HOMOSEXUALITY AND JONATHAN MERRITT

Here at Apprising Ministries, I’ve told you before that 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.

The reason being, due to years of antichrist propaganda by the neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church operating within the Emerging Church attacking Holy Scripture, the younger sectors of Christendom by and large simply do not adhere to the proper Christian spirituality of sola Scriptura.

So when it comes to the issue of sexual relations with another of the same sex aka homosexuality, instead of going by what the Bible clearly says, they are now being led by their fickle feelings. A good example would be gay-affirming EC “pastor” Jay Bakker who tells us:

The more I follow grace, the more I’m drawn to him [God], the more I’m willing to stand up for people being persecuted,” said Bakker. “It sounds so churchy, but I felt like God spoke to my heart and said ‘[homosexuality] is not a sin.’ ” (source, emphasis mine)

Take a look at the mainline denominations and you’ll see that they’re falling one by one before the pro-homosexual lobby. I’m telling you, do so and you’ll get a glimpse of the near future of the mainstream evangelical community as well. And the growing acceptance of women as pastors will only speed up the inevitable.

You may believe me, that issue itself is also about ready to explode. Which brings me around to my July 24th article Southern Baptist Jonathan Merritt Outed As Gay? As I said in that piece, though Jonathan Merritt is not quite at that level himself, I will offer that something along this line could serve to embolden such a one.

For necessary background, 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)

The two are quite close as on July 27 Dr. Merritt tweeted:


(source)

As far as the younger Merritt’s current role at Cross Pointe Church (CPC), when I called CPC and asked to speak with Jonathan Merritt on July 24th the spokesperson I talked with told me that “he’s not on staff anymore” and further he is basically only “consulting.” In other words, he’s apparently running staff meetings.

The younger Merritt’s Twitter account tells us that he’s:


(source)

Jonathan Merritt’s bio gives us indication that he would seem 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, this is precisely what led to a post by Azariah Southworth called Jonathan Merritt: Come Out. The story actually broke wider with a piece 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)

In his aforementioned post Southworth 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 certainly felt some of that backlash himself. As I said earlier, I tried to reach Jonathan Merritt for his side of this but he never returned my call. On the other hand, in the past few weeks I have spoken many times with Azariah Southworth via phone and email.

Southworth told me that he’s known Jonathan Merritt for about two years. As I close out this summary review I will tell you that during our discussions I found Azariah Southworth to be a credible source who genuinely cares for Jonathan Merritt. In other words, he is not being mean-spirited or vindictive.

In fact, Southworth confirmed to me that his reason for writing about Jonathan Merritt is as he stated in his initial post:

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)

After prayer and counsel, I have decided this story needs to be covered further. You’ll see next time that Jonathan Merritt has acknowledged a relationship with Azariah Southworth via Jonathan Merritt Shares His Story. It’s a curious post at the blog of Ed Stetzer, part of the Lifeway Research Team of the Southern Baptist Convention.1

The fact is, it does show that Southworth was being truthful; but, to my eye, it reads more like a political spin job.

Further reading

Endnotes

  1. http://www.edstetzer.com/lifeway-team.html, accessed 8/17/12.