Today, in a piece by the Associated PressÂ on evangelicals and their shifting views on homosexuality, First Baptist Church’s Robert Jeffress is quoted as saying he now preaches aboutÂ homosexualityÂ in “a bigger context of God’s plan for sex between one man and one woman in a lifetime relationship called marriage…Â It would be the height of hypocrisy to condemn homosexuality and not adultery or unbiblical divorce.”
The AP and other sources picked this up and ran with it, splaying the headline “Evangelical Churches Refine Message On Gay Issues” above the piece. Problem is, what Jeffress is saying isn’t new. From our own Michael J. Mooney’s story on Jeffress, printed in January 2012:
I mentioned to him that I had spoken with Mel White, the man who wrote Dr. Criswell’s autobiography. (He did the same for Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham.) In 1994, White announced to the world that he is gay. Jeffress said he’d heard of White, but that they’d never met or spoken. I told Jeffress that White says that when pastors like Jeffress tell people that gay is not okay, it fuels discrimination and can drive some gay kids into dangerous depressions. Jeffress reminded me that his, Jeffress’, is the message of hope–that homosexuals can change through the power of Christ. He generally equates being gay with alcoholism or a genetic proclivity toward violence. He always points out that no one sin is any worse than the others.
And even his 2008 “Gay is not OK” sermon featured lines of compassion. From Mooney’s piece:
In 2008, when he gave his two-part “Gay Is Not OK” sermon, he told his church: “What they [homosexuals] do is filthy. It is so degrading that it is beyond description. And it is their filthy behavior that explains why they are so much more prone to disease.” But seconds later he reminded the flock to “demonstrate compassion,” noting that “cutting off your children is the biggest mistake you will ever make. You don’t have to approve of what they’re doing. You don’t have to invite their homosexual lover into your home. But let your son or daughter always know that you love them.”
Jeffress’ position may have shifted slightly – “He said he is open to the possibility that sexual orientation has a genetic basis that cannot be cured or prayed away,” the AP story reads – but to say that he’s changed his belief is disingenuous.