Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) and 9Marks co-hosted a micro-conference April 1 during The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 national conference that included a question-and-answer session with Jonathan Leeman and Sam Allberry to address recent concerns surrounding a ministry Allberry co-founded called Living Out.
Jonathan Leeman, left, and Sam Allberry, right, discuss recent concerns surrounding, Living Out, a ministry to Christians experiencing same-sex attraction that was co-founded by Allberry. The Q&A was held during a micro-conference hosted by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and 9Marks.
Living Out was started by Allberry and two other Christians who experience same-sex attraction to help individuals like them “stay faithful to Biblical teaching on sexual ethics” and help churches better serve those who experience same-sex attraction, according to a statement on the organization’s website.
Allberry is an author and speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Leeman is an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in suburban Washington, D.C., and editorial director for 9Marks, an organization that publishes and promotes resources for local churches.
Living Out has received criticism online recently for some of the content on its site, particularly articles related to how Christians should respond to feelings of same-sex attraction. Tom Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, was one of Allberry's critics. He wrote a series of blog posts outlining his concerns, which included a call for Southern Baptists who endorse Living Out to retract their support and partnership with Allberry.
In the Q&A, Leeman asked Allberry about multiple articles and quoted extensively from a blog post about how Christians experiencing same-sex attraction should repent of sinful desires while accepting their “orientation.”
Allberry admitted some of the material on the site was either unclear or questionable in terms of conservative evangelical beliefs and practice.
“I share responsibility for that because I’m one of the leaders of the website,” Allberry said.
He said Living Out had already initiated conversations, prior to recent critiques, about undergoing a process of auditing their content to ensure it represented the current positions of its leaders.
Allberry explained that he and the other two co-founders had been “in the trenches together,” serving both inside and outside the local church while facing “significant opposition.”
“When you read stuff by someone you know well, I think you subconsciously fill in the gaps, read with the benefit of the doubt, and think ‘I know him, and I know what he means’,” he said. “I’ve got to look at this through the lens of someone who doesn’t know these people.”
Leeman asked Allberry if he disagreed with most conservative evangelicals about any topics related to homosexuality.
“I don’t think so,” Allberry said. He briefly alluded to theological distinctions between “temptation” and “sin,” which affect the way Christians view same-sex attraction, but said he believes those nuances are part of “mainstream conservative theology.”
“My goal is holiness,” said Allberry. “I want to grow in my hatred of sin. I want to grow in my love of Christ. I want to be more like Jesus.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), has previously endorsed Living Out, but his statement of support on the organization’s website was recently removed.
A spokesperson for the ERLC said the endorsement was taken down without Moore’s prior knowledge.
“Having now had the chance to review some of the material under discussion, which did indeed raise some concern, we’re thankful for Allberry’s conscientiousness in removing Dr. Moore’s endorsement,” the spokesperson said in a statement to the Biblical Recorder, adding that Moore hopes “clarity will prevail” amid the current questions about Living Out.
“In every age, there are boys and girls, and men and women, who grapple with same-sex attraction,” the spokesperson said. “Many of them likely wonder whether Christianity has any answers for them. Some of them likely fear that the church would be a place where they would be met not with love but with scorn. [Moore’s] hope is for a great multitude of churches and ministries standing at the ready to walk alongside those seeking to stay faithful to the gospel and to a Christian sexual ethic – providing resources, community, gospel, and hope to address these particular struggles and all others.”