The Washington National Cathedral has come under fire for hosting Max Lucado, a prominent author and pastor who holds biblical Christian views on marriage, as a guest preacher.
Max Lucado was invited by the Episcopal Church's Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Paul in the City and the Diocese of Washington to preach at a virtual service Sunday.
A backlash among members of the Episcopal Church, a denomination known for politically liberal views on marriage and sexuality issues, quickly followed.
Critics of Lucado cited his previous written opinions about same-sex marriage as a cause for concern in a petition asking Dean Randy Hollerith to "rescind Max Lucado's invitation to preach.”
Lucado is not an Episcopalian. He serves as pastor of Oak Hills Church, a nondenominational Christian church in San Antonio, Texas.
"Lucado's teachings and preaching inflicts active harm on LGBTQ people," the petition contended. "To cite one example, in 2004 he wrote of his fears that homosexuality would lead to 'legalized incest' and likened same-sex marriage to incest and bestiality."
"Fear-mongering and dehumanizing messages from powerful speakers like Lucado have been used to justify rollbacks of LGBTQ rights and to exclude LGBTQ people from civil protections and sacred rites,” the petition continued. “To our knowledge, Lucado has not publicly renounced these views.”
Mentioning that the remains of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered in 1998, were entrusted to the cathedral, the petition maintained that inviting “a man who preaches the kind of dangerous theology that promotes oppression of and violence toward the LGBTQ community does not honor that trust nor serve his memory."
The petition went as far as to accuse Lucado of causing "serious harm.”
Ultimately, leaders at the cathedral let Lucado speak.
Hollerith responded to the petition, emphasizing the importance of enabling dialogue with people who hold views members of the congregation may disagree with.
"When we only engage with those whom we agree on every issue, we find ourselves in a dangerous (and lonely) place,” Hollerith stated in a letter to petitioners. “My hope is that all churches and faith communities will find ways to open their doors to perspectives different from their own."
The dean assured that the cathedral’s commitment to the LGBT community is “unshakable and unchanged.”
"We believe the Gospel calls us to nothing short of full embrace and inclusion,” the letter stated.
Hollerith shared why the cathedral invited Lucado to preach.
“We have to come out of our corners, find common ground where we can, and find ways to live with and see each other as the beloved children of God that we are,” he stressed. “We have all grown too accustomed in our silos and echo chambers. In order to start the process of rebuilding, we need to hear from each other.”
Jim Naughton, who formerly served as canon for communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, told Episcopal News that he thought it was "incredibly disrespectful" for the Washington National Cathedral to "give its imprimatur to him" and "extend the prestige of its pulpit" to someone with his views.
An openly gay Episcopal priest who spoke with Episcopal News claimed that "Max Lucado's theology has a body count,” adding, "It feels deeply disrespectful for an Episcopal church ... to publicize Lucado without any mention of this."
Lucado's sermon did not touch on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Instead, it focused heavily on the Holy Spirit, which he described as "the surest antidote for trepidation" and "the calming presence of God in the world today."
"The presence of the Holy Spirit changes everything," Lucado added. "If you have said yes to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has said yes to you. And when you receive Christ, you receive the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life."
Lucado urged viewers of the Sunday Sermon to "just say yes and welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit into your life."
Following Lucado's appearance at Washington National Cathedral Sunday, Kathleen Moore, who organized the Change.org petition, issued a statement expressing solidarity with "Those who are hurting today and those who will continue to hurt as a result of this decision."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had amassed more than 1,600 signatures, which Moore described as "a record of the voices Dean Hollerith and Washington National Cathedral chose not to hear."