John Piper: Churches should ‘excommunicate,’ not ‘execute’ gay couples

Getty Images/YinYang
Getty Images/YinYang

Distinguished theologian and author John Piper said Christians should “excommunicate” rather than “execute” someone involved in a same-sex relationship.

In a Monday episode of “Ask Pastor John,” shared on Desiring God, Piper was asked his opinion on the subject of blessing same-sex relationships.

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The context for the question came from the decision by Pope Francis last December to allow priests to bless same-sex couples, provided the blessing does not imply that the relationship itself was acceptable.

Additionally, this was put under the context of comments made soon after the Vatican’s announcement, in which Burundi President Évariste Ndayishimiye called for the stoning of homosexuals in keeping with Old Testament law.

“I think the New Testament directs us away from the kind of blessing that the pope is endorsing and directs us away from the mob rule or the official capital punishment that the president of Burundi is endorsing,” Piper, the chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota who served 33 years as the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, said.

“In other words, the New Testament is pushing us away from both of those steps. And I think the New Testament also gives Christians another way to disapprove and another way to love those that we think are walking in behaviors that are ultimately and eternally destructive.”

Piper said the actions for which the Old Testament called for the death penalty were the actions for which the New Testament called for excommunication instead.

“When the New Testament deals with immorality like adultery or incest, which would have been a capital crime under the old covenant, the way the New Testament handles that sin … is to excommunicate the sinner from the church rather than execute the sinner,” he explained.

“In the Church, the new people of God, which is not a political or ethnic or civil body, excommunication has replaced capital punishment in cases like this.”

Regarding the Catholic Church’s policy on blessing same-sex couples, Piper noted that while the Bible does call on believers to “bless” those who are hostile to their faith, “none of those uses of the word ‘bless’ is intended to signify an official or unofficial gathering in which you bring people together who in their hearts are celebrating sin.”

“The biblical commands to bless our adversaries, our opponents, our enemies are not a command to hold a service in which you extend a hand of blessing over those who are celebrating behaviors that lead to their own destruction and which God calls an abomination,” Piper continued.

Piper warned Catholics about Pope Francis, saying, “he has espoused unbiblical thinking in other ways, not only on this matter,” citing as an example an incident in 2018 when the pontiff seemed to tell a child that his atheist father might be in Heaven.

“Now, that’s very contrary to what the Roman Catholic Church and all other Christian churches have taught,” Piper added. “So, by all means, let us bless those who curse us — but not extend a blessing over a same-sex union.”

Last December, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration titled “Fiducia Supplicans” that provided “a broadening and enrichment of the classical understanding of blessings, which is closely linked to a liturgical perspective.”

The Vatican document states that “when people ask for a blessing, an exhaustive moral analysis should not be placed as a precondition for conferring it” and that “those seeking a blessing should not be required to have prior moral perfection.”

While the Catholic Church warned that “one should neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation,” it added that “one should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing.”

“In a brief prayer preceding this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance — but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfill his will completely,” the document continued.

The declaration received mixed reactions. Some celebrated the measure's inclusiveness, while others feared it contradicted established teaching.

Catholic Archbishop Tomash Peta of Kazakhstan was among the critics, issuing a statement saying, “The fact that the document does not give permission for the 'marriage' of same-sex couples should not blind pastors and faithful to the great deception and the evil that resides in the very permission to bless couples in irregular situations and same-sex couples."

"Such a blessing directly and seriously contradicts Divine Revelation and the uninterrupted, bimillennial doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church," the statement continued, which was also signed by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

"To bless couples in an irregular situation and same-sex couples is a serious abuse of the most Holy Name of God, since this name is invoked upon an objectively sinful union of adultery or of homosexual activity."

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