LifeWay Christian Stores, which is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, says that it will not pull the “Message Bible” or any of Eugene Peterson’s other writings now that the author has retracted his initial statements about same-sex “marriage.”
“Based upon Eugene Peterson’s retraction, we will continue to sell his resources,” Carol Pipes, the director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources, told Christian News Network in a statement.
The company had said last week that if Peterson indeeds supports homosexual “marriage,” as he seemingly indicated in his recent interview with Religion News Service, it would pull his products.
“LifeWay only carries resources in our stores by authors who hold to the biblical view of marriage,” it advised. “We are attempting to confirm with Eugene Peterson or his representatives that his recent interview on same-sex marriage accurately reflects his views. If he confirms he does not hold to a biblical view of marriage, LifeWay will no longer sell any resources by him, including The Message.”
LifeWay had pulled Jen Hatmaker’s books after she came out in support of same-sex nuptials last year.
As previously reported, on Wednesday, Religion News Service released an article entitled “Eugene Peterson on Changing His Mind About Same-Sex Issues and Marriage.”
“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. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over,” he told reporter Jonathan Merritt.
Peterson, who led Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Maryland for nearly 30 years before his retirement in 1991, explained that he never made “a big deal” about homosexuality in his congregation, and that he was pleased at how his members never questioned the allowance of an openly homosexual man to serve as music director.
The man had applied for the position as the former worship leader left her post at the same time Peterson retired.
“When he found out about the opening, he showed up in church one day and stood up and said, ‘I’d like to apply for the job of music director here, and I’m gay,’” Peterson recalled. “We didn’t have any gay people in the whole congregation. Well, some of them weren’t openly gay. But I was so pleased with the congregation. Nobody made any questions about it. And he was a really good musician.”
He said that he thinks that the Church is in a “transition for the best” on the issue, and doesn’t see it as a matter of right and wrong.
“People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church,” Peterson stated. “So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. 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.”
When asked if he would be willing to officiate a same-sex ceremony for “Christians of good faith” if he were pastoring today, Peterson replied in the affirmative.
However, the following day after the interview was published, Peterson, 84, walked back his answer, remarking that he had been put on the spot with a hypothetical question.
“To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything,” he said in a statement. “I’ve never performed a same-sex wedding. I’ve never been asked and, frankly, I hope I never am asked.”
“This reporter, however, asked a hypothetical question: if I were pastoring today and if a gay couple were Christians of good faith and if they asked me to perform their wedding ceremony—if, if, if. Pastors don’t have the luxury of indulging in hypotheticals,” Peterson explained. “And to be honest, no is not a word I typically use.”
He acknowledged that he did respond yes (that he would officiate a same-sex ceremony) during the interview, but said he only did so “in the moment” and felt the need to retract his answer upon praying about the matter.
“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,” Peterson said. “That’s not something I would do out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching on marriage. That said, I would still love such a couple as their pastor. They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.”
The former author and speaker also softened his remark that homosexuals “seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do.”
“When I told this reporter that there are gay and lesbian people who ‘seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do,’ I meant it. But then again, the goodness of a spiritual life is functionally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things,” Peterson stated.
“We are saved by faith through grace that operates independent of our resolve or our good behavior. It operates by the hand of a loving God who desires for us to live in grace and truth and who does not tire of turning us toward both grace and truth,” he said.
Peterson outlined that there have been homosexuals in the various venues where he has served and noted that his “responsibility to them was the work of a pastor—to visit them, to care for their souls, to pray for them, to preach the Scriptures for them.”
He said that he regretted the problems caused by the matter, pointing again to the question being hypothetical.
“I regret the confusion and bombast that this interview has fostered,” Peterson stated. “It has never been my intention to participate in the kind of lightless heat that such abstract, hypothetical comments and conversations generate.”
As previously reported, Peterson’s “Message Bible” does not specifically mention homosexuality, but instead reads as its paraphrase for 1 Corinthians 6:9, “Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in His kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.”