This Is Not What Christian Non-Judgmentalism Looks Like

By Tom Gilson Published on January 29, 2017

Adam Phillips was a church planter in Portland, Oregon, until February 2015, when (in his words) his denomination “kicked him out” for “welcoming and including LGBT people.”

You can hear his side of the story in a video posted last month at a major secular magazine, The Atlantic, or you could rewind two years to a fund-raising video he produced right after his ouster.

What you’ll encounter in both places is ironic and sad. In the effort to paint other Christians as hateful and judgmental, Phillips ends up coming across that way himself.

No Standard but ‘Welcome and Include’?

Three times in the fund-raiser he speaks of “fully welcoming and including the LGBT community into our churches,” adding that he had begun to realize

that fully welcoming and including our LGBT sisters and brothers was not only consistent with the whole arc of Scripture, but was where the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church today. … There are dozens of Covenant churches that welcome and include gay and lesbian members, quietly.

He wants to paint other Christians as hateful and judgmental, but the way he does it is hateful and judgmental.

He must really like that theme of welcoming and including. He intones it at least seven times in the more recent video at The Atlantic, plus two claims  that “Jesus included everyone” (more on that below). It shows up half a dozen times in his web statement regarding his dismissal.

He speaks of no other criterion for the church’s membership and leadership policy; only “welcome and include.” It seems safe to conclude it’s the only standard he thinks about.

Do We Abandon All Standards?

But I wonder how absolute he thinks that standard is. Are there any moral limits to “welcome and include”? There had better be. Would Phillips invite an outspoken white nationalist to preach? How about someone who defended domestic violence as godly discipline? Churches’ moral standards may differ, but there are always standards somewhere. The Bible affirms this wisdom in regard to both membership (1 Cor. 5:1-5) and leadership (Acts 6:3, Titus 1: 5-9, 1 Tim. 3:8-13).

So I’m sure Phillips, like any sane leader, believes that welcoming and including is generally a good thing, but there are limits. Which is exactly the same thing that could be said — in precisely the same words — by the Christians he judges so severely. 

But Phillips doesn’t want to admit that. He wants us to see that he’s a welcoming, inclusive, Christlike sort of guy, while conservative believers are exclusionary and Pharisaical. He’s accepting; they’re judgmental. He’s loving; they’re hateful.

It’s a distorted message that lines right up with the core gay-activist message of Christian hate.

Just watch how he positions the issues in his fund-raiser. There’s not a word in there about morality — but plenty on the snarling lovelessness of those who “uprooted” him and his wife and then “kicked them out,” for no stated reason except he was more welcoming than they were.

Watch the other video. The denomination booted him “just for personal beliefs” — as if a pastor’s beliefs on matters of biblical morality could ever be “just personal,” or a denomination had no interest in what its pastors “personally” believed!

And did I say “judgmental”? In that video we see him marching in a gay pride parade with a sign condemning other Christians as “narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative.” It’s a distorted message that lines right up with the core gay-activist myth of “Christian hate.”

Moral Differences are Doctrinal Differences. Churches Care About Those.

And there’s something dishonest about it. He could have more forthrightly said something like this: “I’ve decided I disagree with the church I came from on the Bible’s standards of sexual morality. I’m willing to affirm sexual practices and moral beliefs that they cannot. So now they’ve asked me to leave.”

His duplicity here is emblematic of the whole gay-activist attack on Christian morality. The attackers can’t fathom the possibility that we genuinely disagree with their beliefs, and that we have reasons for it. They can only see their views as being self-evidently right; therefore to them, the only reason anyone could disagree is because they’re “hateful.”

And they parade themselves as being less judgmental than the rest of us.

Jesus Invites Everyone — On His Terms, Not Ours

Of course conservative-leaning Christians could stand to become much more welcoming toward LGBT people — but only on God’s terms, not gay-activists’ terms. Phillips is wrong to say Jesus included everyone. Jesus invited everyone. An invitation sets the terms you must meet, if you want to be included. 

Suppose I invite you to a wedding. You show up on time, but dressed for a camping trip or a pool party. It isn’t unwelcoming for me to remind you I sent my invitation on different terms. Remember the parable of the wedding feast (Lk. 14: 7-14).

Jesus invites everyone on His terms. Like any decent host He lets everyone in — if we come on His terms. God welcomes everyone to His kingdom, but He demands that we leave our sin outside. We need Christ’s own work on the Cross to separate us from our sins that way. We can’t reject that work, cling to our sin, and demand a place in His kingdom.

Judgmentalism Is Not the Cure for Judgmentalism

Too often the Church has been less welcoming than that. We’ve told LGBT people, “You’re coming here with that sin? Not a chance! Go away!” Such an attitude is ugly and ungodly, and where we are guilty of it we seriously need to repent.

Meanwhile Adam Phillips hopes to cure the Church of this error by opening wide the door and shouting, “Come in, come in! Don’t let anyone tell you that it might be sin that you’re bringing in with you!”

Then he adds, “And let’s tell the world how non-judgmental I am — unlike all those unwelcoming exclusionary narrow-minded deceptive manipulative bigots in all those other churches.”

Which judgmentalism is uglier? I won’t try to say. I just hope to encourage us all to accept, welcome and include one another on God’s terms, rather than ours.

See also This Is What Christian Failure Looks Like

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