Last night, a friend called to my attention a video circulating on social media of a young minister declaring open and polyamorous relationships “holy” and “beautiful” before his congregation.
In honor and support of @QTheology recent webinar on non-monogamous relationships, I want to share this word that I spoke to our congregation on the topic this summer:
— Brandan Robertson (@BrandanJR) October 18, 2018
Note: The original version of this article included the video shared by Brandan Robertson on Twitter. The video has since been deleted. So here is what Robertson had to say:
“For those who are in an open or polyamorous relationship here this morning who might be squirming, because this is an uncomfortable question to hear in church sometimes. I want you to hear me loud and clear as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your relationships are holy. They are beautiful and they are welcomed and celebrated in this space.”
“We call all of us together to the same set of standards that we call everyone to: to seek to follow Jesus in all of our relationships. To seek to be honest and respectful and self-sacrificial and consensual and loving with your partners. When any of us live into these standards we can be sure we are on the path to wholeness and holiness.”
The young minister in the video is Brandan Robertson, one of the Religious Left’s quickest rising stars. At 26 he is the senior pastor of Missiongathering Christian Church, a church plant affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in San Diego, California. Interestingly, Robertson is a graduate of the evangelical Moody Bible Institute. He is also a graduate of the liberal and United Methodist-affiliated Iliff School of Theology.
By 23 years old, Robertson had impressive byline placements in Time, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post. He is a regular speaker at the Wild Goose Festival and his mentors include retired Episcopal Church Bishop Gene Robinson, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren, among others.
Well, you can imagine the criticism that Robertson’s video has received.
Author and Christian thought leader Rod Dreher had this to say:
This is not remotely defensible from any credible Christian position. This guy is leading people right off the cliff. https://t.co/QhfATC86gN
— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) October 18, 2018
Evangelical radio host Janet Parshall responded:
Wolves dressed as sheep…pray for those who are being lead astray, including this young man. https://t.co/KZD9NQxM8J
— Janet Parshall (@parshalltalk) October 19, 2018
Executive Director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Colin Smothers reminds us of 1 Corinthians 5:1:
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans…” https://t.co/eJbe6gyDZI
— Colin Smothers (@colinsmo) October 18, 2018
The Christian Post‘s Brandon Showalter observed:
What’s so maddening about this is that we predicted it. We were waived off as bigoted fear-mongering nuts. Now they celebrate it. What “slippery slope”?” I predict no progressive religious leader with a blue check will say a peep. I would LOVE to be wrong.
— Brandon M Showalter (@BrandonMShow) October 18, 2018
There’s plenty to be said about the sinful, harmful nature of polyamorous relationships. But I suspect those reading this already understand the sanctity of marriage and how a covenant between husband and wife reflects the covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. So instead, I want to consider Robertson for a moment.
It’s been interesting to watch Robertson’s evolution since 2014 or so. In 2015, I watched Robertson tout the “Evangelical” title as he advocated for same-sex marriage, then later read he defined himself as “Christianish,” and now he is calling himself a gay “Renegade Reverend” who is rethinking sin “as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
I consider Robertson an acquaintance. We’ve broken bread together here at the Institute on Religion & Democracy office and had a congenial conversation. We disagree on many things to be sure, but honestly, I feel a sense of sadness and compassion for Robertson. He is a young man who has endured painful experiences and struggled to find his complete identity in Jesus Christ. Then along came the old guards of the Religious Left who placed a 23-year-old Robertson on their shoulders as the young fresh face of progressive Christianity and onto a national setting that he was unprepared to handle.
Robertson believes that he is an innovator, presenting novel ideas on sexuality and sin that few have thought before. It is a reoccurring trend that we see among younger progressive Christians who grew up in evangelicalism. Their ideas on inclusion and tolerance have already been implemented by liberal mainline Protestant denominations, and their embrace of sin hasn’t fared well.
I mentioned earlier that Robertson is the senior pastor of a Disciples of Christ-affiliated church. And no matter how welcoming or “radically inclusive” the Disciples’ table, fewer and fewer souls are taking a seat.
Just this week, the IRD’s Jeffrey Walton reported the shaky congregational numbers of the Disciples of Christ. “Church membership shrank to 411,140 in 2017 (down from 497,423, or 17 percent, from 2014), while average worship attendance dropped to 139,936 (down from 177,141, or 21 percent, from 2014),” noted Walton. “While these figures in themselves are striking, two objective numbers that often serve as future indicators – baptism and transfers in – are even more dramatic. New additions by baptism are at 4,344 (down from 5,808, or 25 percent, from 2014) while additions by transfer are 7,441 (down from 15,111, or 51 percent in 2014), not nearly enough to keep up with deaths and transfers out.”
There is no joy in watching a soul wander deeper and deeper into darkness. All I can do is pray that the Holy Spirit intervenes, removes Robertson from his liberal bubble so that might recognize the destructive and deceitful path that he is headed down with others following closely behind.
My prayer for Robertson is that by the time he gets to his 30s and 40s, these troubling remarks on polyamory and his mistaken understanding of human sin, will be a wonderful part of his testimony where blind eyes gained sight. Because what was meant for evil, God can use for good.