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Posts for May, 2008

Jay Bakker and Soulforce Meet With Joel Osteen

Timothy Kincaid

May 14th, 2008

jay3.jpg For Jay Bakker, growing up as the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker was more than a little chaotic. Until the collapse of their Christian media empire in 1987, his parents were superstars. But at age 13, his father went to prison, the family’s closest friends denounced them, and Jay’s world changed completely.

Perhaps it is this unique experience of having been at the crest of the conservative Christian world only to feel betrayed that has allowed Jay to question the purpose and meaning of his Christian faith. And Jay’s openness has left him with conclusions and direction that are unlike many others in that world.

One area of disagreement is with whom God accepts and welcomes. A careful study of scripture led Jay to conclude that many of those who are not welcome in the pews of most churches are those whom God most seeks to know. And in revisiting scripture and the nature of God, Jay came to believe that homosexuality is not sin.

Jay now is joining Soulforce to take that message on the road in an effort called The American Family Outing. And because of his history and his connections, Jay has access to religious leaders that most gay people cannot dream of.

The first stop was in Houston, TX at the megachurch of Joel Osteen. There Bakker was able to arrange for a meeting with Osteen. From the Houston Chronicle

Bakker said Osteen was most gracious, had chairs reserved for the LGBT community Sunday morning and made time to meet after the 11 a.m. service.

During their chat, the two men agreed to disagree.

“I don’t think homosexuality is a sin, and they do,” Bakker said, “but it was very nice of Joel to introduce me to his family. I met Joel’s wife and mother, and they were just great. … I’m really grateful.”

Don Iloff, Lakewood’s chief of communications, agreed the visits and meetings went well.

“Dodie Osteen, Joel’s mother, wanted to meet Jay,” Iloff said.

“She knew him as a little boy. And everybody liked Tammy Faye and Jim, Jay’s dad. He has his flaws but … ”

Iloff said it was a pleasure to host members of the LGBT community at Lakewood. “They’re very, very sweet people. They’re the nicest people. I didn’t expect anything else, really.”

The communications chief also said members of the LGBT community are welcome at Lakewood, but he and the Osteens don’t have much more to say on the subject of sexuality.

While it would have been phenomenal had Osteen take the opportunity to requestion his theology, his response is nonetheless encouraging and to be welcomed. As more people in the conservative evangelical Christian movement come to know gay people and their allies, the stereotypes can drop away and the animosity diminish. And while we can differ on the interpretation and application of Paul’s conflation of Greek words in an epistle to a church in Rome 2,000 years ago, I hope we can do so without engaging in Culture War.

I am very appreciative of the work that Soulforce does. And I am very appreciative that a straight preacher is willing to see that his mission to spread the Gospel includes using his family name to gain access to some religious leaders who would drive gay men and women away from their faith.

I wish them much continued success in their campaign.