On November 8, David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor at Mercer University, leading evangelical ethicist, and TIF contributor, will give the keynote speech at The Reformation Project Conference (which “seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity”) and affirm his support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. Over at Religion News Service, Jonathan Merritt notes that given his role in the evangelical movement, it “is difficult to overstate the potential impact of Gushee’s defection.” In a draft obtained by RNS, Gushee’s prepared remarks state:
I do join your crusade tonight. I will henceforth oppose any form of discrimination against you. I will seek to stand in solidarity with you who have suffered the lash of countless Christian rejections. I will be your ally in every way I know how to be… Traditionalist Christian teaching produces despair in just about every gay or lesbian person who must endure it…It took me two decades of service as a married, straight evangelical Christian minister and ethicist to finally get here. I am truly sorry that it took me so long to come into full solidarity with the Church’s own most oppressed group.
Gushee’s transformation is not a particular surprise given his changing views over the last few years. Over at Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner elaborates further on what this means, including Gushee’s new book that makes a biblical and philosophical case for LGBT affirmation, as well as the evangelical response to his shift on homosexuality:
Reaction, Gushee says, has ranged from “predictable invectives from people who are fixated on the sexual question” to “extraordinary outpourings of gratitude.”
Indeed Gushee has been the target of harsh, dismissive criticisms from fellow evangelicals. Robert Gagnon, a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, writing in the Christian Post, called Merritt’s article “a tendentious puff piece” and contested Merritt’s description of Gushee’s “intellectual heft” with the accusation that “Dr. Gushee has ignored nearly all the major arguments against his embarrassingly bad exegesis.” Denny Burk, a professor of biblical studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, charged Gushee with “adopting the rhetoric of Christianity’s fiercest critics who routinely accuse us of being bigoted and hateful simply for believing what the Bible says about sexuality,” saying that he could not “understand why Gushee would stake-out such an uncharitable and intolerant stance against Christians who hold the very same views that he once held.”