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What is Gay-Affirming?

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What is Gay-Affirming?

I’m sorry, but part of the brouhaha has been over defining what ‘affirming’ and ‘non-affirming language.’ This is affirming language. It may be very poorly expressed by the author here, because she says she’s not. But if you quote this…this argumentation…what’s the only possible conclusion? That we should approve of these relationships. I mean, at the very least, at the very least, Dr. Prior should recognize that she has not been clear and has been very confusing. If you have been reading (which most of you haven’t and don’t want to, as I don’t want to, but do) been reading gay Christian propaganda for years now, it’s like, ‘sounds familiar.‘” (speaking of a writing sample from Karen Swallow Prior, full context and link to video)

Yes. That is what the brouhaha is about. Generally speaking, it has been about whether or not our title, Gay Affirming Research Fellow at ERLC, is appropriate. The opposition basically says this… “She’s not gay affirming because she has called homosexuality a sin.”

The argument from myself and others at Pulpit & Pen is that you can be affirming of one’s sin, while calling it a sin. Saying one thing but doing another is to be double-minded and unstable (James 1:8). It happens – it’s possible. Again, the opposition says… “That’s not what ‘gay affirming’ means. Gay-affirming has a definition, and that’s not it.”

Yes, we recognize that Swallow Prior has called homosexuality a sin. We said so repeatedly in both my podcast with Landon here and another one here. Again – those words came out of our mouth…”she has called homosexuality a sin.” We said that quite a few times.

The “gay lexicon,” as I call it, has been powerfully potent at shifting the debate in this country – and I’ve mentioned this many times. I wrote about it in this open letter to the gay community, with almost 9 thousand Facebook shares here. I specifically mention this (and that’s the majority point of the letter), the gay lexicon, and the way that Christians should stop using terms advanced by the homosexual agenda and the terms we can’t avoid using, we should stop using them in the propagandic way those terms are designed to be used.

As Dr. White covered on his program today (and like a million times before), the LGBT homosexual community cabal will not be happy until we move beyond full acceptance and demand embracing celebration of their sexual deviancy. “Affirming” to the homosexual community is anything less than full celebration. As a Christian pastor, I believe it’s possible to affirm the sin even while calling it sin. I believe that many evangelicals – and yes, Swallow Prior and Russell Moore are two of them – are affirming homosexuality in an attempt to evangelize homosexuals. Sadly, we see evangelicals embrace the homosexual agenda because they desire to be embraced as evangelicals by the LGBT homosexual community cabal.

Some discernment ministers cover William Tapley’s insanity or the New Apostolic Reformation nonsense (and I love those guys dearly and I’m glad they do). But I don’t think that William Tapley is the greatest threat to the church. I believe the greatest threat comes from those who we want to trust, they make the gradual leftward slide into Downgrade with well-meaning intentions and there is a very, very limited number of people willing to call them out on those nuanced compromises because it solicits angry responses from people who characterize you as attacking your own team. So really, what is “gay affirming“? Can you believe homosexuality is a sin and still affirm the gay agenda and fall into their trap of Downgrade?

First, some consistency.

EXAMPLE 1: I organized a debate between Dr. White and Justin Lee (founder and president of the Gay Christian Network) in 2013 (that’s me introducing the two in the above hyperlinked video). At that conference, we had time for lunch and we gathered the speakers together, all of whom were well-known evangelicals – plus Justin Lee. My goal was to show Justin as much hospitality as possible, we gave him a “body man” to get him anything he needed, assured him over and over again that Dr. White wouldn’t hurt him, and I personally grabbed him water, paid for his meals, and asked over and again how we could make his stay enjoyable. But then, at lunch…

Here I am with Justin Lee and these evangelical leaders. I ordered food, as we all did. It came, hot on my plate. Then, it was time to pray. And then, that fleeting moment of spiritual focus brought to mind 1 Corinthians 5:11…

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

I left my food on the plate and watched Justin eat, while making conversation. I ate mine later. That wasn’t planned, but that was conviction. Later, when asked for a photo with Justin, I politely declined and explained why. I pray there wasn’t offense taken. I still have his phone number, I suppose I could call and ask.

EXAMPLE 2: That wasn’t the first time I made that decision. The first time was in (about) 2007. One of my college friends and former Southern Baptist preacher came out of the closet fully embraced his homosexuality. I saw in social media that he suddenly (seemingly) became the most popular alumni in social media. All of my classmates were stirring around him, making much of him, offering to take him out to eat when he came back to the area, etc. I’m pretty confident they were well-intentioned – they wanted to develop a friendship that could “reach” him.” I also reached out to my homosexual friend to admonish him and recall in his mind the Holy Scripture. He assured me he knew what the Holy Scripture said. We went back and forth, and during that exchange, I mentioned that I would be coming to New York City (where he now was working) to see my brother-in-law, who is a surgeon. He invited me to come have a meal with him when I got to the city, and I accepted. In my studies later that day, I read 1st Corinthians 5. I called him and politely canceled our meeting. He knew the Scripture. If the Holy Spirit would not illumine his mind over the Bible, He would not illumine his mind over a cup of coffee.

EXAMPLE 3: Three weeks ago I took a very good friend out to lunch, for what may be the last time. I’ve known him for seven years, and we hang out. He calls me his pastor (but he’s not a church member). He claims Christianity – heavily. He was moving in with his girlfriend. Over a hot meal, I took him the Scripture and explained why sexual immorality was a sin. He would not repent, citing various excuses why living in cohabitation was practical. I lovingly explained that I could no longer eat with him, because I do not want to give him the impression I was affirming his sin or affirming the notion that he was a Christian. It went well. He called me just this week to see how I was, and we had a great conversation. He told me how much he loves Jesus. And yet, I still can’t eat with him or hang out with him and he knows that. He also knows my door is open should he choose to repent. But because he knows I love him, he gets it and doesn’t hold it against me. One thing is sure – he knows that I’m abstaining from eating with him or hanging out with him for the sheer enjoyment of it because I’m under the impression he is condemned without faith-induced repentance.

There are countless examples, I suppose. If our church has a woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock and is vocally and demonstrably repentant, we still throw her a baby shower because life should be celebrated (she could abort the baby, after all). However, if she is not repentant, although we may make benevolence funds available for care of the child, we’re not celebrating with a baby shower. We’re not doing a cake and streamers. We can’t dare give the impression that we’re affirming someone in their sin. Hard, I know.

My church often has couples who cohabitate even though I preach or teach against it when the Scripture requires it. And sometimes (we went through a whole bunch of these several years ago) it’s my pleasure to wed them together after discussing the Gospel and repentance. But sometimes, they choose not to repent. Recently, one unmarried couple moved to a new home. I’ll often have my wife make a housewarming gift when people move to a new place (she’s crafty), but not this time. I cannot affirm their relationship, not so much as with a new picture frame to hang on the wall. I would be sinning by affirming them in their sin, even while calling it sin.

This is why so many of us were broken hearted when Russell Moore said that he would attend a gay wedding reception. Even though he would not attend the wedding itself, I believe that attending the celebration afterward, receiving them (it’s a reception, that’s why it’s called that) as spouse-and-spouse, watch them do the cake-in-the-face tradition, throw the bouquet, or giving of housewarming gifts is affirming them. It’s to say, “You’re sinning, but I’m kinda alright with that…at least to the point that I can help you celebrate it.

So, here are the facts about Karen Swallow Prior:

  • She attended and spoke at a homosexual-“Christian” event that raised funds for their cause
  • A student who “came out” to her at Liberty University and credits her with at least some level of support has gone on to fully embrace the sinfulness of his lifestyle, and she poses with him with a smile at that event on the red carpet, along with others who call themselves “brothers” or “sisters” and are unrepentant in sexual sin or sinful desire.
  • She thinks that accommodating the transgendered in public restrooms is “as commonsensical as it is refreshing.”
  • She said that “…gay marriage is an act rooted in love.”
  • And then, basically everything Dr. White talked about on the program today.

I think all of that is gay affirming, regardless of how many times she says homosexuality is sinful. And, I think that 1st Corinthians 5:11 is given because the Apostle Paul believes that eating or associating with people professing Christ but who are in unrepentant sin is a tacit approval of their sin.

Now, some have argued that 1 Corinthians 5 has nothing to do with this. I wanted to provide some Facebook screenshots in a very long thread from earlier today, but I really have no desire to go back into that cesspool. Essentially, some argue that “Jesus ate with tax-collectors and sinners.” Some argue that this is only for the local church. Some argue the prohibition is only against eating the Lord’s Supper. And some, frankly, ignore it (and call it Pharisaical).

But, what do I know? I’m just a pastor in Montana with about 17 years of ministry under his belt, a B.A. in religious studies, an M.A. in history, and a student at an online seminary. I’m no Dr. White. There’s a reason why he’s one of the professors at my school and I’m only a student. Maybe I’m totally misreading 1st Corinthians 5 on whether or not a Christian is prohibited from eating and fellowshipping with those who claim Christianity but are unrepentantly sexually immoral.

Christians are to avoid familiar converse with all who disgrace the Christian name. Such are only fit companions for their brethren in sin, and to such company they should be left, whenever it is possible to do so. Alas, that there are many called Christians, whose conversation is more dangerous than that of heathens! – Matthew Henry, commentary on 1 Corinthians 5:11


When a man is known to suffer from a sadly contagious disease none of his friends will come near the house. There is little need to warn them off, they are all too alarmed to come near. Why is it men are not so much afraid of the contagion of vice? How dare they run risks for themselves and children by allowing evil companions to frequent their house? Sin is as infectious and far more deadly than the small-pox or fever. Flee, then, from every one who might lead you into it. – Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon on 1 Corinthians 5:9-13


What he means, then, is this: “If any one is reckoned a brother among you, and at the same time leads a wicked life, and such as is unbecoming a Christian, keep aloof from his society.” In short, being called a brother, means here a false profession, which has no corresponding reality. – Calvin on 1 Corinthians 5:11

and a more practical example from John MacArthur…

“Well, what about if you have a gal who comes to your Bible study all the time. She’s a Christian, but she’s living with a guy. What do you do?” and I said…took her to the Word of God. I said, “Here’s what you do. You go to her in love.” She said, “I’ve done that. Several of us have done that. She thinks it’s all right. It’s fine to live with this guy. She’s free as a Christian under grace and all that. She said, “What do we do now?” I said, “Put her out. Put her out of your Bible study. Just dismiss her and have absolutely nothing to do with her. Turn her over to Satan. She may have destruction of the flesh, but if she belongs to God, she’ll be there in His presence on the Day of the Lord Jesus. Don’t worry about that; but you don’t need that kind of influence, that kind of leaven permeating your Bible study.

And then this fella said to me, “Well, what about if you have somebody like that living in your house? They claim to be a Christian, and they’re in your…your home. What should you do with ’em?” I said, “Same thing. Doesn’t take…doesn’t make any conditions here.

And from Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

With such an one no not to eat – To have no contact or fellowship with him of any kind; not to do anything that would seem to acknowledge him as a brother; with such an one not even to eat at the same table. A similar course is enjoined by John; 2 John 1:10-11. This refers to the contact of common life, and not particularly to the communion. The true Christian was wholly to disown such a person, and not to do anything that would seem to imply that he regarded him as a Christian brother.

While 1st Corinthians was obviously written to the Corinthian church, there’s a clear and didactic teaching when it comes to those who claim to be Christians but practice unrepentant sin. There is not to be fellowship. Fellowship is affirmation. 

If I said homosexuality is an offensive abomination before God, and spoke at one of their fundraisers and took smiley pics with them, would it be affirming? Yes. I believe so.

If I said that premarital sexual relations were wrong from the pulpit, but was asked to come pray over their home that the Lord may bless it (that’s happened), would it be affirming? Yes. I believe so.

If I preached that abortion was murder and Planned Parenthood asked me to speak at their fundraiser and I walked the red carpet and posed for pictures with those baby-killing butchers, would it be affirming? Yes. I believe so.

This is a conversation that needs to be had, and needs to be had now. My church has addressed this, in a bylaw passed several weeks ago subjecting anyone who attends a gay wedding or related celebration to church discipline. That’s a line we’re drawing, but we think it was drawn first by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 5:11. Even if the homosexual couple were not professing believers, and even if it were not a religious service, it would serve as a tacit affirmation of the profaning of marriage.

By the way, we shouldn’t leave out what came prior in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 because many people will ask how we reach people (like Jesus did the humble tax collectors and sinners) if we don’t have some kind of association with them.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

Those who are unashamedly unrepentant and don’t profess Christ are fair game. We eat with them and take them the Gospel. Those who already profess Jesus, on the other hand…different story. 

If I think something is disgustingly sinful because God’s Word says so, but still come to watch and celebrate and fellowship with you while you behave disgustingly sinful, it’s affirming – no matter what words I’ve chosen to say the opposite.

Dr. White was right, but not only about Swallow Prior’s language being affirming. He was right that none of this “brouhaha” has added anything substantive to the conversation. I pray this will. I pray orthodox Christians will look at the possibility of affirming sin by our actions, when we reject it with our words.



[Contributed by JD Hall]