A Texas church has made news as the first Assemblies of God (AoG) congregation to announce that it is “fully LGBTQ affirming without an asterisk.”
Lead Pastor Dan Matlock of Eikon Church in Kyle, Texas made the announcement in a sermon Sunday, February 9 that the Austin-area congregation would now be open to LGBTQ persons on staff and that the church building will be available to host same-sex wedding ceremonies.
“There will be some pastors and leaders at Eikon that are willing to perform weddings … the building Eikon occupies will be open for anyone to host weddings at regardless of gender or sexuality,” a statement on the church’s web site explains.
Matlock preaches in well-worn jeans and untucked shirts that reveal a sleeve of tattoos across his left arm, a standard uniform for evangelical church planters. The church’s building, newly completed in September 2016, replaced rented space at a San Marcos middle school for the congregation.
The church’s motto proclaims “Everyone is welcome, nobody is perfect, anything is possible,” but remaining affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination will not be possible.
“Dan Matlock has announced that he and Eikon Church will no longer be affiliated with the Assemblies of God,” explained Assemblies of God Senior Director of Public Relations and Communications Mark Forrester in response to an email query. “The North Texas District moved swiftly and in accordance with processes outlined in the General Council Bylaws when first aware of the departure from the Assemblies of God’s position on marriage, sexual orientation, and gender identity — which is the only permissible stance for Assemblies of God churches and ministers.”
Eikon is no longer listed on the Assemblies of God church directory, and a link to the church’s profile on the AoG web site now ends in an error message.
“The North Texas District is committed to helping members of Eikon Church find church families that continue to embrace the biblical views consistent with statement of faith originally embraced by Eikon Church,” Forrester added.
I was unable to obtain membership figures for Eikon Church or a list of the congregation’s elder board. Email inquiries made to the church were not returned as of the time of publication. Matlock and his wife Kelly co-pastor the church, which they planted in 2012 and officially launched in 2013. The church web site lists five staff, including the Matlocks, and two service times. A sixth staffer with the title of Executive Pastor transitioned off of the church staff the week before the announcement and did not respond to a request for comment sent to his Twitter account.
Matlock’s 54-minute Sunday sermon is the first of a multi-part series on engaging the LGBTQ community. Eikon Church directs congregants to a section of their web site featuring a series of LGBTQ affirming resources, including various advocacy organizations such as author Matthew Vines’ Reformation Project, which seeks to promote LGBTQ affirmation within evangelical churches.
Vines’ writing appears to be one of several Religious Left influences upon Matlock’s thinking on marriage and sexuality. Matlock also appears to have been shaped by the writings of post-Evangelical author Rachel Held Evans.
Addressing scriptural prohibitions of same-sex practices, Matlock immediately set aside verses from the Hebrew Scriptures. He insisted that Moses’ words in the book of Leviticus were already disregarded, citing prohibitions against wearing mixed fabrics. He did not distinguish between Jewish ceremonial law, intended to indicate the people group from which the messiah would come (fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ), and the moral law, which remains in effect.
Matlock focused his biblical exposition upon the Apostle Paul’s exhortations against sexual immorality in his letters to the Romans, Corinthians and Timothy. The Texas pastor interpreted that Paul’s words were to be understood in his cultural context and were aimed against predatory or exploitative relationships such as pederasty, not against romantic same-sex relationships as a whole.
“What Paul is talking about in the New Testament does not properly correlate to LGBTQ Christians that we know,” Matlock preached. “Paul isn’t talking about what we’re talking about. They [LGBTQ Christians] would say that Paul seems to be addressing child molesters, idolatrous orgies in temple prostitution.”
“I landed in a place of full affirmation that I do believe that God can and does bless same-sex relationships, that God can and does bless same-sex marriages,” Matlock preached at the end of his sermon as tones swelled from the keyboard of a worship leader.
Future installments of the sermon series were previewed, including a differing view to be offered by a presbyter for the South Austin Section of the AoG.
Reached for comment, Anthony Scoma of the Assemblies’ North Texas District confirmed that he was originally scheduled to address the congregation.
“A denominational decision was reached early this week that I will no longer be speaking at Eikon this Sunday,” Scoma shared, referring questions to the North Texas District office and District Superintendent.
Matlock’s LinkedIn profile lists his theological training at the Rockford Master’s Commission, a ten month Christian gap-year discipleship program now known as City First Leadership College. He is a certified minister, the lowest of three AoG ministerial categories (ordained, licensed, certified). The certified level of credentials does not require the same level of education or training as the other two categories.
Matlock is not the first AoG clergy to run afoul of the denomination’s orthodox teaching on marriage and sexuality.
In 2013 Society for Pentecostal Studies President Paul Alexander triggered an investigation from his AoG District after proposing that the largest and most prominent academic society within the Pentecostal tradition should be open to the promotion of homosexual, transgender and intersex “realities” as faithful representations of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. Alexander was later that year dismissed from the denominational clergy rolls, the AoG equivalent of defrocking.
Alexander continued as co-president of Evangelicals for Social Action and on staff at Eastern Seminary until 2016, when he departed both organizations. Alexander and the mother of his three children divorced and in 2018 he publicly transitioned to a new transgender female identity.
Update [2/19/2020]: Eikon Church has made available Matlock’s second sermon in the three-part “clarity” series. The Texas minister confirms that he no longer holds ministerial credentials in the Assemblies of God, and “this church is no longer a part of that fellowship.” Matlock preaches that people may remain with Eikon Church despite holding differing views on affirming same-sex erotic relations, stating “I beg of you we must pursue unity and diversity.” Matlock cites the writings of Jesus Feminist author Sarah Bessey. The full 28-minute sermon may be viewed here.
Update [3/4/2020]: IRD has coverage of the second and third sermons in Matlock’s three-part clarity series and the Religious Left figures who influenced his thinking on the Bible and sexuality. Read more by clicking here.