaped remarks are deplorable, inexcusable and incompatible with the tenets of his faith,” said David Freidman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Washington, D.C. “Pastor Worley owes the LGBT community and the people of Maiden, North Carolina a swift and unequivocal apology.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog group, has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, asking that it investigate the tax exempt status of Providence Road Baptist Church. “Pastor Worley’s vicious and mean-spirited assault on gays and lesbians is bad enough,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “His pulpit command that people not vote for President Obama is a violation of federal tax law. I urge the IRS to act swiftly to investigate the matter.”
Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church and his non-sermon on homosexuality suffers a different kind of ignominy…
The illustration that drew attention came toward the end of the message, when Stanley offered a real-life example. A family at North Point fell apart when the husband left his wife for another man, he said. The gay couple began to attend North Point together, but the estranged wife asked them to leave since she wanted a drama-free space to worship.
The couple then headed to another North Point campus and became involved in leadership there. But when Stanley found out, he asked them to step down since the partner was still married to his wife. “This is just good old fashioned adultery,” Stanley told the other man. “You’re in a sexual relationship with someone else’s husband.”
The man protested, saying his partner was almost divorced. “You can’t be almost divorced,” Stanley told him. “You’re married or you’re not. As long as he’s married, you can’t serve on a guest services team.” The gay couple left the church, but returned later after the first man’s wife chose to show them grace and move toward a relationship with them, Stanley said. The resulting relationships—the ex-wife, her daughter, her boyfriend, his daughter, the ex-husband and his partner—are a messy, marvelous, painful microcosm of the church, of truth and grace, he said.
But some took issue with Stanley’s silence over the sin of the homosexual couple. While a pastor doesn’t have to say everything that is true about everything in every sermon, Stanley missed a key opportunity to address homosexuality, [professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, Dennis] Burk said. “He mentions adultery as a sin,” Burk said. “But he never calls homosexuality a sin. When he issues the sanction from leadership, it’s only about adultery. That just sends a message.”
Two pastors, two sermons, both touching on the subject of homosexuality, both denounced, but for different reasons. One with a strongly negative opinion on the subject and the other with tacit approval. One sermon condemned as hateful, prejudiced and bigoted, the other received with strained criticism.
Curious things, these sermons. In imitational churches typically the senior pastor or elder is given the sole responsibility to preach the Sunday morning sermon. I’m sure that there are very sincere preachers who week after week look to the Lord for sermon direction or content, and God provides. But sermons are universally directed to people, people who typically sit in their pews or seats and listen without comment, let alone objection. Pastors like Worley and Stanley are trained preachers who can carefully craft sermons for the audiences to whom they’re delivered.
The point is that the backlash over the messages of Worley and Stanley is taking place among those who are outside these churches. Sermons are crafted to the people who pay the bills and keep the organization going, so sermons naturally reflect the general ethos of their congregations. Simply put, sermons pander to the people they’re preached to because to do otherwise would bring the dissent or uproar into the church instead of what is taking place in these instances. Imagine if Worley and Stanley traded pulpits and had preached their respective sermons in each others churches. The backlash would subvert the status quo ante. There will always be some who will be displeased and possibly leave the church, but a typical pastor doesn’t want his sermon material to provide an excuse for a mass exodus. Hence, Worley tries his hand at humor with what he sees as his crowd pleasing solution to the homosexual issue while Stanley attempts to satisfy his crowd with an illustration of grace and truth downplaying homosexuality to avoid controversy.
Buildings cost money to build and support, and church programs require people to run them. So long as churches have need of money they will always have to deal with the politics of people. I’m looking for a church that doesn’t need money, just Jesus.