Jay Bakker, a big supporter of a pro-gay group, met privately with Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church to talk about faith and sexuality issues and to ultimately gain the support of the megapastor.
Son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jay and a group of gays and lesbians attended one of Lakewood Church's Sunday worship services in an effort to change the influential pastor's view on gays and lesbians. At the end, Osteen did not affirm homosexuality.
It was the first of six megachurch stops in a pro-gay campaign called The American Family Outing – a collaboration between Soulforce, COLAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. Some 30 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons and supporters took their national campaign to the country's largest church on Mother's Day to create dialogue around LGBT issues with members of the megachurch.
"Families come in all forms," said Kim Beggs, a lesbian mother and also an Osteen fan, according to the Houston Chronicle. "God loves us."
The group of 30 met with Osteen after service as the megapastor was greeting hundreds of visitors. The Osteens – including the pastor's mother, Dodie, and wife, Victoria – welcomed Bakker and the guests from Soulforce, according to Lakewood spokesman Donald Iloff, who added that the church does not turn visitors away.
Joel Osteen, his brother, Paul, and Iloff then met privately with Bakker and there they discussed faith, family and LGBT people.
"It was a very cordial, very nice meeting," Iloff told The Christian Post on Tuesday. "But ultimately through our conversations, we continued to disagree with Soulforce and Jay's position."
Iloff says Bakker, whose mother is somewhat of a legend in the LGBT community, and the groups involved in the pro-gay campaign want the megachurches not to see homosexuality as sin.
Although Osteen and leaders at Lakewood open their doors to all visitors, Iloff says they "believe homosexuality is sin" and that "it is disobedience under God."
He further affirmed that they will maintain that position.
Osteen, who authored bestselling book Your Best Life Now, had remained largely mum about the issue of homosexuality but indicated in public interviews that he doesn't agree with it.
"I will say we don't see homosexuality as the worst sin," Iloff commented. "Sin is sin."
Churches continue to struggle with the issue of homosexuality especially at a time when many view the church as judgmental and anti-gay. More Christians are urging churches to show compassion while not compromising what they hold as truth.
"As biblically orthodox Christians respond to issues surrounding homosexuality, and more importantly to those affected by this difficult struggle, we must always hold these two points in balance and in complement – the inerrant truth of God's word regarding sexual behavior and the compassionate grace of our Lord Jesus toward those living outside of it," said Melissa Fryrear, director of the gender issues department at Focus on the Family, according to CitizenLink.
Before Sunday's meeting, Osteen turned down Bakker's invitation to attend a picnic with LGBT families on Saturday, partly because he was in preparation for his Sunday sermon, according to Iloff.
But Iloff had also expressed reservations about meeting with Bakker and the gay community, saying that Soulforce wants to use Lakewood Church to "further their agenda," he told the Houston Chronicle.
"If we met to talk, would this group be satisfied if we agreed to disagree?" he posed before the private meeting was held.
Participants of the six-week American Family Outing campaign will continue their efforts with five other megachurches. Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, The Potter's House in Dallas and Hope Christian Church in Maryland have already agreed to meet with LGBT families, according to Soulforce. The campaign is also targeting Saddleback Community Church in southern California.