Well, if you haven’t heard it yet, let me give you a quick rundown. Several days ago in an interview with the Religion News Service, Eugene Peterson made the following statement: “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.” And then – he went on to say, “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.”
And then just several days later, in a retraction published in Christianity Today, Peterson says, “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.”
Then, later in the article, speaking of a homosexual couple, he adds, “They would still be welcomed at my table along with everyone else.”
These events of the last several days have been written about and blogged more often than I can count. Of course, this is because Peterson is very well known in the evangelical world, primarily through his many writings. So what can I add?
I am left to muse what Peterson said in the initial interview, and what he left unsaid in his retraction. Eugene Peterson, I think, needs to define what he means by welcoming them to his table. If the table he has in mind is in his home, I applaud him. I agree. Any endeavour at outreach must be accompanied by love, a willingness to engage in relationship, and a genuine desire to care about the other.
But did Peterson mean the Lord’s Table? He doesn’t say, but I am left to go back to the original interview. Peterson tells of a man who applied for the position of music minister, but who openly claimed to be gay. Peterson said he was proud of the congregation for they never made a question of it. Besides, said Peterson, he was a very good musician.
Again, I am left to muse which table Eugene Peterson has in mind. Does he mean the table of friendship or the table of full inclusion into the people of God? And as I think about it, it is at precisely this point where the full debate will play itself out among evangelicals. There will be a group of evangelicals who will continue to affirm the teaching of Scripture and will insist on marriage as the union of one man to one woman to the exclusion of all others. But they will also insist that baptism, the Lord’s Table and full membership ought to be given to people who are in homosexual marriage relationships. They will argue that no one’s growth is yet complete. After all, do we withhold membership from people who struggle with pornography or a list of other sexual sins?