• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

It’s Time: Have a Debate and Sort This Out

Christians all over the English-speaking world, as well as many beyond, are discussing the legitimacy of same-sex marriage and a whole range of LGBTQ+ issues. So we should, of course, since people all over the English-speaking world, as well as many beyond, are discussing them as well.

Today I want to speak a little “inside baseball” and address my own “tribe” or tradition of Christianity, that of Anglosphere evangelicalism.

The last couple of years have seen the emergence of prominent pastors and ethicists announcing their change of view to various forms of support not only for people of various sexual types (we should always have loved our neighbours as ourselves, and it is to our shame that we often haven’t) but also support for one or another of those sexual types beyond the traditional heterosexual matrimonial norm.

Alas, however, camps have formed that engage very much in the polarizing discourse of so much else that is dysfunctional in public life today. Champions cheerfully address rallies of the faithful, preachers rev up adoring choirs, and the rest of us remain unsettled and confused.

I have one small suggestion to make. Get David Gushee and Robert Gagnon on the same stage, over an entire day, and have them hash things out. Maybe it’ll take a whole weekend. Fine. But give them time to hear each other (in person, not just in print), address each other’s best arguments (not merely cherry-picking the worst), and truly work together, as professed brothers in Christ, to arrive at the most obedient and grateful interpretation of Scripture…and everything else we think we know…on these questions.

I don’t know either man well, but I’ve enjoyed opportunities in the past both to talk with each of them and, indeed, appear with them in previous conferences. They seem sincere, they seem smart, and they seem much more equipped to deal with these questions than most of us are. Here’s David, and here’s Rob:



Fuller Seminary? Wheaton College? Trinity Evangelical Divinity School? The National Association of Evangelicals? The Evangelical Theological Society? Some honest broker needs to host such an event on behalf of the communities all of these places serve. (If I were still at Regent College, I’d suggest it there, too.)

If such an extended debate doesn’t happen, and happen soon, I’m afraid that positions will merely harden. This precious moment is the time to have this kind of serious wrestling, while there is uncertainty in the air and widespread interest in the debate.

If such an exchange doesn’t happen, alas, I’m afraid that evangelical institutions will be conceding theological leadership to boosterism promoted through the uncertain channels of biased conferences and the vagaries of YouTube.

Who is going to step up?