VANCOUVER — Author and former pastor Joshua Harris, most known for his book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” announced on Friday as a follow-up to last week’s Instagram post advising of his separation from his wife that he no longer identifies as a Christian. He also apologized to those who identify as homosexuals, stating that he regrets his teaching on sexuality and that he had once stood against same-sex “marriage.”
“The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away,'” Harris wrote. “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”
He said that some people have told him that there is a “different way to practice faith,” and that he wants to “remain open to this,” but added, “I’m not there now.”
Harris pointed to a quote from Martin Luther on repentance, but said that the past several years he has conversely been “repenting” of the views he once held to and taught.
“I have lived in repentance for the past several years — repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few,” he wrote.
But he added that he specifically has had an about-face about the issue of homosexuality, and asked for forgiveness from those who identify as homosexual.
“I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry,” Harris stated. “I hope you can forgive me.”
He closed by remarking that while he appreciates prayers from his Christian friends, he is not sorrowful but rather optimistic about his departure from the faith.
“I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively,” Harris wrote. “I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, ‘All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.'”
As previously reported, last Thursday, Harris announced that he had his wife had agreed to separate and just remain friends, citing “significant changes” that have occurred in their thinking.
“We’re writing to share the news that we are separating and will continue our life together as friends,” Harris posted to Instagram. “In recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us.”
The day following his separation announcement, the liberal outlet Sojourners published an interview with Harris on how his views on romantic relationships and dating have changed, in which he acknowledged that he is “tempted” because of his “very conservative” upbringing, which he has repudiated, to just throw his faith out.
“And maybe that’s just because I spent so much time in a very conservative environment judging all these more progressive people that I’m now tempted to go past that [and] be like, forget it all,” Harris stated. “But it can get to feeling, like, what are you holding onto in Christianity? Why do you need it still?”
Harris is the former senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the founding church of Sovereign Grace Ministries. He left his position in 2015 and soon moved to Canada to attend Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The following year after leaving Covenant Life Church, Harris explained in an interview with NPR that he was rethinking his approach to romantic relationships.
Harris, who authored the books, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” “Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship,” and “Sex Isn’t the Problem: Lust Is,” had taught since 1997 that Christians should be different from the world, including in their dealings with the opposite sex.
He urged Christians to not engage in recreational dating, outlining the downsides of the common practice, but to be purposeful about finding one’s spouse for life and to consider the courtship model instead.
“The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, ‘This is love.’ God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, ‘This is love,’” Harris wrote.
“When God knows you’re ready for the responsibility of commitment, He’ll reveal the right person under the right circumstances.”
But some told Harris that his “Kissed Dating Goodbye” book had negative ramifications on their personal lives, as they felt his views on courtship as opposed to dating, not giving one’s heart away prematurely and not kissing before marriage were too stringent. He told NPR in 2016 that he was “really trying to listen to these voices.”
Last year, Harris released a formal statement advising that he no longer believes Christians shouldn’t date and asked his publisher to stop printing “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” He, however, also expressed apprehension over calls to throw out all of his teaching on purity.
“While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided,” he wrote. “I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner.”
Harris’ wife, Shannon, alluded to some of the cited “significant changes” in her thinking earlier this month, recently posting a video to Instagram where she discussed how being taught by the Church that her “heart is deceitful” was “damaging” to her, and that her “fundamentalist conservative Christianity experience taught [her] to ignore [her] inner voice.”
Her remarks seemed to refer to those in positions of leadership in the Church, as she spoke about the “culture of authority figures knowing more [than their congregants]” and what she perceived as teaching that “someone else knows better what’s best for me.”
“I think that God gives us certain faculties as humans that are just innate: our minds, our spirits and our bodies. And honestly, I think it’s three in one, just like God is three in one,” Harris said.
She used the hashtags #exvangelical (meaning an ex-evangelical) and #spiritualhealing with her post.
Harris, who is posting under her maiden name Shannon Bonne, also wrote on July 8, “Healthy churches don’t use fear, bullying or shaming. They don’t need to manipulate behavior or manage image. Love feels: Safe Love feels: Accepted.”
Shannon had appeared on Sovereign Grace Music worship projects, and now has ventured out to create secular music as a singer/songwriter. She posted on July 16 that she is also working on creating a musical that will “explore themes like identity, authenticity, gender roles and power in the conservative church.”
Shannon Harris said earlier this week that she still believes in God, but also included the hashtag #deconversion in one of her posts.