On October 9, 2015, a member of Watermark Church in Dallas received a letter responding to his homosexual lifestyle. The letter noted that the church had worked with the man over several years to help him repent of such relationships.
However, the man's decision to continue in a homosexual relationship caused the church to remove him from its membership and to treat him "as we would anyone who is living out of fellowship with God." The congregation is praying "that repentance comes quickly and that you do not continue choosing a path of destruction and one that leads you away from the authority and care of the church."
On the one-year anniversary of receiving the letter, the man described his anger on Facebook: "You are tarnishing the name of God to Christians and non-Christians alike; you should be ashamed of yourselves! Do not forget, Jesus was a [sic] angry with people just like you who said certain groups of people were not worthy to be followers of Him."
Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd was highly critical of the church in a column under the headline, "Watermark megachurch banned a gay man that it didn't deserve to have as a member." Floyd stated: "A church that chooses a path leading it to harass and condemn its own blameless members isn't doing itself any favors. Running around trying to change turtles into ducks seems out of step with established science and enlightened interpretation of Scripture."
Yesterday, Watermark Pastor Todd Wagner responded. Todd and I have been friends for years, and I greatly admire his passion for Christ, his congregation, and his community. I urge you to read his entire column in the Dallas Morning News.
Todd explains that the former member made clear to the church that "he no longer believed same-sex sexual activity was inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ and no longer desired to turn from it." As a result, "Like any member whose beliefs move away from the core commitments, biblical convictions, and values of Watermark, it became appropriate to formally acknowledge his desire not to pursue faithfulness to Christ with us."
Todd adds that such discipline is "an act of love, something any parent knows. The heart of true correction is always to bring about good in the life of an individual. Our goal with every instance of care and correction is to restore the relationship and save our hurting friend from the trouble that sin always creates."
This paragraph is especially relevant to the larger cultural battle over homosexuality: "Following the example of Jesus, Watermark loves and welcomes people of all backgrounds, economic statuses, ethnicities and sexual struggles. Also following his example, we encourage people to turn away from sin and to follow Jesus. We have many members and several staff who struggle with same-sex attraction or for whom same-sex sexual activity is a part of their past. We count it a privilege to labor with them in their desire to resist temptation, and we rejoice with them as they experience forgiveness and new life in Christ. Their stories are powerful and serve as beautiful testimonies to the transforming power of Jesus Christ" (his emphasis).
I commend Todd Wagner and Watermark Church for caring for this man's spiritual health enough to take the difficult step of discipline intended to prompt repentance. It would have been far easier and less controversial for the church to ignore the man's sin. If the sin in question were not homosexual, I doubt this issue would have drawn the attention it has received. But gay rights have become civil rights in our culture, prompting critics to lambast Christians for holding to biblical truth and morality.
Despite popular opinion, followers of Jesus are called to care for each other (Galatians 6:1–2) and to hold each other accountable (Matthew 18:15–17). In addition, spiritual leaders must give an account to God for those they shepherd (Hebrews 13:17).
Those who believe God's word regarding sexual sin must pay a higher price today than ever before in our nation's history. But the privilege of serving Jesus and loving our fallen culture is worth all it costs and more.
Do you agree?
Publication date: October 17, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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