Pastor and author Andy Stanley is receiving both praise and criticism after a sermon he preached saying that gay people who attend church "have more faith than I do."
In a video clip of the sermon shared on Twitter, Stanley tells listeners that the LGBTQ+ community in the church is an important and faithful part of the church. Stanley is the founder and senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
"A gay person who still wants to attend church after the way they've been treated, I'm telling you, they have more faith than I do," Stanley said. "They have more faith than a lot of you."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Stanley's sermon had generated more than 344,000 views.
"A gay person who knows, 'You know what? I might not be accepted, but I'm going to try it anyway,' and as a straight person, have you ever, where do you go that you're not sure you're going to be accepted over and over and over?"
Stanley encouraged Christians to continue to welcome LGBTQ Christians into churches.
"The gay men and women who want to worship their heavenly father, who did not answer the cry of their heart when they were 12, 13, 14 and 15, and they still love God, we have some things to learn from that group of men and women who love Jesus that much and want to worship with us."
Author and religion writer Jonathan Merritt issued a tweet in support of Stanley's message, writing, "If you feel angry at the suggestion that gay people (or anyone else you consider 'sinful') being welcomed to God's table, then you will absolutely HATE reading the Gospels."
If you feel angry at the suggestion that gay people (or anyone else you consider “sinful”) being welcomed to God’s table, then you will absolutely HATE reading the Gospels.— Jonathan Merritt (@JonathanMerritt) January 24, 2023
Lots of anger from the fundies on this one from @AndyStanley today: pic.twitter.com/7hDnID23hp
Merritt's tweet drew a range of responses and some 800 likes.
Derek Myers, known as "Derek the Heretic," also tweeted about Stanley's sermon.
"I'm not endorsing Andy or his church, but it seems like he's headed in the right direction," he wrote on Twitter.
"I don't think churches that are ambiguous about LGBTQIA+ inclusion are safe. Unless you are loudly affirming, then you are not an ally.
"Too often, churches masquerade as welcoming or inclusive, but take advantage of LGBTQIA+ volunteers & their tithes."
“A gay person who still wants to attend church after the way they’ve been treated… I’m telling you, they have more faith than I do.” —Andy Stanley— Derek Myers (he/him) (@derektheheretic) January 24, 2023
I’m not endorsing Andy or his church, but it seems like he’s headed in the right direction.pic.twitter.com/x6A2c5Iht5
Myers said he had reached out to Stanley to continue the conversation.
Meanwhile, others said they had doubts about how welcoming Stanley and other Christians would be to the LGBTQ+ Christian community.
"He's happy to collect their tithe money, but they will never be anything but a second-class citizen. They are allowed to attend, they just can't participate. It's a far more cruel thing to do that [than] just saying don't attend," one Twitter user wrote.
Another wrote: "It depends on what you consider the 'right direction.' He's spinning."
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.