“Let me just say this carefully to those of us who are LGBTQ. …We’ve won. We’ve won! We know how this is going to end. This is going to end with the full inclusion of gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer people, non-binary people, all kinds of people. We know how it ends.”
If a “nicest guy in the world” award was given to famous American pastors, few would disagree New York Times best-selling author Max Lucado should find himself toward the front of that line. He’s the consummate cuddly bear whose central message is God’s boundless and unmerited grace for all people, regardless of their story. This is the hallmark of his ministry and life. It oozes from his pulpit and the pages of his books. He speaks of it in a thousand different ways, always seeking to help people understand this glorious truth from yet another creative, illuminating angle.
Lucado’s message is clear: No one is too far from God’s inexhaustible love. No. One. If you are human, this includes you. Full. Stop. All you have to do is accept it. It was this very message that earned him the prestigious invitation to preach this past Sunday to the congregation of the celebrated Washington National Cathedral in D.C. This is the church where our national leaders hold their largest and most solemn official religious gatherings.
But Lucado’s invitation to preach was surprisingly controversial and his cancelation was publicly demanded, according to the Episcopal News Service. Why? Because he has publicly stated that God instituted marriage between a man and woman and only condones married sexuality. And his great “sin” was not so much how he said it, but that he said it. This was enough to spur calls for his cancelation and for the National Cathedral’s leadership to say letting Lucado speak was a “mistake.”
When the Washington National Cathedral announced on their Facebook page Lucado would be preaching their Sunday service, calls for him to be disinvited flooded in. Someone on the Cathedral’s Facebook page baselessly explained, “This man’s theology makes some people want to kill themselves.” The director of faith outreach for the highly influential LGBT lobbying group Human Rights Campaign made their thoughts known about the invitation to church leadership. Activists started an online petition to have Lucado’s invitation rescinded.
Pastor Lucado’s message was delivered to the congregation on February 7th. But only after retired Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first ordained openly gay bishop, was recruited to preside over the Sunday morning service as a calming device. Robinson provided a meticulously worded eight minute-long explanation for why Lucado’s was invitation was not revoked. To his credit, Robison’s speech was a thoughtful and a classical liberal explanation for why inclusion “sometimes … includes people we don’t agree with much at all.” But he put his explanation to the congregation in the simple and binary context of good over bad, right over wrong, us against them.
Let me just say this carefully to those of us who are LGBTQ. …We’ve won. We’ve won! We know how this is going to end. This is going to end with the full inclusion of gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer people, non-binary people, all kinds of people. We know how it ends.
He concluded his side the zero-sum victors, “good” over “evil.” That pulpit is their pulpit and they will manage it according to their ascendent beliefs. And Rev. Randy Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, was also compelled to distance himself from his gentle guest during the Sunday service and did so in his carefully threaded introduction to Lucado’s sermon.