Biblical teaching on sexuality “is not a matter of salvation” according to a former Assemblies of God (AoG) pastor who led his congregation out of the 1.8 million member Pentecostal denomination in February after a change of policy in his local church on same-sex practices.
Lead Pastor Dan Matlock of Eikon Church in Kyle, Texas is not the first AoG pastor to depart from orthodox teaching on human sexuality and marriage. A small contingent of primarily young left-leaning ministers has been steadily removed from the ministerial roster, most notably the former Paul Alexander, now April, who led the Society for Pentecostal Studies.
Theological revisionism that rose to prominence in mainline Protestant institutions is not as far removed from Pentecostal institutions and ministers as some might have once believed.
Matlock opened a three-part sermon series on engagement with the LGBTQ community February 9, offering his own rationale for affirming same-sex intimacy.
Matlock’s Twitter feed and Eikon Church’s online materials cite God and the Gay Christian author Matthew Vines, Jesus Feminist author Sarah Bessey and the late post-Evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans. To various degrees, each of the authors identified with the Evangelical Left and approached scripture with a hermeneutic of suspicion that understands the biblical text to be untrustworthy and lacking in authority.
I absolutely love what’s happened in my wife’s heart over the past couple years. #BecauseOfRHE and so many others her faith has been transformed into something that really changes this world. This Mother’s Day I honor @kellymatlock… my favorite human, my hero, & my pastor. pic.twitter.com/AtwqOvO72K
— Dan Matlock (@danmatlock) May 13, 2019
Two subsequent sermons in Matlock’s three-part “clarity” series deviated from what was initially previewed. The second sermon in the series was to offer a differing view from a presbyter for the South Austin Section of the AoG and was cancelled.
“They just felt that it may create too much confusion and division to have him [South Austin Presbyter Anthony Scoma] come and speak,” Matlock said of AoG denominational officials. Instead, Matlock again preached, making a plea for unity in Eikon Church amongst congregants holding different viewpoints.
“We want this to be a place where we can walk together, that we can learn together, that we can embrace one another despite our views,” Matlock voiced, asking the congregation to “pursue unity over uniformity,” apparently seeing no irony in Eikon Church concluding its unity with the Assemblies of God and the broad Christian tradition in favor of embracing practices including same-sex marriage.
Eikon Church sermon podcasts typically each garner an average of 44 listeners. Matlock reported that the first sermon in the clarity series had garnered nearly 20,000 listeners. “Something happened last week and things kind of took on a life of their own.”
Comments have been disabled for all three sermon messages in the clarity series on Eikon Church’s YouTube channel. Comments remain open for previous Eikon Church sermons.
“I understood from the beginning if our church were to move in this direction … I would no longer be a minister … that this church would no longer be a part of the Assemblies of God. I’m no longer a minister within the Assemblies of God [and] this church is no longer a part of that fellowship,” Matlock reported to his congregation. “As much as some people have said some negative things there has also been so much beautiful encouragement. I get it that I get to be, and the staff gets to be, and the Elder Board gets to be on the side of the receiving [of] this encouragement. Next week I want to encourage you to come back to hear some of that encouragement that may show us that this journey, though it may be hard, Church it’s gonna be worth it.”
That third sermon in the series again was delivered by Matlock on February 23.
“Our opinion, as it pertains to the LGBT community, is not a matter of salvation. To elevate it to that level is to completely misunderstand the cross,” Matlock preached, disregarding the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 “that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
“We have to have perfect theological assent to receive that gift from God? No.” Matlock denied, knocking down a strawman unrepresentative of historic Christian teaching on salvation.
God’s call to personal holiness does not pertain to salvation, Matlock argued: “we don’t have to have this life and this world perfectly figured out. We have to do our best to follow God and that’s it. This is not a matter of salvation.”
The Assemblies of God USA defines a fourfold mission to evangelize others, worship God, disciple believers, and show compassion. The fellowship of churches holds to a Statement of Fundamental Truths – a confession of faith outlining 16 essential doctrines.
Matlock concluded the sermon by introducing a video message from Nate Rosales, a former intern at Eikon Church who identifies as gay.
Rosales, who was unable to attend in person, offered his testimony of growing up in a church family. “But I also knew, from a very young age, that I was gay.”
Rosales quoted Second Corinthians chapter 12 verse 9, reading “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
“No matter what struggles we are facing today, God’s grace is sufficient and he’s got our back,” Rosales shared, inviting the congregation to share communion together.
It is unclear how the LGBTQ-affirming position taken by Matlock and Eikon Church elders will ultimately affect the congregation. There are few examples of former Evangelical congregations embracing same-sex marriage.
Readers may see parallels between Matlock and the popular speakers Jen and Brandon Hatmaker who undertook a discussion on the affirmation of same-sex behavior that was brought into public view in 2016. The Hatmakers’ congregation, Austin New Church, ultimately transferred from the Free Methodist Church, an evangelical denomination, to the United Methodist Church.
Wilshire Baptist Church, a Dallas-area congregation, voted in 2016 to extend full membership to homosexually active people, including leadership ordination and marriage officiation. A year later, Wilshire Baptist Senior Pastor George Mason told IRD’s Chelsen Vicari that he was shocked by “the consequence of the number of people for whom this would be a decision they could no longer remain in the church.”
Advocate Magazine reported in 2017 that about 250 members departed Wilshire Baptist, taking $700,000 of annual giving with them.
In 2015, GracePointe Church outside of Nashville was named in Time magazine as “one of the first evangelical megachurches in the country to openly stand for full equality and inclusion of the LGBTQ community.”
The categorization of GracePointe as a megachurch was a stretch, but LGBTQ activists sought to spotlight it as an inroad for those seeking to change Evangelicals’ views on marriage and sexuality. Members of the church Board of Elders and half of the congregation’s 2,200-person membership quickly decamped following the LGBT announcement.
In 2017, the church, trimmed by staff layoffs, sold its building in suburban Williamson County to a growing multi-site Evangelical congregation and relocated to rented space in Nashville. In 2018, Out & About Nashville reported Pastor Stan Mitchell stepped down as the church’s pastor to pursue outside ministry. GracePointe’s collapse remains a cautionary tale to liberal clergy who seek to quickly lead a congregation in a revisionist direction.
It remains to be seen if Matlock’s plea for “unity over uniformity” results in a more unified congregation, or if Eikon Church follows GracePointe and Wilshire Baptist Church into a period of decline.