(Photo: First Baptist)
The Rev. Robert Jeffress, who leads the 11,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, has said that some evangelicals have been "too quick" to dismiss the possibility that sexual orientation may be genetically predisposed, as LGBT activists have often argued. Although Jeffress' comments have not marked any kind of turn-around in his biblical views on homosexuality, they have still raised some eyebrows among those on either side of the debate.
Jeffress said in an interview, reported by The Associated Press, that he is open to the possibility that sexual orientation has a genetic basis, which is something that has long been argued by LGBT activists. However, supporters of the traditional view of homosexuality have argued that there is no evidence of any such genetic makeup that would influence sexual orientation.
"I think we were too quick to dismiss the possibility of a genetic predisposition," Jeffress said, according to AP. He maintained, however, that although people can have sexual urges, the Bible teaches that acting on homosexual desire is sinful, and that this is what must be addressed by the Church.
"We cannot pick and choose what parts of God's word we are called to share," Jeffress said. "God gave it to us, not to hurt people, but to help people."
The megachurch pastor added that he is concerned that some pastors, who want to be seen as more open and accepting in order to attract a larger congregation, are shirking their responsibility when it comes to speaking openly about LGBT issues and specifically teaching what the Bible says on these issues.
"My sense is that people are just avoiding the subject, by and large," Jeffress said. "They are so bent on trying to add to the numbers of their churches that they don't want to disenfranchise new members or be characterized as unfriendly."
The Dallas Frontburner was quick to point out, however, that the AP implication that pastor Jeffress had changed his view on homosexuality may be misleading. AP had suggested that the pastor had "changed the way he talks about homosexuality from the pulpit," by highlighting another comment he previously made. In those comments, Jeffress explained that he talks about homosexuality within "a bigger context of God's plan for sex between one man and one woman in a lifetime relationship called marriage."
"It would be the height of hypocrisy to condemn homosexuality and not adultery or unbiblical divorce," Jeffres said, and also reminded his congregation that the Bible allows divorce only in cases of adultery or desertion.
AP pointed out that several polls, including a 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, revealed that 62 percent of adults between 18 and 29 years old said they supported gay marriage and 71 percent supported civil unions.
The Frontburner write that Jeffress' position "may have shifted slightly," but any claims that he had outright changed his beliefs on homosexuality in response to such trends are "disingenuous."
The publication also noted that this is not the first time the First Baptist Church leader has been interviewed about the way he preaches on homosexuality. Last year, when interviewed by the Frontburner, Jeffress reminded that his church preaches a message of hope, not hate, when talking about gay people.
"Jeffress', is the message of hope-that homosexuals can change through the power of Christ. He generally equates being gay with alcoholism or a genetic proclivity toward violence. He always points out that no one sin is any worse than the others," the report informs.
In a 2008 sermon titled "Gay is not OK," Jeffress said: "What they [homosexuals] do is filthy. It is so degrading that it is beyond description. And it is their filthy behavior that explains why they are so much more prone to disease."
He added, however, that it is the responsibility of Christians to "demonstrate compassion," arguing that "cutting off your children is the biggest mistake you will ever make. You don't have to approve of what they're doing. You don't have to invite their homosexual lover into your home. But let your son or daughter always know that you love them."