Eugene Peterson, who is best known for “The Message” Bible translation, set off a firestorm this week when he said in an interview with Religion News Service that he would be willing to conduct a same-sex marriage. In response, LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said it was prepared to stop selling Peterson’s books.
Peterson has been widely admired across the theological spectrum, and his move was seen as an important shift. Similarly, popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker last year set off a debate when she said she affirmed same-sex marriage. Now 84, Peterson spent decades as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which now allows same-sex marriage and openly gay clergy. Polls show a dramatic divide between younger evangelicals and older evangelicals on the question of gay marriage.
In a new statement, Peterson backtracked on the interview, saying that his view of marriage is that it should be between a man and a woman.
Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years. I presume I was asked this question because of my former career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently affirmed homosexuality and began allowing its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Having retired from the pastorate more than 25 years ago, I acknowledged to the reporter that I “haven’t had a lot of experience with it.”
To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.
It’s worth noting that in my 29-year career as a pastor, and in the years since then, I’ve never performed a same-sex wedding. I’ve never been asked and, frankly, I hope I never am asked. This reporter, however, asked a hypothetical question: if I were pastoring today and if a gay couple were Christians of good faith and if they asked me to perform their wedding ceremony—if, if, if. Pastors don’t have the luxury of indulging in hypotheticals. And to be honest, no is not a word I typically use. It was an awkward question for me because I don’t do many interviews at this stage in my life at 84, and I am no longer able to travel as I once did or accept speaking requests.
With most interviews I’ve done, I generally ask for questions in advance and respond in writing. That’s where I am most comfortable. When put on the spot by this particular interviewer, I said yes in the moment. But on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that.
That’s not something I would do out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching on marriage. That said, I would still love such a couple as their pastor. They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post