Thabiti Anyabwile Responds

Over in the comment section at First ThingsThabiti Anyabwile responds to my critique of his Gospel Coalition post. Since Kyle Keating and I drew a lot of attention to his original blog post, it seems only fair to share his response with our readers:

Dear Ron,

Thank you for the very charitable and thoughtful response to my post. I appreciate your graciousness and your insight.

I won’t offer further defense of my post since a couple others have commented in ways that reflect my own push back. I mainly just want to thank you for your example of winsomeness.

I would say two things simply for clarity’s sake:

First, I never intended to offer in that post a full theology or a pastoral theology for gender, relationships, and sexual behavior. I agree that such is needed. However, the post was something much smaller in scope than that, an attempt to first describe the rhetorical and emotional shifts that have happened in the culture through the lens of a think tank meeting and then to offer my sense of where we need to return the conversation if we want the cultural results to account for first principles.

Second, this was not something written with pastoral responsibility in view. Perhaps it should have been. But I don’t think it a dereliction of my pastoral duty to comment on a political phenomenon that itself affects pastoral practice. Nor did the persons in my congregation who in various ways are fighting faithfully against same-sex attraction think so, since a couple of them wrote me very thankful emails in reply.

Thank you for your labors on this and other fronts. I pray the Lord’s richest blessings upon you! Grace and peace,

He also responds in more depth to the controversy as a whole over at his Gospel Coalition blog.

8 thoughts on “Thabiti Anyabwile Responds

  1. While it is true a pastor may make comments on political and social phenomenon, for him to do so without first setting a pastoral foundation is a dereliction of duty. He need not do this in every single post, but he has to do it somewhere. And the fact still remains that, when it comes to homosexuality, I still do not see a single blog entry anywhere on Mr. Anybwile’s blog where he has addressed the issue from A pastoral perspective of sin and grace or has pointed to the cross. It is his neglect to THIS, not his address of a political issue that is the problem (and, frankly, a failing within the majority of Christian churches and ministries today.

    I can accept his “gag reflex” statements if, and only if, he applies them equally to heterosexuals and also points to forgiveness in Christ. Without those two things then to preach a “gag reflex” is nothing more nor less than the bigotry the gay community so often accuses us of.

    • I agree with you that Thabiti’s political statements need a much stronger pastoral foundation than he has yet provided.

      However, I also think it’s important to acknowledge that his comments today represent a significant step toward acknowledging and addressing pastoral concerns from where he was at in his post less than a week ago.

      I don’t think that all my concerns have been addressed. But I think that we have begun a fruitful dialogue, and Thabiti seems interested in listening to and responding with kindness to our concerns.

      As @MelindaSelmys noted on Twitter today:

      It’s going to take the Church a while to give birth to a genuinely pastoral response to us. Sometimes, we need to push pastors like Thabiti to understand our concerns. But we also need to relax sometimes and say, “Good, we’re glad to see progress. Thank you for listening. And let’s keep talking about where we need to go from here.”

      • I find his response wholly inadequate. In part because he didn’t identify what he thought was a good response. But I do think from my take of the tone of his response it is as far as he can come at this point. So I think you are right about the waiting phase. I think he is right that culture has move relatively quickly. There will be time needed for a response that is owned. (I am still pretty shocked about the racial insensitivity that I hear from some of my family and friends and that is a much older issue in our public’s consciousness.)

    • I don’t think it will be very long before another anti-gay article is posted at The Gospel Coalition. The “gays” are a legitimate out-group target for conservative Christians. They don’t (routinely) picture gay/ssa people being members of their churches. They certainly don’t want anyone to come out as gay – which would force them the rethink how they talk about (disparage) the “gays” in public.

      Which is a shame because TGC is a good resource when the topic is anything else.

  2. I agree with Matt (but I sympathize with Mr Shields as well). His claim that his remarks didn’t bother LGBT members of his congregation, on the strength of some supportive letters, suggests (in my opinion) only more short-sightedness. I for one would not be eager to share my feelings with a pastor who talked that way.

    • After reading Anyabwile’s post, my initial thoughts were similar: were he my pastor, I would be looking for a different church. If his LGBT congregants can overlook his comments and perspective, I guess I’m glad for them; but not everyone is going to be (nor should be, really) as charitable. Patient, yes. Accepting, not as much. Thanks, Ron, for excellent thoughts and perspective!

  3. Thabiti is doing more damage than good and his angle on this subject needs to be changed. He seems to be more of a cultural warrior and moralist in that blog post than a Christian pastor and evangelist. He’s in good company at the gospel coalition where so many are more focused on the culture wars than on the church having gospel-centered influence within that culture by being the church.

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