A progressive evangelical pastor whose 2015 pro-gay marriage announcement led to a steep decline in his church's membership now says that he believes he should have given his church more input on the announcement than he did.
Pastor Stan Mitchell, founder and head of the Nashville area-based GracePointe Church, garnered national headlines in early 2015 when he said that his church would support and recognize gay marriages.
Since the announcement, GracePointe has seen a steep decline in worship attendance, membership and financial giving.
In an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday, Mitchell explained that he felt his position of founding pastor gave him more "equity" than he should have had when it came to decisions.
"I was the founding pastor of the church and founding pastors of nondenominational churches generally carry a good bit of equity," said Mitchell.
"I had the capacity to make that decision when the majority of the board who are good friends of mine did not agree and a large part of the congregation didn't agree."
Speaking hypothetically, Mitchell told CP that if he could redo the announcement he would have been against "imposing that upon the church."
"I would have gone to the leadership and said 'I love this church and I love you and I respect you, I cannot any longer as a minister not marry same-sex couples when they ask me. And you have to make your decision about what you want to do with that,'" continued Mitchell.
"That to me feels more fair and if I had to do it over again that's what I would do."
In January 2015, Mitchell announced that his church was going to give "full membership" to LGBT individuals, including marriage ceremonies.
"Some two-and-a-half years ago, we were thrust, I believe, by a divine wind into a prayerful, mindful, painful, invigorating, careful, and hopeful conversation regarding sexual orientation and gender identity," stated Mitchell in a sermon at the time.
"Our position that these siblings of ours, other than heterosexual, our position that these, our siblings cannot have the full privileges of membership, but only partial membership, has changed."
Soon after his announcement, GracePointe saw a sharp decline in attendance and financial giving. At its peak, GracePointe had a regular worship attendance of 800-1,000, which dropped to below 500 two weeks after the pro-LGBT announcement.
Jeff Walton of the theologically conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy penned a column published by The Christian Post on Tuesday, noting that the decline continues.
"A visitor to a recent service counted approximately 240 attendees, a fraction of the number that once participated," wrote Walton.
"GracePointe has listed the 12,000-square-foot modernist chapel and 22 acre property where the church has met since 2009. The property, initially listed in February at $7.5 million, was dropped to $5.7 million in March and $4.9 million in April according to real estate records."
Mitchell told CP that he considered the Walton column to be "fair" in its assessment of his church.
"I've rarely done anything in my life that upon reflection wouldn't tweak it or change it," noted Mitchell. "If somebody offered me the chance right now to go back and do it differently, I would."
GracePointe recently sold its property to a theologically conservative congregation and at present shares a worship campus with a different church in the Nashville area.