‘Unconditional Conference’ Speaker Teaches Christians Must Adopt a ‘New Script’ Where Homosexuality ISN’T Sinful

For part 1 of our exposé, dealing with our general sense of the conference click here. For part 2, where we review a session by panelists with trans children who argue for gender affirming care, click here.



Andy Stanley and his followers have steadfastly objected to the notion that the Unconditional Conference was “gay-affirming” in any way, or was pushing a theological position about homosexuality one way or another. He spoke to this during his recent sermon, arguing:

“The purpose of the unconditional conference was not to equip parents to convince their gay kids that they weren’t gay or shouldn’t be gay…the purpose of the conference wasn’t to equip parents to debate with their kids, the purpose of the unconditional conference was to equip parents to connect with their kids, and to reconnect with their kids and to stay connected with their kids.

…. they chose the presenters based on that purpose. (These were) presenters that Greg and Lynn knew, from their personal experience, would be most helpful for these parents.”

One of these helpful presenters was Rev. Prof. Dr. David P. Gushee. 

Gushee received his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary, one of the most pagan and progressive universities in the world, and is the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, Chair of Christian Social Ethics at Vrije Universiteit (“Free University”) Amsterdam and Senior Research Fellow at the International Baptist Theological Study Centre.

He is described in his press pack as “widely regarded as one of the world’s leading Christian moral thinkers” and has authored or edited nearly 30 books, including Changing Our Mind, whose purpose is to make a biblical case for why homosexuality is not a sin but a moral good. Gushee brought 80 copies of this book to the conference, where it sold out in the first four hours, until all that remained were these rack cards for folks wanting to purchase it later. 

Gushee has been a long-time partner of Embracing the Journey. His lectures about how he shifted from not affirming to affirming and the scriptural justifications he employed are featured as a valuable resource on their website. He’s also been highlighted in their speaker series.

Gushee gave the same message at two breakout sessions, with his topic Wrestling with Theology, Pointing Towards Jesus, heard by over half the attendees.

Taking the stage, Gushee explained that his assignment from conference organizers Greg and Lynn McDonald was to “think theologically and biblically with you about issues that are relevant to having an LGBTQ child.” Apparently, this involves a full-throated apologetic for being gay-affirming and urging conferencegoers to develop a fresh new scripture reading. 

He says that he is a pastor and “gospel minister” who cares about presenting Jesus and his teaching in a compelling way. He explains that he seeks to “try to help the church follow Jesus faithfully” and that his job is to take real-life issues and “think about them from the ground up and ask what should the church be teaching about this issue?” More specifically, “what should Christians be practicing in relation to this issue?”

Gushee explains that a child coming out as gay is considered undesirable if you are part of a traditional Christian community. It garners a negative response because there is a “script” that people believe, which is that homosexuality is a bad thing and will result in harmful “social and communal consequences.” Everyone has a plan and future they envision for their child, and that child being LGBTQ derails those plans and shatters future narratives. 

But Gushee cautions that “theology does matter” and that the initial “negative or rejectionist posture” that parents operate out of when their children come out is a “script.” It results from “having had harsh judgments preached to you for decades” and that it is the “default” parents operate out of because they “lack a different script.” 

Conservative Protestant traditions, he says, are all poorly prepared when their child comes out because they possess a negative script, and he wants to teach people how to be better prepared. 

Gushee offers that “the traditional script is shaped by reading of what I call the Six Big Passages,” which are chosen based on a “concordance approach” to the Bible. Gushee claims that there are only six passages in the Bible that speak to the issue: Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22,  Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10,  1 Timothy 1:10, and laments that “those passages are constantly presented as the only relevant passages.” These verses, he argues:

 “are usually taught without any kind of serious exegesis of the languages, or discussion of the cultural background that is relevant to the context.”

Gushee says that the translation choices in the English Bibles are “interpretations of ancient language” and cautions attendees that “just because it says it, doesn’t mean it’s not disputed.” It’s these verses that Gushee says are being taught in a way that is designed to “yield the most harshly negative judgment on the spiritual, moral, and eternal condition of our children.” 

To put a finer point on it, he says adopting the ‘unhelpful script’ that homosexuality is a sin and that a child coming out is a bad thing will “predictably result in negative spiritual, psychological and relational consequences.”

Gushee says that teaching these verses to have a blanket anti-gay message has resulted in parents disowning their children on their deathbed, kicking them out of the house, or even beating them. In one case he’s heard of, a parent called the Christian college their child attended and told them they needed to pull the scholarship because their child was a “reprobate sinner.”

“But,” says Gushee, “this conference is about writing a different script.” 

He uses the example of the holocaust as a historical parallel to show that a widespread change of pattern and interpretation is possible. Gushee profers that over the centuries, Christians have always treated Jewish people poorly and harshly, such as Catholic kids in Poland teaching that Jews have horns that they file down because they’re children of the devil. 

He says it was during the holocaust that Christians cooperated in large part with the Nazis, acting as collaborators or, more frequently, as bystanders while they rounded up and gassed millions of Jews. It was only after the holocaust that major Christian groups began to reconsider their negative teaching against Jews, and a tradition based on particular readings of Bible passages that harmed people “was abandoned explicitly by the church” because of the harm that was done. 

This also happened with slavery, where after the Civil War, Christians who seriously began listening to enslaved people and hearing their stories came to wholesale shift their views.

As a result “new interpretations emerged in all of these cases based on a recognition of the harm that was being done by that way of reading the Bible.” 

By listening to their stories, people began to develop “a growing recognition of the dignity and worth of the people who have been targeted,” resulting in “a return to scripture for fresh consideration.”

Now, he says, it must happen with homosexuality.

He says that rather than move away from biblical fidelity, this reinterpretation of scripture in the cases of slaves and Jews resulted in a movement towards “biblical fidelity” because it “reflected the way of Jesus.” Gushee insists that “our only way forward biblically, and theologically, is to refocus on Jesus,” with “the way of Jesus” including three aspects of his character:

  • “Jesus recognizes the sacred worth of every person.” 
  • “Jesus stood courageously in solidarity with the beaten down and beat up of the world.”
  • “Jesus courageously critiqued harm that was being done in the name of religion.”

Gushee explains that it’s extremely “disorienting” and “shocking” when we discover that religious communities that have been a source of such good in our lives end up being a source of harm when it turns out our child is LGBTQ. Some of these religious communities are “actively harmful” to LGBTQ folks, and he tells his seminary students to “teach a version of Christianity that does not harm.”

Turning to the story of the Good Samaritan, Gushee says that true followers of Jesus are “characterized by being the ones who do not pass by when somebody’s bleeding and lying half the other side of the road” and that sometimes that one lying half dead by the side of the road is our own child. 

He engages in several minutes of argumentation and straw-manning by condemning those who do not “fiercely embrace their child” for fear of what others will think, failing to distinguish between the people who beat up their gay kids and discard them as garbage on the side of the road, and those who love their children but cannot accept or condone their homosexuality and won’t call them by their personal pronouns or let their gay partner or ‘spouse’ sleepover at the house. 

Gushee concludes by talking about the encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, how the Apostles did not believe that the Messiah should die and be crucified because, from their perspective, it was nowhere in the text. 

“It was not a standard reading and it was not prevalent at the time. It was a novel interpretation at the time…the Bible did not change, but what changed was that Jesus mediated a different interpretation of the Bible.” 

He says we likewise must interpret the Bible in light of the big picture of “what does it look like to follow Jesus?” which has, at the heart of the gospel, the message of “loving people and not harming them.” He reveals his “hermeneutical core” of interpreting scripture is “Jesus Christ- His mission, his teachings, his ministry.”

If this is adopted, and the old one is cast off, it will result in a better script for you and your children, which should be the goal of every parent.

But hey- as Andy Stanley and his defenders say, nothing about this conference was gay-affirming, or meant to communicate a gay-affirming message or theological position about homosexuality to any conference attendees.


Editor’s Note. We’ve been writing about North Point for a long time, documenting the theological drift of one of the largest megachurches in America, frequently with exclusive reporting. Some of the stories include:

North Point Church Is Sending Children to All-LGBTQ Therapists: We Profile One of The Counselors
Celebrating Transgenderism?! North Point Church Staffers Rejoice After Man Comes Out as Woman
North Point Pastor Recommends Struggling Christians Attend ‘Queer Parent Summit’
Report: North Point Church Personnel Knew ‘Lap Dance Leader’ Was Gay-Affirming+ Andy Stanley Responds

Exclusive! Andy Stanley’s Children Ministry Overrun and Led by Pro-LBGTQ+ Activists
North Point Pastor Praises Gay Man’s Affirming Org. ‘Lord, Let Him Create More Allies for the LGBTQ Community’
North Point Church Baptizes Openly Transgender ‘Man’, After Giving Blessing to Transition?

North Point Church Staffers Found ‘Liking’ Pride Parade Celebration
Surprise Surprise, Another North Point Church Leader is Gay-Affirming and Wildly Liberal
Dr. Michael Brown Says He’s Spent 8 Years Exchanging Texts and Emails with Andy Stanley, Who Has REFUSED to Condemn Homosexuality

Bonus.

Cortland Russell was the one who introduced David Gushee. Russell told everyone that his personal pronouns were he/him and is one of the people baptized by North Point church leaders a few years ago despite knowing he was an openly unrepentant gay man. (North Point also baptized an openly trans man under similar circumstances) Notably, Russell is also Board President of Renovus, a gay-affirming activist group founded and led by pastors and leaders within North Point church whose purpose is to advocate for the full inclusion of homosexuals within every aspect of church life.




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30 thoughts on “‘Unconditional Conference’ Speaker Teaches Christians Must Adopt a ‘New Script’ Where Homosexuality ISN’T Sinful

  1. When a religious leader teaches that the Bible is not to be trusted, he’s forfeited his right to teach the Bible IMHO, and should be shunned.

  2. So do those same “ancient biblical texts” have all the “Thou shall nots” wrong too? If that’s the case, Thou shall not steal, covet, or commit adultery are all fair game now right??

    My how the mighty have fallen.
    Come quickly, like NOW Lord Jesus !!

  3. In his defense of sermon, right after this conference, called, I love my church, Andy, maintain that no theology was covered in the conference, therefore, it didn’t matter what beliefs, the conference speakers had the illogically. Clearly, theology WAS addressed. Thank you for this excellent article.

  4. Whoops! Too many typos due to using dictation! Here’s my re-do: In his defensive sermon right after this conference, called, “I Love My Church,” Andy maintained that no theology was covered in the conference; therefore, it didn’t matter what beliefs the conference speakers had theologically. Clearly, theology WAS addressed. Thank you for this excellent article.

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