Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Did he change his mind?

Nearly everybody knows the name Eugene Peterson.  After all, he is the author of The Contemplative Pastor and Five Smooth Stones among his 30 or 40 books (don't forget his own Bible version, The Message).  He has been a staple among solid Evangelicals (with Stanley Hauerwas).  I thought he was a rather reliable conservative.  I don't know if he had ever given a hint of his position on same sex marriage but it certainly seems like a change of heart with respect to that issue. If it is not a change of heart or mind, it certainly represents a hidden aspect of Peterson's theology.

Read this portion of an interview with the Religious News Service:

RNS: You are Presbyterian, and your denomination has really been grappling with some of the hot button issues that we face as a culture. I think particularly of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Has your view on that changed over the years? What’s your position on the morality of same-sex relationships?

EP: I haven’t had a lot of experience with it. But I have been in churches when I was an associate pastor where there were several women who were lesbians. They didn’t make a big deal about it. I’d go and visit them and it never came up for them. They just assumed that they were as Christian as everybody else in the church.

In my own congregation — when I left, we had about 500 people — I don’t think we ever really made a big deal out of it. When I left, the minister of music left. She’d been there ever since I had been there. There we were, looking for a new minister of music. One of the young people that had grown up under my pastorship, he was a high school teacher and a musician. When he found out about the opening, he showed up in church one day and stood up and said, “I’d like to apply for the job of music director here, and I’m gay.” We didn’t have any gay people in the whole congregation. Well, some of them weren’t openly gay. But I was so pleased with the congregation. Nobody made any questions about it. And he was a really good musician.

I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.

RNS: A follow-up: If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?
EP: Yes.
Or does he?

A day after a Religion News Service interview portrayed retired pastor and author Eugene Peterson as shifting to endorse same-sex marriage, the evangelical leader retracted his comment and upheld the traditional Christian stance instead. “To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything,” he said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
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.
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.
I guess you can decide.  Does Peterson support same sex marriage or not?


Carl Vehse said...

From the excerpts, it appears that Eugene Peterson is continuing the flexible theology, developed by the legendary theologian Franz Bibfeldt, who is said to have been guided by the motto: "I dance to the tune that is played."

Anonymous said...

Once Eugene Peterson discovered that no one would buy his books anymore, he publicly changed his mind once again. I guess he did not want to become the next Rob Bell. Who pays attention to Bell anymore?

Peterson reaffirmed traditional marriage, but so what. He did not state that homosexuality was a sin. If I were Presbyterian, I would start looking for a different denomination to join......

Anonymous said...

E P should run for political office. He has about as much conviction as a politician holding his moistened finger up to the prevailing winds of political correctness. What made him change his mind? Does the majority of Christendom still hold to Genesis 2 as the correct teaching on marriage? I guess people vote with their feet and their pocketbooks so it's another case of "follow the money."

Carl Vehse said...

In the retraction interview, between the second and third paragraph quoted above, here is another spin-doctoring paragraph by Petersen:

“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."