Exodus International, a worldwide ministry aimed at helping those struggling with homosexuality, says a recent Facebook comment by megachurch Pastor Mark Driscoll fuels the perception of many that Christians are homophobic.
Driscoll is the founding pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church and often posts his thoughts on the cultural news of the day through the use of social media.
In a Facebook post on his page from this week that was later removed, Driscoll asked, “So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?”
Jeff Buchanan, who is the executive vice president of Exodus International, said he is disappointed in Driscoll’s behavior. He said his organization was “greatly concerned about what Driscoll might unintentionally communicate to those who are struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions.”
“Having been a worship leader for a number of years and a man who has left homosexuality, his comment was personal for me,” Buchanan said. “As a leader and a follower of Christ, I believe an apology is appropriate and necessary. It is comments such as this that feed the cultural perception of homophobia in the evangelical community.”
Bloggers and commentators within the Christian community responded quickly to Driscoll’s post. One blogger started a letter campaign requesting that the Mars Hill Church elders “take whatever measures necessary to stop Mark’s bullying once and for all.”
Buchanan said he and others from Exodus have communicated with Driscoll’s office as well, but have not received any responses. He said that his question to Driscoll is, “Would there be a place for a man like me in your church?”
Although Driscoll did not make an apology on his blog post responding to the digital debate, he did state that his comment was “flippant” and that his church elders were correct when they sat him down and said that he needed “to do better by hitting real issues with real content in a real context.”
“...a sincere thanks to all my critics who sometimes have good wisdom that helps me out,” Driscoll added at the end of his post.
Buchanan said he was not satisfied with Driscoll’s response to the controversy.
“While I do not agree with classifying Driscoll as a ‘bully,’ I do believe that an explanation is needed,” Buchanan said. “Many are confused as to why a leader of Driscoll's caliber would make such a comment and what his intention might have been.”
The leaders at Exodus hope Driscoll’s comments and the ensuing debate serve as a lesson to be learned, Buchanan said.
“There needs to be greater sensitivity within the Church and a willingness to reach all. There needs to be a stronger understanding of biblical masculinity rather than cultural masculinity,” he said.
“Leaders within the evangelical community need to understand the harm such comments can cause, especially when those who are hurting are looking for hope. For us at Exodus International, it just shows us that there is still so much work to be done.”
Exodus International states on its website that it has “more than 240 member agencies across North America that help men and women seeking freedom from unwanted same-sex attraction as well as family members & friends affected by this issue.”
As for Driscoll, he noted that he will be launching new website where he will speak on social issues “in a fuller context.”
“In the past, I’ve not had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues, and so I’ve erred in sometimes doing so in places like Facebook, Twitter, and the media, where you can have a good fight but don’t have the room to make a good case,” he stated.
His first posting on the new site will be on the issue of gender.
Correction: Friday, July 15, 2011:
An article on Friday, July 15, 2011, about Exodus International's response to Pastor Mark Driscoll's Facebook comment incorrectly identified Randy Thomas as the executive vice president of Exodus International. Jeff Buchanan is the executive vice president of Exodus International, and Randy Thomas is the media relations director.