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“A Definitive but Unsatisfying Answer”: The Evangelical Response to Gay Christians

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 February 2022


As an amorphous, nonhierarchical collection of associations, evangelicalism has always lacked a clear source of authority. Since Christianity Today's beginning in 1956, it has aspired to serve as the mouthpiece of authoritative evangelical views, presenting itself as the voice of moderation while espousing conservative views with a combative, culture-war stance. With the emergence of the gay rights movement, evangelicals launched a culture war against “homosexuals” as the implicitly secular, liberal Other and then were forced to wrestle with how to apply this stance toward their gay Christian brothers and sisters. Evangelicals' self-conception led to a contradictory stance that they managed to maintain with little variation for decades. Committed to biblical inerrancy, they were definitive in condemning gay sexual behavior, but as self-identified postfundamentalists, they also desired to be compassionate toward gay people. They encouraged gay Christians to change their sexual orientation and simultaneously admitted that such change was impossible for most. Though evangelicals were slow to welcome the ex-gay movement, they eventually embraced it fully as the only plausible escape from their contradictory ideology. The collapse of the movement thus came as a major blow. Many evangelicals began to question the premise that sexual orientation was a chosen, changeable identity and began to rethink the theology of inerrancy that undergirded evangelical hermeneutics. Since 2010, a number of evangelical leaders have challenged CT's claim to represent the evangelical consensus on the issue. In the coming years, the progressive views of younger evangelicals will undoubtedly increase acceptance of same-sex relationships.

Research Article
Copyright © 2022 by The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture

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1 This article uses the problematic terms homosexual and homosexuality only in quotations from original sources. The article primarily addresses gay men and lesbians. It addresses bisexual Christians in passing, but not transgender Christians, as evangelicals have begun discussing this topic only very recently.

2 Stanton L. Jones, “‘Help, I'm Gay,’” Christianity Today, October 14, 2013, n.p.

3 On the substantial continuity between fundamentalism and evangelicalism, see Sutton, Matthew Avery, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014), xiii–xivCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Worthen, Molly, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 9Google Scholar. On the centrality of Christianity Today to modern evangelicalism, see especially 56–74. With a circulation of 160,000 by 1968, CT was indisputably influential. The fact that most of these subscriptions were unpaid does not gainsay the likelihood that many evangelical pastors read it and were shaped by its views, in turn passing those views on to their parishioners. See “Evangelical Protestants Must Unite, Editor Says,” Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1968, B10.

5 Griffith, R. Marie, Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics (New York: Basic Books, 2017), 4445Google Scholar. Griffith emphasizes the conflict among Christians, but fundamentalist Christians often lumped religious liberals together with the larger “secular” culture, with which they saw themselves as at war.

6 Davis, Rebecca L., More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; DeRogatis, Amy, Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)Google Scholar.

7 Divorce provides a clear example of evangelicals’ flexible approach to inerrancy. Inspired by Jesus's condemnation of divorce as tantamount to adultery, evangelicals ostracized divorced Christians well into the 1960s. Randall Balmer points out based on his own survey of CT that evangelical leaders’ censure of divorced evangelicals shifted in the late 1970s as the divorce rate among evangelicals converged with that of the American population as a whole. “Forced to acknowledge the reality of divorce close to home,” Balmer explains, “pastors responded with compassion rather than condemnation; the words of Jesus were treated as an ideal rather than a mandate.” Randall Balmer, “What Would Jesus Say about Same-Sex Marriage?” Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2015.

8 Kidd, Thomas S., Who Is an Evangelical? The History of a Movement in Crisis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), 2Google Scholar, explores the question of evangelical identity over a larger timespan, but identifies the post–World War II era as one where the question intensified; Worthen, Apostles of Reason, passim.

9 White, Heather Rachelle, Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

10 Fetner, Tina, How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009)Google Scholar.

11 This division is not absolute. Some conservative Christians undoubtedly straddled these categories. Still, the distinction is meaningful. In the postwar era, the views of prominent fundamentalist ministers such as Jerry Falwell, Billy James Hargis, Bob Jones Jr., Carl McIntire, and Pat Robertson had much more strident views on secular knowledge, civil rights, and gay people, and typically chose not participate in evangelical institutions, including CT. See Martin, William M., With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America (New York: Broadway Books, 1996)Google Scholar; Williams, Darren K., God's Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Wolkomir, Michelle, Be Not Deceived: The Sacred and Sexual Struggles of Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 See Williams, God's Own Party; Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011); and, more recently, Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017). In passing, Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: Origins of the New American Right (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001) and Michelle Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) address campaigns against gay rights in their focus on conservative grassroots organizing. For recent evangelical social engagement across the political spectrum, see Brian Steensland and Philip Goff, The New Evangelical Social Engagement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

14 Tanya Erzen, Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006).

15 Brantley W. Gasaway, Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), esp. 163–199, makes progressive evangelical activism on behalf of a “civil right but religious wrong” a key component of his account; David R. Swartz, Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) explores the activism of liberal evangelicals who supported civil rights and social justice, but ignores evangelical advocacy for gays and lesbians.

16 Davis, More Perfect Unions; DeRogatis, Saving Sex.

17 Worthen, Apostles of Reason, 2.

18 On compassion alongside condemnation among evangelicals, see Erzen, Straight to Jesus, 64.

19 Though newer scholarship on evangelicalism has challenged the historical narrative of rise-fall-rise, as discussed in the introduction, the 1930s was an important period of institution building that paved the way for the emergence of neo-evangelicalism. See Joel Carpenter, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

20 See Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism, passim, and Worthen, Apostles of Reason.

21 Billy Graham, Carl Henry, and Harold Lindsell graduated from Wheaton.

22 Quoted in Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism, 158.

23 Beth Spring, “Carl F. H. Henry, Theologian and First Editor of Christianity Today, Dies at 90,” Christianity Today, December 1, 2003, n.p.

24 “Why ‘Christianity Today’?” Christianity Today, October 15, 1956, 20–23, quote on 20. See Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals, 253, on the efforts of Graham and others to make evangelicalism softer and less authoritarian.

25 Sutton, American Apocalypse, 321–24. On Pew's effort to use Christianity Today as a vehicle for his libertarian beliefs, see Darren E. Grem, The Blessings of Business: How Corporations Shaped Conservative Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 72.

26 Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt, xix.

27 On the effort of Henry and Christianity Today to define evangelicalism, see Worthen, Apostles of Reason, especially 67.

28 Worthen, Apostles of Reason, 65–66.

29 See the Chicago Statement on Biblical inerrancy, adopted by several hundred conservative evangelicals in 1978, in Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, vol. 4 (Waco: Word Books, 1979), 211–19. On inerrantists’ acknowledgement of conflicting accounts of the same event in the Bible, see Worthen, Apostles of Reason, 53–54. For a popular text aimed at harmonizing conflicting biblical accounts, see Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992).

30 On Lindsell's insistence on inerrancy as a litmus test for evangelicalism, see Miller, Age of Evangelicalism, 30. On Fuller President David Hubbard's rejection of this definition, see Miller, 201–202.

31 Worthen, Apostles of Reason, 200.

32 On Hargis's and other fundamentalists’ attacks on sex ed, see Griffith, Moral Combat, chapter 5. Stephanie Coontz, Marriage: A History (New York: Viking, 2005) places the development of the American public's support for mutual sexual pleasure in marriage—and careful containment of it there—during the 1920s; Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1988) argues for this as a postwar development. For views among postwar evangelicals, see David J. Neumann, “Domestic Security: Defending the Evangelical Home in the Southern California Sunbelt,” Journal of Religious History 43, no. (2019): 83–107 and Daniel K. Williams, “Sex and the Evangelicals: Gender Issues, the Sexual Revolution, and Abortion in the 1960s,” in American Evangelicals and the 1960s, ed. Alex R. Schäfer (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013).

33 M. O. Vincent, “A Christian View of Contraception,” Christianity Today, November 8, 1968, 14.

34 DeRogatis, Saving Sex, 3.

35 “A Protestant Affirmation on the Control of Human Reproduction,” Christianity Today, November 8, 1968, 18.

36 Johnson, This Is Our Message, 35.

37 David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 8; Griffith, Moral Combat, chapters 4 and 5.

38 James Daane, “A Free God for Free Men,” Christianity Today, April 27, 1962, 3.

39 David Harrington Watt, A Transforming Faith: Explorations of Twentieth-Century American Evangelicalism (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991), 138–39, charts how fundamentalist hostility toward therapy between 1925 and 1940 gave way to a more positive attitude among evangelicals, culminating in a strong embrace of therapy by the 1960s.

40 J. R. Dolby, “The Minister's Workshop: Helping the Homosexual,” Christianity Today, February 16, 1968, 29.

41 “Letter from a Homosexual,” Christianity Today, March 1, 1968, 20.

42 White, Reforming Sodom, 139. On the early postwar years of gay community formation and civil rights activism before Stonewall, see C. Todd White, Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History of the Movement for Homosexual Rights (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009).

43 On evangelical lack of awareness of gay communities in the 1950s and 1960s, see Fetner, How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism.

44 On gay men and lesbians as minority groups seeking legal protection from discrimination like African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and women, see Fred Fejes, Gay Rights and Moral Panic: The Origins of America's Debate on Homosexuality (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 5–6.

45 On evangelicals and civil rights, see Sutton, American Apocalypse, 334.

46 Johnson, This Is Our Message, 34–35.

47 Klaus Bockmühl, “Homosexuality in Biblical Perspective,” Christianity Today, February 16, 1973, 12.

48 Cochran, Pamela, Evangelical Feminism: A History (New York: New York University Press, 2005)Google Scholar.

49 Christianity Today, February 13, 1976, 25. On evangelical feminism, particularly links by critics to gay sexuality, see Gasaway, Progressive Evangelicals, 112.

50 Christianity Today, January 18, 1974, 25.

51 Cochran, Evangelical Feminism, 77–109.

52 William N. Eskridge and Christopher R. Riano, Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020), 44–47.

53 “The Laws against Homosexuality,” Christianity Today, November 7, 1969, 32.

54 B. L. Smith, “Homosexuality in the Bible and the Law,” Christianity Today, July 18, 1969, 7, emphasis in original.

55 White, Reforming Sodom. The United Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Episcopal Church engaged in dialogue with gay advocacy groups. See “The Homosexual Church,” Christianity Today, September 11, 1970, 48.

56 Robert L. Cleath, “‘Gays’ Go Radical,” Christianity Today, December 4, 1970, 40.

57 Gasaway, Progressive Evangelicals, 272.

58 Kosela, “Open Doors to Gays,” 53.

59 Though the words are Martin's, they accurately reflect Falwell's views. See Martin, With God on Our Side, 197–98.

60 On the development of the MCC, see Michelle Wolkomir, Be Not Deceived: The Sacred and Sexual Struggles of Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 19–28.

61 Most congregants looked just like members of straight white Protestant churches, he said, but there was a smattering of “limp-wrist stereotypes, leather-clad boys, colorfully frilled men, and Mack-trucklike women.” See “The Homosexual Church,” 50.

62 “Gay Liberation Confronts the Church,” Christianity Today, September 12, 1975, 14.

63 Blair had been an advocate for same-sex couples as a graduate student member of InterVarsity at the University of Southern California and then an InterVarsity staff member at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s. “Dr. Ralph Blair—Founder of EC,” Evangelicals Concerned Inc.,

64 Gasaway, Progressive Evangelicals, 170–72.

65 “Confronting the Homosexual Issue,” Christianity Today, July 8, 1977, 36.

66 Christianity Today, April 21, 1978, 4.

67 See Paul S. Boyer, “The Evangelical Resurgence in 1970s American Protestantism,” and Joseph Crespino, “Civil Rights and the Religious Right,” both in Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s, eds. Bruce J. Schulman and Julian E. Zelizer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008).

68 Williams, God's Own Party, 160–64.

69 Williams, God's Own Party, 167–71.

70 Williams, God's Own Party, 72–82. Playboy's annual circulation grew dramatically, peaking in 1975 at 5.6 million before beginning to decline. Amy Watson, “Playboy—Global Circulation 1960–2018,” Statista, Aug 7, 2019, Pornography was the subject of hundreds of CT articles in the 1980s, reflecting a concern that sexual desire was overflowing the boundaries of marriage, where it was properly celebrated. Playboy, rather than Scripture, was “teaching kids the ‘facts’ of life.” See, e.g., Kenneth S. Kantzer, “The Real Sex Ed Battle,” Christianity Today, April 17, 1987, 16–17.

71 Miller, Age of Evangelicalism, 83.

72 White, Reforming Sodom, 11.

73 June 6, 1980, 8; March 27, 1981, 8; September 20, 1985, 6; February 7, 1986, 8; September 18, 1987, 7; March 4, 1988, 6. Timothy George, “Baptists and Gay ‘Marriage,’” Christianity Today, May 18, 1992, 15, pointedly refused to call Blair an evangelical; a letter from a reader in October 1989 urged readers to treat Blair with “sad compassion” (6).

74 Randy Frame, “The Evangelical Closet,” Christianity Today, November 5, 1990, 56.

75 Kenneth Kantzer, “Homosexuality: Biblical Guidance through a Moral Morass,” Christianity Today, April 18, 1980, 12.

76 See, inter alia, Kim A. Lawton, “Responding to the AIDS Crisis,” Christianity Today, April 4, 1987, 34.

77 Kantzer, “Homosexuality,” 12. A reader agreed, affirming that gay people needed “Jesus, not our judgmentalism.” See Christianity Today, November 9, 1984, 8.

78 Randy Frame, “The Evangelical Closet,” Christianity Today, November 5, 1990, 56.

79 Erzen, Straight to Jesus, provides numerous examples of this theological conviction.

80 Stanton L. Jones, “Homosexuality According to Science: Does New Evidence about Homosexuality Mandate a Change in the Church's Historic Stance?” Christianity Today, August 18, 1989, 26.

81 See, e.g., Richard C. Eyer, “Caring for Homosexuals with AIDS,” Christianity Today, April 1, 1988, n.p.

82 Christianity Today, May 23, 1980, 6.

83 Beth Spring, “These Christians Are Helping Gays Escape from Homosexual Lifestyles,” Christianity Today, September 21, 1984, 56.

84 Paul K. Jewett, Who We Are: Our Dignity as Human: A Neo-Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 333, n. 267.

85 Randy Frame, “Homosexuals Can Change,” Christianity Today, February 6, 1981 25, 36.

86 Christianity Today, March 27, 1981, 6.

87 Jones, “Homosexuality According to Science,” 26.

88 Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, “The Incredibly Shrinking Gay Gene,” Christianity Today, October 4, 1999, 53.

89 Davis, More Perfect Unions, 5.

90 As Tom Waidzunas indicates, this stance would become much more common in the early 2000s among evangelicals who had supported the ex-gay movement. Tom Waidzunas, The Straight Line: How the Fringe Science of Ex-Gay Therapy Reoriented Sexuality (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 114.

91 Kantzer, “Homosexuality,” 12.

92 Kenneth Kantzer, “Homosexuals in the Church,” Christianity Today, April 22, 1983, 8.

93 Randy Frame, “The Homosexual Lifestyle: Is There a Way Out?” Christianity Today, August 9, 1985, 32.

94 Frank Worthen quoted in Frame, “Homosexuals Can Change,” 36.

95 Two letters to the editor in September 20, 1985, 6, illustrate these contrasting views.

96 Frame, “Homosexuals Can Change,” 36.

97 Kantzer, “Homosexuals,” 9. On evangelical ambivalence regarding celibacy versus total conversion and marriage, see Erzen, Straight to Jesus, 47.

98 Both letters are in Christianity Today, October 4, 1985, 9.

99 Randy Frame, “Homosexuality: Campolo's Views Challenged,” Christianity Today, September 8, 1989, 43.

100 Faderman, Lillian, The Gay Revolution: The Story of a Struggle (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015), 288Google Scholar.

101 Erzen, Straight to Jesus, 16, 110–11, 161.

102 At its peak, Exodus claimed 250 local ministries in North America and 150 ministries in more than a dozen countries. See Farrah Tomazin, “‘I Am Profoundly Unsettled’: Inside the Hidden World of Gay Conversion Therapy,” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 9, 2018,

103 Exodus President Alan Chambers denounced the American Psychological Association's 2009 vote criticizing gay reparative therapy. To claim that sexual orientation could not change “flies in the face of the testimonies of tens of thousands of people just like me,” he declared (Bobby Ross Jr., “No Straight Shot,” Christianity Today, October 2009, 10). On ex-gay testimonials, see Erzen, Straight to Jesus, 204–05. Bob Davies, North American director of Exodus for more than two decades, vaguely asserted that he knew many people who, as a result of Exodus, “are living very happy and fulfilled heterosexual married lives. . . . A lot of them are raising kids. They are living the abundant life that Christ promised them, and they could not be happier.” Bob Davies, “Ex-Gay Sheds the Mocking Quote Marks,” Christianity Today, January 7, 2002, 52.

104 Gabriel Arana, “My So-Called Ex-Gay Life,” The American Prospect, April 11, 2012,

105 Tim Stafford, “The Best Research Yet,” Christianity Today, Oct 2007, 52. Their qualified conclusion that most subjects experienced only minor change led them to replace reparative therapy with “sexual identity therapy” (SIT), which ostensibly offered gay Christians a variety of options from which to find “congruence” between their sexuality and their faith. It is not clear that gay Christians perceived a significant difference between SIT and sexual orientation change therapy. See Mark A. Yarhouse, Sexual Identity and Faith: Helping Clients Find Congruence (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton, 2019). The American Psychological Association did recognize “sexual orientation identity exploration as an accepted therapeutic approach.” See Waidzunas, The Straight Line, 176–77.

106 Stafford, “An Older, Wiser Ex-Gay Movement,” 48. CT editors confessed in 2000 that evangelicals could learn from Courage, a Catholic ministry that “measures success more by chaste lives than by changed orientations.” See “Walking in the Truth,” Christianity Today, September 4, 2000, 46.

107 Davies, “Ex-Gay Sheds the Mocking Quote Marks,” 52.

108 Ross Jr., “No Straight Shot,” 10.

109 Chris Norton, “Willow Creek Splits with Exodus International,” Christianity Today, July 21, 2011, n.p.

110 Eskridge and Riano, Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws, 684; Kate Shellnutt, “Christian Baker Wins Supreme Court's Masterpiece Cakeshop Case,” Christianity Today, June 4, 2018, n.p.

111 Morgan Lee and Jeremy Weber, “Here's What Supreme Court Says about Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom,” Christianity Today, June 26, 2015, n.p. For a sample of immediate responses, see Kara Bettis, “Same Sex Marriage Is Legal: How Pastors are Responding in This Crucial Moment,” Christianity Today, June 26, 2015.

112 Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court Says Gay, Transgender Workers Are Protected by Federal Law Forbidding Discrimination,” Washington Post, June 15, 2020,

113 Carla Rivera, “Christian Group Fights for Identity against Cal State Policy,” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2014,; Jonathan Merritt, “InterVarsity's Move on Gay Marriage, The Atlantic, October 7, 2016,

114 Azusa Pacific University allowed same-sex displays of affection but not sexual activity, then rescinded this policy, then allowed it again. See Morgan Lee, “Azusa Pacific Drops Ban on Same-Sex Student Relationships, Again,” Christianity Today, March 19, 2019, n.p.

115 Kate Tracy, “‘Train Wreck Conversion’ Speaker's Ex-Gay Testimony,” Christianity Today, February 21, 2014, n.p.

116 Liam Adams, “Second Expelled Student Sues Fuller for LGBT Discrimination,” Christianity Today, January 7, 2020, n.p.

117 Kate Shellnutt, “Court Dismisses LGBT Anti-Discrimination Lawsuit against Fuller Seminary,” Christianity Today, October 9, 2020, n.p.

118 Bussee left the ministry and became the partner of Gary Cooper, another counselor there. See Erzen, Straight to Jesus, 19; Warren Throckmorton, “Participant Discredits the Original Ex-Gay Study,” Religion Dispatches, November 10, 2011,

119 The methodological concerns involved “most notably the absence of a control or comparison group and the threats to internal, external, construct, and statistical validity.” The note continued, “Best-practice analytical techniques were not performed in the study, and there are significant deficiencies in the analysis of longitudinal data, use of statistical measures, and choice of assessment measures. The authors’ claim of finding change in sexual orientation is unpersuasive due to their study's methodological problems.” See American Psychological Association, Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation (Washington, D.C., American Psychological Association, 2009), 90.

120 Jones and Yarhouse, “The Incredibly Shrinking Gay Gene,” 53.

121 Ted Olsen, “U.K. Ex-Gay Ministry Quits Effort, Says Trying Changing Orientation Is Hopeless,” Christianity Today, January 1, 2001, n.p.

122 Alan Chambers, “Thoughts from a Simple-Minded Jesus Lover,” Christianity Today, July 16, 2012, n.p. “It is as unloving,” Reformed theologian Michael Horton asserted, “to hold out hope to those who embrace a homosexual lifestyle as it is to assure idolaters, murderers, adulterers, and thieves that they are safe and secure from all alarm.” Michael Horton, “Let's Not Cut Christ to Pieces,” Christianity Today, July 12, 2012, n.p. Readers echoed this view, suggesting that telling someone about “the sinfulness of homosexual practice” was a loving act akin to scolding a child for running into traffic: September 2011, 53; June 2012, 57; October 2012, 61.

123 Melissa Steffan, “Alan Chambers Apologizes to Gay Community, Exodus International to Shut Down,” Christianity Today, June 21, 2013, n.p.

124 David Gibson, “John Paulk, Former Christian Ex-Gay Spokesman, Recants and Apologizes,” Washington Post, April 26, 2013, n.p.

125 Curtis M. Wong, “John Smid, Former ‘Ex-Gay’ Leader, Marries Man in Oklahoma,” Huffington Post, November 19, 2014,

126 Curtis M. Wong, “Randy Thomas, Formerly of Exodus International, Comes Out as Gay in Emotional Blog Post,” Huffington Post, January 13, 2015,; Carol Kuruvilla, “Meet the Evangelicals Who Cheered the SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling,” Huffington Post, June 29, 2015,

127 A number of articles in the online edition of the June 2013 issue of Christianity Today responded to Exodus's collapse: Dorothy and Christopher Greco, “Our Eulogy for Exodus International”; Stanton L. Jones, “Exodus in the Wilderness”; Paul Pastor, “Love Closed Down Exodus International”; Melissa Steffan, “After Exodus: Evangelicals React as Ex-Gay ministry Starts Over.” See Christianity Today, June 24, 2013,

128 Eskridge and Riano, Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws.

129 Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture (Ada, MI: Brazos, 2011); Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’ (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012); Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2014).

130 Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 174–75; Melissa Steffan, “Brian McLaren Leads Commitment Ceremony at Son's Same-Sex Wedding,” Christianity Today, September 24, 2012.

131 Jaweed Kaleem, “Jim Wallis Talks Faith's Role in Politics, Gay Marriage and Immigration,” Huffington Post, April 5, 2013, Wallis had attempted to stake out a middle ground in affirming civil marriages before becoming a supporter of same-sex marriage. See Miller, Age of Evangelicalism, 151, 162.

132 “Tony Campolo: For the Record,” Tony Campolo, June 8, 2015,

133 Mark Galli, “Breaking News: 2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage,” Christianity Today, June 9, 2015, n.p.

134 The quote actually comes from her Merritt interview, but reflects the thoughts she expressed on her Facebook post. Kate Shellnutt, “LifeWay Stops Selling Jen Hatmaker Books over LGBT Beliefs,” Christianity Today, October 27, 2016, n.p.

135 Shellnutt, “LifeWay Stops Selling.” Lauding their decision, a CT podcast explored why organizations should require updated statements of faith to anticipate such circumstances. See “LifeWay's Jen Hatmaker Decision: What Evangelical Institutions Can Learn,” Christianity Today, November 4, 2016,

136 Bob Allen, “Columnist Jonathan Merritt Latest Departure from RNS,” Baptist News Global, July 5, 2018,

137 Kate Shellnutt, “Actually, Eugene Peterson Does Not Support Same-Sex Marriage,” Christianity Today, July 13, 2017, n.p.

138 Jonathan Merritt, “Eugene Peterson Authorized Biography Backs Up That ‘Yes’ on LGBTQ Inclusion,” Religion News Service, March 15, 2021,

139 Christopher Yuan, “Why ‘God and the Gay Christian” Is Wrong about the Bible and Same-Sex Relationships,” Christianity Today, June 9, 2014; Wesley Hill, “The Love We Dare Not Ignore,” Christianity Today, October 17, 2012. Books that were ignored include Ken Wilson, A Letter to My Congregation: An Evangelical Pastor's Path to Embracing People Who Are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender into the Company of Jesus (Canton, MI: Read the Spirit Books, 2014); Karen R. Keen, Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018); Amber Cantorna, Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019); Greg and Lynn McDonald, Embracing the Journey: A Christian Parent's Blueprint to Loving Your LGBTQ Child (Brentwood, TN: Howard, 2020).

140 Brownson, James V., Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013)Google Scholar.

141 Achtemeier, Mark, The Bible's Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical's Change of Heart (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015)Google Scholar.

142 His views were critiqued in a blog associated with CT, but ignored entirely within the magazine itself. See George Guthrie, “Discrimination That Is Necessary for a Civil Society: A Response to David Gushee,” Christianity Today, September 1, 2016, n.p.

143 Michael Paulson, “With Same-Sex Decision, Evangelical Churches Address New Reality,” New York Times, June 28, 2015,

144 Labberton's book blurb gushed that Kirk tackled “a complex and commonly felt set of controversies about Jesus, Paul, women, sexuality, and homosexuality . . . in particularly careful, unflinching ways. He earns the reader's trust by demonstrating an interpretive manner that both honors Scripture and wrestles with it.” See “J. R. Daniel Kirk to Leave Fuller Seminary amid Conflict,” Christian Century, October 13, 2015, n.p. Kirk offered his own response to the issue in an open letter to gay people. See J. R. Daniel Kirk, “Dear Gay People: God Does Not Want to Swap You Out,” Patheos, February 24, 2016,

145 Jake Meador, “Eugene Peterson Shrugs,” Christianity Today, July 13, 2017, n.p.

146 Meador, “Eugene Peterson Shrugs.”

147 Jackie Hill Perry, “The Boring Night That Made Me a Christian,” Christianity Today, August 20, 2018, 72; Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, “My Train Wreck Conversion,” Christianity Today, February 7, 2013, 112. Her conversion was discussed again in a 2018 interview. See Lindsey Carlson, “Rosaria Butterfield: Christian Hospitality Is Radically Different from ‘Southern Hospitality,’” Christianity Today, April 24, 2018, n.p.; Rachel Gilson, “In the Face of Sexual Temptation, Repression Is a Sure-Fire Failure,” Christianity Today, August 29, 2019, n.p.; Rachel Gilson, “My Same-Sex Attraction Has an Answer,” Christianity Today, March 2, 2020, n.p.

148 Wesley Hill, “Henri Nouwen's Weakness Was His Strength,” Christianity Today, January 31, 2017.

149 Matthew Lee Anderson, “LGBT Pride and the Evangelical Fall,” Christianity Today, May/June 2021, 44–50.

150 “Reply All,” Christianity Today, September 2021, 10.

151 See R. Stephen Warner, “Evangelicals of the 1970s and 2010s: What's the Same, What's Different, and What's Urgent,” in The New Evangelical Social Engagement, eds. Brian Steensland and Philip Goff (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 288–89. The cautious tone of Gasaway's speculation in 2014 that more evangelicals might come to accept the legitimacy of same-sex relationships and full inclusion of LGBTQ people in churches is a testament to how rapidly the evangelical landscape has changed. See Gasaway, Progressive Evangelicals, 273.

152 Erzen, Tanya, “Testimonial Politics: The Christian Right's Faith-Based Approach to Marriage and Imprisonment,” American Quarterly 59, no. 3 (2007), 991CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

153 Pew Research Center, “Majority of Public Favors Same-Sex Marriage, but Divisions Persist,” May 14, 2019,

154 Brian Steensland and Philip Goff, “Introduction,” in The New Evangelical Social Engagement, 14–15; Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals, 570, 632–33.

155 Jeff Diamant, “Though Still Conservative, Young Evangelicals Are More Liberal Than Their Elders on Some Issues,” Pew Research Center, May 4, 2017, Fifty-three percent of white evangelicals ages eighteen through twenty-nine favor same-sex marriage.

156 Eliza Griswold, “Millennial Evangelicals Diverge from Their Parents’ Beliefs,” New Yorker, August 27, 2018,

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“A Definitive but Unsatisfying Answer”: The Evangelical Response to Gay Christians
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