Gushee's pro-gay stance 'no surprise'

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Baptist ethicist David Gushee's declaration that he now believes not all homosexual behavior is sinful is a predictable next step following a decades-long intellectual trajectory, evangelical leaders have said.

"This is no surprise for those who have been following David Gushee's career," Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College wrote in an Oct. 24 blog post. "He's been on a leftward slide for many years now on a range of issues. That he is making this announcement now shocks no one. In fact, earlier this year Gushee endorsed a book making revisionist arguments about the Bible and homosexuality. This is not the kind of announcement that sends shockwaves through evangelicalism. For those who know about Gushee … this has been a long time in coming."

Gushee, distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, plans to explain his apparently newfound views on homosexuality at a Nov. 6-8 conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by The Reformation Project, a group that describes itself as "Bible-based," "Gospel-centered" and advocating "LGBT inclusion." The conference's other keynote speaker, Matthew Vines, is a popular LGBT advocate whose book "God and the Gay Christian" argues that Christianity is compatible with homosexuality.

Gushee plans to tell the conference, "I do join your crusade tonight. ... I will seek to stand in solidarity with you who have suffered the lash of countless Christian rejections. I will be your ally in every way I know how to be," according to proposed remarks obtained by Religion News Service.

One factor leading to Gushee's endorsement of homosexual relationships was the announcement by his younger sister that she is a lesbian, RNS reported.

Gushee is scheduled to release a book titled, "Changing Our Mind: A Call from America's Leading Evangelical Ethics Scholar for Full Acceptance of LGBT Christians in the Church." The book, to be published by David Crumm Media, is based loosely on a series of articles on LGBT issues published in Baptist Global News, RNS reported.

Gushee taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1993-96 and at Union University from 1996-2007. He has since become theologian in residence for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Burk said Gushee "is not the future of evangelicalism," as RNS appeared to suggest. "He is the future of ex-evangelicalism. He joins a chorus of others who have left the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) and who no longer represent what evangelical Christianity is all about."

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Gushee's position is "tragic and causes me real grief" but added that the ethics professor has been moving in a leftward theological direction since his days at Southern.

"It was clear early on that he and I, and he and Southern Seminary, were moving in different directions, and those who've been watching David's trajectory will see this as a logical conclusion," Mohler told RNS. "He's now placed himself outside of employability at the previous institutions where he taught."

Robert Gagnon, a leading scholarly defender of the traditional Christian prohibition against homosexual behavior, said Gushee's writing on LGBT issues "deliberately ignores the array of counterarguments to his own ideological position and sometimes even misrepresents the views and credentials of scholars in order to advance that position."

Gagnon, a New Testament professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, critiqued Gushee for arguing that 1 Corinthians 6:9 only prohibits "exploitative forms of homosexual practice." Gagnon also took issue with Gushee's "over-reaching theological claim" that "God's grace precludes the possibility that Paul could have warned sexual offenders, including homosexual offenders, about exclusion from God's kingdom."

Gushee "feels that love for same-sex attracted persons demands that we twist Scripture to mean what it can't possibly mean, read in its historical and literary context, so that such persons can now enter into homosexual unions free of any societal reservation or stricture," Gagnon wrote in an Oct. 24 Facebook post. "Never mind that Paul viewed such behavior as a dishonoring of the integrity of one's gender vis-à-vis one's own sex; or that Jesus viewed a male-female prerequisite for sexual relations as foundational for sexual ethics according to God."

Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.
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