Brian Prentiss, pastor of Intown in Portland, tried to get his spaghetti, already well boiled and in the colander, to return to the status of stiff and straight in order to get back into the skinny box. But alas, it doth not go. You can read more about it here.
First he pretends that the issue was over whether attendees from across the political spectrum should be able to come to worship God without somebody climbing down their throat. And the answer is that of course they should be able to do that. The issue is not what people think coming through the door. The issue is what the pastor thinks when he stands up to deliver the message. It is what the session believes the teaching of the Bible to be. That’s the issue.
When people gather to worship God, they come from every direction — east, west, north and south. They also come from red states and blue states. That is true enough. But as I have argued before, it makes all the difference in the world whether they are coming to the church as apostles or refugees. Is Intown helping to transform Portland into a city on a hill, or is Portland helping to transform Intown into a city on a plain? Which direction is it going? What end of the feet are the toes on?
Pastor Prentiss says this:
“In fact, if we’re doing ministry in Portland, which is decidedly non-Christian, politically “blue”, and completely supportive of equal rights for gays and lesbians, and these people are actually showing up at Intown on Sunday. Isn’t that something to be celebrated?!”
Actually, that is something to be celebrated . . . provided that after three years of worshiping at Intown they are no longer “completely supportive” of the rainbow jihad. If after years at Intown they are still right where they were on the issues of homosexual practice, that means, by definition, they are coming as apostles of a “new way,” not as refugees from the old, destructive way. Every last refugee must be welcomed at the door, and every last apostle must be turned away. At the door.
He says this: we “can instead live knowing that Jesus has conquered the world (including the world inside of us) and that we can live into his victory?” Right. Does the victory of Jesus include victory over same sex temptations? Did Jesus conquer the world of homosexual redefinitions? But I should also say that I completely agreed with one thing he said, which was, “But, the dark stain of sin runs through all of us, not just people “out there”, with sins we don’t happen to share.” Jesus welcomes us all into His family, but He does not invite us in so that we may remain right where we were, in order to have our pet temptations coddled. Jesus takes us all in — from promiscuous homosexuals to home-schooling Pharisees, from meth heads to moms in minivans. The grace of God is for all and, straight to the point, is effectual in all.
Grace deals with sin, and the problem with the two Intown blog posts on this topic thus far is that there is not a hint of transformation offered to the homosexual sinner in search of forgiveness and transformation. Acceptance without transformation is called grace, and an invitation to actual sanctification is called a denial of grace. “This sort of knee-jerk criticism has little tolerance for nuance, context, complexity, or dare I say, grace.”
Is there any sin, however despicable, that cannot be cleansed and washed away by the blood of Christ? No, there is not one. Is there any sin, however trivial in the eyes of the world, that will not damn a man to Hell if he makes his peace with it? No, not one. The hospital of the church turns away no patients. Everyone is accepted. But once you check in, the treatment starts. There is no coming in and telling the doctors that you want them to be more accepting of their cancer. And incidentally, if they do tell you that, they are no longer doctors — they have become part of the cancer.
As a pastor, I have helped to work through the damage caused by various forms of theft, whether shoplifting, business tangles, or something else. Sin mangles people, and the pastors, elders, and counselors of a church must be there to receive the mangled people, love them, work with them, and help them put things right again (Eph. 4:28). But the task of the leadership of the church is not to redefine sin for them. The church receives people as they are, but must not receive people who are intent on remaining as they are.
Suppose a law were passed that allowed for shoplifting on Tuesdays, and this was hailed as a great victory for a more equitable distribution of America’s stuff. Suppose half my congregation started reconfiguring their Facebook profiles with the Jolly Roger, and bumper stickers in the church parking lot started exhorting us all to “Just Take It!”
I can think of a lot of things I would need to do as a pastor, but one of them would not be a blog post that defined those who knew “thou shalt not steal” was still in the Bible as weaker brothers. Those who still understood that God’s law prohibits theft would not be just one more opinion along the political spectrum.
What these statements from Intown are doing is not keeping partisan political disputes out of the church, but rather allowing the secular state to redefine fundamental issues of morality as mere political differences.
Pastor Prentiss said in this follow up post that his initial post was not intended to indicate a change of position or policy. “I was not using the blog to announce any official change in policy or practice.” That being the case, if he is not trying to sidle away from anything, he ought to be willing to say so, right?
When a “married” homosexual couple presents themselves for membership at Intown, what is Intown going to do about it? Since we are talking about Portland, this is not farfetched. If they say yes, they have capitulated. If they say no, then are they not insisting on a particular “political” view in order to be members of the church?
The only other thing they could do is slow walk it so that when they compromise fewer people will notice. They should ask the homosexual couple to take their sweet time in the new members class.