national cathedral max lucado

After Max Lucado Apology, Is Justin Welby Welcome at National Cathedral?

Jeffrey Walton on February 12, 2021

The Episcopal Church’s Washington National Cathedral stumbled into another controversy last week, this time centered upon an invitation to Evangelical author Max Lucado to preach. The professionally aggrieved class quickly asserted hurt at the invitation, and both cathedral and diocesan officials begged forgiveness.

If a mild and winsome Evangelical like Lucado isn’t acceptable to preach at the National Cathedral, what Evangelical who holds to the church’s historic understanding of Christian marriage is?

Lucado offered a pre-recorded sermon this past Sunday addressing the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. The Texas megachurch pastor isn’t the first Evangelical to speak at the Cathedral, but his invitation incensed LGBT activists who launched a petition drive in protest of the invitation.

The widely published author’s transgression was a 2004 sermon in which he regarded homosexual practices as sinful, alongside polyamory, incest and bestiality. On February 11, Lucado issued a letter addressed to the cathedral community stating that he believes in the “traditional biblical understanding of marriage” but apologized for words which he termed disrespectful and hurtful.

Both Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith and Episcopal Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Budde have offered apologies for not rescinding the invitation.

“In my straight privilege I failed to see and fully understand the pain he [Lucado] has caused,” Hollerith wrote to the cathedral congregation. “I failed to appreciate the depth of injury his words have had on many in the LGBTQ community. I failed to see the pain I was continuing. I was wrong and I am sorry.”

The controversy has generated enough hand-wringing to justify three separate articles from the Episcopal News Service. I won’t attempt to replicate that work (which you can read here, here and here), except to note that many of those protesting the invitation appear to have been unfamiliar with Lucado or his writings until this month’s controversy. Lucado himself has spoken before theologically liberal audiences before (I last heard him address the Wild Goose Festival, an annual Religious Left gathering of mostly post-evangelicals and older Mainline Protestant clergy patterned after Britain’s Greenbelt Festival).

The National Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul as it is formally known, regards itself as not just home to an Episcopal congregation but also as “A Spiritual Home for the Nation.”

It’s worth looking back at other evangelicals who have spoken or preached at the National Cathedral. Are they still welcome to preach at the “House of Prayer for All People”?

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has preached from the cathedral’s Canterbury pulpit, most recently providing a prerecorded video address for the September 27, 2020 Sunday service. Welby, in his capacity as top cleric of England’s established state church, has a vote in the U.K. House of Lords, as do the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of Durham, London and Winchester. In 2013, Welby voted against Prime Minister David Cameron’s legislation to legalize same-sex marriage.

Russell Levenson, rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston (the largest parish by attendance in the Episcopal Church) has also preached at the cathedral, offering the sermon message at the December 2018 funeral of President George H.W. Bush. Levenson is associated with the theologically traditionalist Communion Partners group of rectors and bishops and does not officiate same-sex weddings.

Other evangelicals who have preached at the National Cathedral include California Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren, Theologian and The Crucifixion author Fleming Rutledge, and Evangelist Billy Graham.

To my knowledge none of these preachers addressed marriage or sexuality in their National Cathedral messages, but neither did Lucado.

Former Iranian President and Islamic cleric Mohammad Seyed Khatami also spoke at the cathedral. Presumably his views on same-sex marriage would be ruled out of order today.

  1. Comment by Loren J Golden on February 12, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    The bitter scorn directed toward Rev. Lucado by Episcopalians incensed that he was invited to preach at their denomination’s very own “National” Cathedral reminds me of the abhorrence many Presbyterians expressed at news just a few years ago when the Abraham Kuyper Center at the PC(USA)’s Princeton Theological Center announced that it was awarding its annual Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life to Rev. Dr. Timothy Keller, then-pastor of the Presbyterian Church in America-affiliated Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, who is also a prolific author and popular speaker.  In the face of the repugnance many PTS students and graduates expressed toward Dr. Keller, PTS President Craig Barnes, the Chairman of the Kuyper Committee, and the Chairman of the PTS Board of Directors, in consultation with Dr. Keller, decided to rescind the offer of the award that year, while still extending to him the offer to speak at the seminary.  (For reference, the subject of his uncontroversial lecture was the life of Church of Scotland theologian, missiologist, and author Lesslie Newbigin.)
    In the neighborhoods around my home are a number of yard signs that say, “Hate has no home here.”  Likely many of the Episcopalians expressing their own disdain toward Rev. Lucado agree with the sentiment and may even sport it in their own front yards.  Yet it seems that vitriol expressed toward even irenic and winsome Evangelicals like Rev. Lucado and Dr. Keller does not count as the hate that supposedly has no home in Progressives’ places of residence.

  2. Comment by Robert Baker on February 12, 2021 at 8:53 pm

    Pastor Lucado, Come preach and teach at Christ Church Bradenton. We love Bible believing Catholics and Evangelicals.

  3. Comment by Mary Lou Longworth on February 12, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    James R. White, of Alpha and Omega Ministries, has co-authored a book with Jeffery D. Niell titled, ‘The Same Sex Controversy: Defending And Clarifying The Bible’S Message About Homosexuality’, James White has also accomplished many public debates (available on youtube) on the topic of homosexuality.

  4. Comment by MJ on February 12, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    Has the National Cathedral removed the Robert E. Lee stained glass window yet? Shouldn’t they be cancelled for ever having had such a window? As for Princeton, wasn’t Kuyper a racist? Time to cancel Princeton?

  5. Comment by David on February 13, 2021 at 10:49 am

    The “National Cathedral” also contains the tomb of President Woodrow Wilson, who segregated the federal workplace and required photos with applications for employment.

  6. Comment by floyd lee on February 14, 2021 at 5:55 am

    Sigh. There is honestly NO excuse for this kind of stuff, National Cathedral.

    There is no way you can rationally label yourself as “A Spiritual Home for the Nation”, when you display this kind of attitude towards an irenic, non-hating, non-attacking pastor like the Rev. Max Lucado. No chance in the universe, baby.

    So here’s a simple, respectful suggestion. Simply don’t invite any Evangelical names (male or female) to your gig, until you’ve first cleared their names with the Politically Correct Naysayers who obviously call the shots in your gig.

  7. Comment by Steve S. on February 14, 2021 at 10:53 am

    I do not understand the continuing hypocrisy of the Episcopal Church (and most progressive churches). In all of the articles relating to and condemning Pastor Lucado, there is not a single mention of God, Christ, or Biblical verse to justify the attacks on the pastor. It is all about people’s feelings. Where is the Biblical truth at the National Cathedral? Where is God’s truth in the pulpits of the churches?

  8. Comment by David on February 14, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    I wonder how many liberals are invited to speak at evangelical churches?

  9. Comment by Bob on February 14, 2021 at 9:25 pm

    The act of grace was Lucado’s willingness to preach, and to speak on a meaningful subject not designed to incite. As for the cathedral leadership, the bumper sticker says it best: They can’t break you if you don’t have a spine. Episcopal theology, once fairly captured in the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” now finds musical expression in the classic Broadway ditty, “Anything Goes.” And the wicked witch gave them the summary of their strategic vision for the next 20 years in the US…”I’m melting…O what a world.” The temptation is to waste emotional and spiritual energy on engaging these extras from the ranks of the professionally aggrieved. Let them march in their protest for National Indignation Week, that was held twice monthly over this or that “outrage” when I lived in DC years ago and now seems to occur weekly. Meanwhile Menacing Max preaches to more people weekly than many show up at every parish in numerous Episcopal dioceses.

  10. Comment by Douglas E Ehrhardt on February 15, 2021 at 4:55 am

    The folks I know who attend Episcopal services worship the Democratic party. They despise Biblical worldviews. Our church wouldn’t let a heretic preach . False doctrine doesn’t belong in the pulpit.

  11. Comment by Steve on February 15, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Lucados letter was interesting and not a walk back on scripture. We can live our gay friends and simultaneously be firm that sex is only ordained by God to be between a man and a woman in marriage. Period. The scripture is sound. However our pejorative treatment of gay people has in fact been a blight.

  12. Comment by Sarah Louise on February 15, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Whom do they worship at this church? The bishops and leaders ask forgiveness from and apologize to humans, but not from and to God?

  13. Comment by Brother Thom on February 15, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    I attended a UMC with A lesbian pastor who lived Max. The problem was that she knew nothing about him, marking her lessons on his studies comical at times.

  14. Comment by Star Tripper on February 15, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    Living in the area it has been a long time since I considered the “National” Cathedral a Christian church. A place of pompous Churchianity and certainly the proper place for someone like GHWB’s funeral.

  15. Comment by Brother Thom on February 24, 2021 at 5:36 am

    I lived in Washington DC for over 17 years between 1980 and 2003, off and on. The National Cathedral I knew in the 80s and 90s exists no more. Under the control of the liberal Episcopal Diocese of Washington, voices focused on Christ, and orthodox Christianity has become unwelcome. It’s time for many Christians to move away from supporting the Cathedral financially.

  16. Comment by Rick Plasterer on February 24, 2021 at 1:17 pm

    The most disturbing thing about this incident is that Max Lucado clearly renounces the narrow gate as essential to salvation. It is impossible to be faithful to Biblical revelation and not hurt homosexuals and transgender identifying persons and those who agree with them. One cannot agree that male homosexual intercourse is “an abomination” (Lev. 18:22), that the affections homosexually inclined people regard as most precious are “vile,”(Rom 1:26) or that persons who engage in homosexual activity are corrupted (Rom. 1:27) and not cause pain and hurt. Lucado has rejected the very, very first principle of Biblical faith, namely that we accept God’s revelation and obey him no matter how painful it might be to us or anyone else.

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.

 ⏰ Partner in the work of IRD!

IRD uniquely reports on the latest happenings in U.S. Christianity thanks to your support. Please help with your special gift of $50, $75, $100 or whatever you are called to give!

Make your gift