Megachurch pastor Brian Houston caused a stir last week by declaring that the influential and global Hillsong Church is in an “ongoing conversation” about gay marriage.
But does that mean that his convictions about homosexuality are likely to change?
Absolutely not, Houston said in a recent clarification published on Hillsong’s website.
Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage. I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.
Houston touched on the topic of same-sex marriage during a press conference on Thursday. The senior pastor acknowledged that it is tough for Christian churches with orthodox beliefs to stay relevant as gay marriage becomes legal in more states.
“It’s very easy to reduce what you think about homosexuality to just a public statement, and that would keep a lot of people happy,” Houston said on Thursday, according to an RNS transcript, “but we feel at this point, that it is an ongoing conversation, that the real issues in people’s lives are too important for us just to reduce it down to a yes or no answer in a media outlet. So we’re on the journey with it.”
Hillsong pastors have previously refused to take a stand on gay marriage -- highlighting its complexity and noting that giving a definitive "yes" or "no" has often led LGBT people to feel rejected by the Christian church.
Carl Lentz, Hillsong’s lead pastor in New York, said that his church welcomes “a lot of gay men and women” inside its doors every weekend. Lentz pointed out that Jesus himself had never made a statement about homosexuality in the Bible.
The New York Times published an article about Houston’s Thursday comments titled, “Megachurch Pastor Signals Shift in Tone on Gay Marriage.”
Houston’s clarification squashed any hopes that any shift is likely. For him, staying relevant -- and continuing to attract thousands of young people to Hillsong’s rock concert-like worship services -- means sticking with his traditional interpretation of the Bible.
“This struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ,” Houston said. “This – like many other issues, is a conversation the church needs to have and we are all on a journey as we grapple with the question of merging biblical truth with a changing world.”