Evangelical pastors who lead churches in cities known for their strong support of homosexuality have stressed the need to preach the Gospel lovingly toward the LGBT community.
At an event held Wednesday evening organized by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, two pastors spoke about what it's like to serve at churches located in regions of the country known for advocating the LGBT agenda.
Matt Carter, pastor at Austin Stone Community Church, which hosted the ERLC event, told those gathered that watering down the Gospel is not the answer.
"One of the temptations anytime you come into a city like Austin that kind of leans more liberal is to think: I have to, in some way, water down the Gospel or water the message that Christ preached in order to make it palatable to people," said Carter.
"I've found that when we take the mask off of Jesus and just say 'hey, here's who Christ is,' people are drawn to him."
Carter added that he believes "a lot of churches will swing to" either to accepting both LGBT individuals and their lifestyle choices or rejecting both LGBT individuals and their lifestyle choices.
"A lot of churches just offer grace but never call for repentance, or there's a call for repentance but there's never an offer of grace," continued Carter, adding that offering both grace and repentance "is the balance we are trying to strike."
Carter's comments came as he was part of a panel Wednesday evening at the ERLC's Equip Austin event, in which the theme was "The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage."
Mike Goeke, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of San Francisco and another panelist, told those gathered that while his metropolitan area was very secular, it was also indifferent.
"You expect that culture there that is so secular … to be hostile toward Christianity. But the way I have described it is post-hostility," said Goeke.
"Pure indifference, which is actually a really great place to be sharing the Gospel because you're just one of many things that people are talking about and we really have a lot of freedom and don't feel constrained."
Goeke also spoke about the need to be clear about what the Gospel message is regarding sexual ethics in general and homosexuality in particular.
"If we don't talk about them clearly in our church, we are not equipping our church to take the full Gospel into the city," continued Goeke.
"Our philosophy is the response of somebody to the truth is really not our problem. We do our job, we share it and we try to do that as God leads us and when they respond in an ugly way, we work through that but we don't take that as an affront to us. That's between them and God at that point."
In addition to Carter and Goeke, other speakers on the panel were Russell Moore, president of the ERLC; Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian and English professor; and Jackie Hill-Perry, a writer and artist.
Equip Austin comes a month after the SBC passed a resolution at its annual convention in Columbus, Ohio, upholding the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Known as Resolution 5 or "On the Call to Public Witness on Marriage," the measure was passed days before the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down state level bans on gay marriage.
"Southern Baptists recognize that no governing institution has the authority to negate or usurp God's definition of marriage," read Resolution 5, in part.
"No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirms its unwavering commitment to its doctrinal and public beliefs concerning marriage …"