UPDATED: SOUTHERN BAPTIST JONATHAN MERRITT OUTED AS GAY?

UPDATE: Although Jonathan Merritt never did return my call, today Azariah Southworth alerted me that Merritt has confessed his involvement with Southworth in this post by Ed Stetzer: Jonathan Merritt Shares His Story.

Leaving aside the obvious overstatement made by Jonathan Merrit above, as I told you e.g. in FTS Professor Wants Us To Know About The Biola Queer Underground here at Apprising Ministries, I’ve long been warning you that there is a very dark and deviant [not of the norm] same sex storm only slightly off the coast of the mainstream evangelical community and it’s reaching hurricane force.

This is why a year ago I wrote Miley Cyrus And Gay Marriage. While I personally don’t consider her to be a Christian, she makes that claim and her views do represent more young evangelicals than you may know. It’s likely not very long before the evil [according to God’s Word] aggressive pro-homosexual agenda launches a full-on assault upon evangelicalism because they know its leaders are just way, way, too timid to stand up to them.

In addition, women pastors are also taking their place within the heart of professing Christendom and that lobby’s main ally the Emerging Church has already softened up evanjellyfish’s younger sectors with rhetoric such as Jonathan Merritt parrots above from gay-affirming Emergent Church “pastor” Jay Bakker. As you can see, I’ve had my dealings with this apostate Jay Bakker Critiques Ken Silva At Religion Dispatches.

You think I overstate my own case; then consider this from the popular contemplative evangelical author Philip Yancey And A Non-Stance On Homosexuality. You may recall in Word Faith “Bishop” Jim Swilley Announces That He’s Gay I told you I believe a major evangelical figure will come out as homosexual “soon” serving to fully detonate this whole gay debate—currently ripping apart and dividing mainline denominations—right with the mainstream of evangelicalism itself.

As we survey the battlefield from this vantage point I draw your attention to Jonathan Merritt; while not quite at that level himself, I will offer that something along this line could serve to embolden such a one. Merritt is the son of Dr. James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2000-2002. Earlier this year in Outlooks on Outreach Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal told us:

James Merritt, 59, serves as senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia. His son, Jonathan Merritt, 29, joined the church staff in 2008. (source)

Now there seems to be a little confusion here as this story is breaking because just a short while ago I called Cross Pointe Church and asked to speak with Jonathan Merritt. The spokesperson I talked with told me that “he’s not on staff anymore” and further he is basically only “consulting.” Be that as it may, the younger Merritt’s Twitter account tells us that he’s:


(source)

Jonathan Merritt’s bio further informs us that he seems to be an up and coming evangelical leader:

As a respected Christian voice, Jonathan regularly contributes commentary to television, print, and radio news outlets. Jonathan has been interviewed by ABC World News, NPR, CNN, PBS, Fox News, Slate.com, Politico, The New York Times and The Washington Post. He serves on the advisory board for Religion News Service, America’s largest provider of news about religion and spirituality.

Jonathan first entered the public eye when a classroom epiphany prompted him to organize a national coalition of Christian leaders who care about the creation, founding the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative. Since then, he’s been on the front lines of pressing cultural conversations from poverty to orphan care.

He is a member of the national board of directors for Bethany Christian Services, America’s largest adoption agency. Outreach magazine recently named Jonathan one of “30 Emerging Influencers” reshaping Christian leadership. (source)

So Jonathan Merritt has begun reaching a lot of people with his views. In fact, currently his July 20th article In Defense of Eating at Chick-fil-A for the Atlantic is generating a lot of discussion because he said, “I refuse to contribute to the ineffective boycott culture that’s springing up across America.”1 I’m not going into the details of the kerfuffle involving Chick-fil-A other than to say it has to do with their anti-homosexual marriage stance.

All of which now brings me around to a post today entitled Jonathan Merritt outed as gay? by Peter Lumpkins where we read:

We’ve had our disagreements with fellow Southern Baptist, Jonathan Merritt. I first crossed swords with Merritt over his leftist environmental crusade a few years back. The more recent conflict with Merritt’s view concerned the name change for Southern Baptists.

Sandwiched between the two came the most scurrilous issue–Merritt’s non-stop condemnation of Southern Baptists (a.k.a. evangelicalism generally) for what he deemed as clobbering the gay community with the Bible.

Perhaps now it’s been revealed why Merritt was so adamant about not condemning the gay community–at least that’s what’s claimed by a purported long-time friend. According to a prominent “gay evangelical” Merritt himself is gay… (source)

The long-time gay evangelical friend in question is Azariah Southworth who’s About section on his blog tells us:

At the age of 18, Azariah moved to Nashville, TN to work for a Christian TV show. It was there, he befriended the host of the show. This friend helped Southworth launch his own nationally syndicated TV show called The Remix. 

By the second season Azariah’s show was being broadcast into more than 128 million homes worldwide and averaging over 200,000 viewers per week on one network. “We were hearing from fans all over the world. We had a marketing deal, sponsorship and offers from other networks, but I also had a secret,” Southworth states.

While Southworth was living as the host of his popular TV show, he was also living a secret life, a life which was more honest as a gay man. However, after watching a documentary titled, For the Bible Tells Me So, he was able to gather the courage to live his life honestly and authentically. On April 16, 2008 Southworth came out…

Since his coming out, Azariah has participated in Soulforce Q’s 2008 Equality Ride, GLSEN’s Day of Silence, among many other demonstrations. In 2010, Azariah traveled the country with Ray Boltz on their national tour appropriately titled, “Living True: the tour.”  (source)

Yesterday Southworth himself put out a post called Jonathan Merritt: Come Out where he says:

Radical honesty = to state your feelings bluntly, directly and in a way typically considered impolite. Honesty can be scary and for this truth, I am scared. However, it is my personal belief that one should only be allowed to lead by living a transparent, honest and authentic life.

Jonathan Merritt is a good man with great intentions. Jonathan pushes for a society which seeks to understand the “other.” He encourages conversation and relationship building over arguments and division. I agree with his approach and I know he is being genuine in this approach. I feel though what has led Jonathan to this thoughtful and effective approach is his hope for a future where people like me and him, gay people, are no longer excluded but included in every aspect of society.

He rides the fence because of the strong anti-gay stance his religious community continues to take. He is brave by daring to push the envelope a bit but not enough to give himself away. Exposing this truth of Jonathan’s sexual orientation is not an easy decision for me. I take no pleasure in doing this. As I type this my stomach is turning because I know of the backlash he will receive. (source)

Judging by the comments section of his post Southworth is feeling some of that backlash himself. As I said earlier, I tried to reach Jonathan Merritt for his side of this but he has not returned my call. On the other hand, today I have spoken couple of times with Azariah Southworth via phone and email, who he told me he’s known Jonathan Merritt for about two years. During our discussions I did find him to be a credible and caring source.

Azariah confirmed to me that his reason for writing about Jonathan Merritt is as he stated yesterday:

I base my reasoning in the importance of living an authentic and honest life.

True change in the “culture wars” may come through genuine fellowship and conversations but if there is not complete honesty and transparency when we come to the table than we are simply building a foundation which will soon deteriorate. (source)

Here’s why, after prayer and counsel, I decided to cover this: The story had already hit the Internet and it’s only a matter of time before it would be widespread, At the same time, I’ve already been covering the issue of a growing acceptance within evangelicalism that the deviant and sinful lifestyle of having sexual relations with another of the same sex, i.e homosexuality, is a viable one for the regenerated Christian.

It will now be interesting to see how this unfolds and will be played out by Jonathan Merritt and his dad’s Cross Pointe Church (CPC) where apparently he is, at least, still consulting. We do know the younger Merritt has been preaching through his Reckless series each Sunday morning at CPC:

In closing, we do need to remember that Christ died for the sin of homosexuality. So, let’s be praying truth will prevail; and that those in sin will indeed find repentance and the forgiveness of their sin in Jesus’ name.

HT: Pulpit And Pen

Further reading

Endnotes

  1. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/07/in-defense-of-eating-at-chick-fil-a/260139/