Issue: The ‘Emergent Church’ – a rather amorphous entity, by design, has become the favorite ‘they’ to watchblogs like Slice/CRN. A current and recent thread in this larger discussion regards them ECM and homosexuality.

CRN’s Take: One of the current threads of criticism is that the Emergent Church tolerates homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, if practiced in a monogymous relationship. This is portrayed not as an issue with a specific church or churches, but as endemic of the entire movement.

My Take: Engaging in homosexual sex is a sin. Period. I’ve said so before in response to an article on Emergent ‘TheOoze’.

The ECM is not a neat little movement that can be pigeonholed, though, and Slice/CRN tends to take anything sinful or that they don’t like (which are often mistakenly equated to be the same thing) and say that it is part of the ‘emergent church’ – that nebulous ‘they’ out there. (This site has been attacked specifically by Ingrid as ‘emergent’, and has still not issued a correction, when given the facts.) Rob Bell is often lumped in with the ECM by Slice/CRN, though he disavows any association, and his church, Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI, doesn’t really fit the mold (it is a megachurch that is focused on practicing Christianity as taught by Jesus within a first-century (as opposed to a post-modern) context.

In reality, the ECM is a response to post-modernism across many denominations, in seeking a way to engage the culture. As you might expect, EC churches started by folks from liberal main-line church with weak theology – surprise – are weak, theologically. EC churches that are led by folks from conservatives with strong theology – once again, surprise – are not weak, theologically. The more liberal EC churches are part of a loose network called ‘Emergent’ or ‘Emergent Village’. The more conservative ones refer to themselves as ‘Emerging’. Scot McKnight does the best job I’ve seen defining the movement than anyone else I’ve read, which you can check out here.

One of the first individuals to identify the movement, and in so doing, became its most visible ‘leader’, is Brian McLaren. I do not agree with his universalist bent of late, and disagree with parts of his theology. However, McLaren is not the ECM, and of the living, breathing Emergents I’ve met, most didn’t know who he is, nor do they ‘tow his line’. A couple years back, McLaren took a stance of not commenting on the morality of homosexuality and asked for a moratorium on the issue, but other leaders in the movement disagreed with him (Mark Driscoll doing so rather strenuously).

The ‘big name’ EC churches (Mars Hill (Seattle), Solomon’s Porch, Vintage Faith, Mosaic) do not, but of the smaller ones, some do and some don’t – once again, it seems, based more on their denominational underpinnings than some new theological drift. Bob Hyatt, a pastor of an ECM church, had this to say on the subject:

I think our stance would be what Stan Grenz called “Welcoming, but not affirming.” If people do not know Jesus, I don’t much care who or what they are sleeping with when they come to our community. I want to welcome them and tell them about Jesus.

When they become a follower of Jesus, however, the story changes somewhat in that there are many things that God wants to change in us, our sexual ethic included. Though our elders have decided to take an individual case-by-case approach with everyone and their situation, our general stance is that same-sex sexual behavior is not compatible with being a Christ follower and needs to be left behind.

And this as well:

By the way, I can name at least one well-known emerging church that has no issue with committed same sex sexual relationships… but I honestly don’t think they are representative.
However, many individuals who identify with the emerging church movement, whose background is the mainline church will share this view…

But I agree- the broad stroke “the ECM” believes this is silly. It’s a nonsensical statement most of the time it’s made, since on other issues and this one in particular, at least half of the “ECM” people you ask will express a different view.

I suppose it’s like saying finding a group of southern baptists who are KJV Only and assuming the Rev Silva must be as well. Or saying that since Mosaic and Saddleback are SBC, that Silva must be down with McManus and Rick Warren.

He snorts, but this is the type of thing he does to the emerging church all the time.

I would agree with Bob’s assessment, as well. That said, though, I – once again – do not consider myself emergent, by any means. What I would really like to see is balance, as I’ve written about before here.

UPDATE: I reworded my initial sentence, based on Bob’s comment below, to more accurately reflect my position, and to be sensitive to where this wording IS important.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 16th, 2007 at 1:45 pm and is filed under Commentary, Emergent Church, ODM Responses, Original Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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11 Comments(+Add)

1   Bruce
January 16th, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Good post.

I grew up with the hate homosexuality/hate homosexuals theologies. I taught a number of parishioners over the years to be good homophobics.

We can on one hand affirm the Bible says homosexual sex is sin (as is heterosexual sex outside of marriage) Homosexual temptation (along with heterosexual temptation) is not a sin. The sin is in the act not the temptation. It very well cold be that a homosexual becomes a Christian and he struggles with homosexual temptation the rest of his life.

The Evangelical Church has failed in reaching homosexuals because we have demonized homosexuals. We need to treat them as we would anyone else. We need to love them, care for them, and share with them the grace, mercy and love of God. If they have AIDS we need to minister to them and care for them.

We are looked at as narrow minded, judgmental bigots, because many times we are……………..

2   Joe Martino
January 16th, 2007 at 4:49 pm

Is it just me or does Ken Seem to simply be putting up just links to all of his old stuff? He really bugs me.

3   bob    
January 17th, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Just a clarification.
I would (very intentionally) not make the statement “Homosexuality is sin. Period” What I would say is “Same sex sexual behavior is a sin. Period.”

Orientation is a tricky thing- neither (IMHO) something one is born with NOR something one chooses- but something that is formed (or mis-formed) in you by a number of factors.

I have a number of homosexual friends who are unable to change their orientation, but are committed to celibacy. I do not think they are in sin at all.

A small point, but for those struggling, I think an important one.

4   Chris L
January 17th, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Bob – you are completely correct – It is completely my error in the way I wrote it… (I will update it now)…

5   Patrick Lane    
January 18th, 2007 at 7:13 am

Hey Chris,

I think you and I had a discussion on homosexuality on the ooze quite some time back. I, as everyone knows who has visited my site or seen my comments on the ooze knows that I don’t think two persons living in monogamy committed to one another of the same gender are living in sin. You thoughtfully disagreed in that conversation if I remember correctly.

Anyway, I only bring this up to sort of get you off the hook with those who want to “guilt by association” connect you with me. You have consistently noted that you differ with me on this that homosexual behavior is a sin.

It is also true that I am very much in the minority on the ooze, which probably represents the emergent church on the internet. I say this because of the people who are insisting that the emergent church embraces homosexuality. As a friend of the homosexual community I wish they did hold my position but they just don’t.

Again, I appreciate your work in keeping the new slice of’ accountable and hope you will continue in it. What I appreciate most about your site is your willingness to dialogue with people with whom you disagree, including at times me.

Grace and Peace Friend,
Patrick Lane

6   Matt    
April 30th, 2007 at 12:32 pm

I’ve heard that Rob Bell has been taking a softer view on homosexuality, much like Brian McLaren. This is not an accusation. Does anyone have info on this?

7   Chris L
April 30th, 2007 at 12:35 pm


In Rob’s public speaking, he takes no specific stance on homosexuality as a topic – saying that he prefers to deal with individuals on the topic, rather than public fora, which have different purposes. In practice, Mars Hill has a program to help lead people out of that lifestyle – and one of their pastors gave me almost an identical response as Bob Hyatt, above.

8   Matt    
April 30th, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Here is someone’s blog about seeing Bell on the Sex God tour.

9   Chris L
April 30th, 2007 at 1:04 pm


I had read that a couple months ago when it was posted, and it is consistent with Rob being silent on the subject in public, but using it on an individual basis in private.

The way I have heard one local pastor address the issue when we discussed it was basically this:

When people ask you about your ’stance’ on homosexuality in a public setting, they’re typically in one of two camps:

1) They are Christians looking to see if you are ‘orthodox’, looking to get a public affirmation, which then can be used as a club of sorts. They already know what the scripture says on the topic, and that practicing homosexuality is a sin – the same as lying, stealing, adultery, speeding and cheating on your taxes. However, many of them hold homosexuality as something higher, more insidious, than these other sins.

2) They are active homosexuals, friends of active homosexuals, or someone struggling with homosexual temptations. Often, these people are either searching for help, or looking for initial reasons to reject Christianity.

My friend says that his response to both of these – in public fora – are the same. He won’t answer. In the first case, he won’t feed the beast. In the second case, he won’t give a person a cause to reject Christ before they have heard the message. However, if they wish to follow Christ, his church has a program, similar to Bob’s, which will help individuals struggling with sexual sin (homo-, hereto- and bi-) to leave these sins behind when they accept Christ.

It is in light of this discussion and knowing a bit of the workings of Mars Hill that have given me my interpretation of why Bell doesn’t publicly discuss the topic.

10   Matt    
April 30th, 2007 at 1:11 pm


Thanks for your response. That’s what’s good about this site, you can have discussions about issues and no one is going to close down a discussion or moderate your comments.

I still am hesitant about Bell. I enjoyed his previous tour but I didn’t get to see his Sex God Tour. I did read Velvet Elvis and had some issues with it (the virgin birth thing is hard for me to swallow). I’ve also heard many of his sermons and seen some NOMA videos. The Breath NOOMA video did seem a little pantheistic.

11   Chris L
April 30th, 2007 at 1:18 pm


I’ve not seen that particular NOOMA.

Of the two books he’s written, I think Sex God was the better of the two, though less controversial. I think the virgin birth discussion in VE was not there to actually question it (since he immediately affirmed the VB), but to help think through the ‘whys’ behind even rock-solid doctrine – to understand what is scriptural and what it traditional (because people, myself included, often mix the two). I can’t find it right now, but I read an anecdote (possibly apocryphal) that he’d commented that he re-affirms the VB at almost every tour stop, and that he wonders if he should have chosen something less solid as an example.

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  1. CRN.Info and Analysis    Apr 30 2007 / 12pm:

    [...] We’ve written about this topic before, refuting the slander, but Ken doesn’t care – he’s got mouths to feed, and if that requires lying about brothers in Christ, so be it… [...]