Evangelical preacher Max Lucado preached “at” the National Cathedral on Sunday. Some people are not happy about it.

Writer and pastor Max Lucado, an evangelical critic of Donald Trump, preached “at” the Washington National Cathedral on Sunday. (He preached from San Antonio, TX). Some Episcopalians are angry because Lucado believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. (His sermon was on the Holy Spirit and it had nothing to do with homosexuality). A petition circulated criticizing Lucado for his “hateful views.”

Anyone who has seen Max Lucado preach or has read his books knows that he is not a “hateful” person. Unlike some defenders of traditional views on sexuality, he is not a culture warrior. He actually represents millions and millions of Americans who hold such positions.

Of course the Washington National Cathedral can decide who preaches as part of its ministry and who does not. Randolph Hollerith, the Dean of the Cathedral, defended his invitation to Lucado in an open letter to the petitioners. Here it is:

First, I want to thank you for writing to share your thoughts about our upcoming guest preacher, Max Lucado, and for sharing the petition and signatures with me. I value your feedback as a member of our Cathedral family.

I also want to underscore that our commitment to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters is unshakable and unchanged. As you know, this Cathedral has long been a beacon for LGBTQ inclusion, and we believe in that because we believe the Gospel calls us to nothing short of full embrace and inclusion. That said, I understand why Max’s earlier statements  on LGBTQ issues would cause concern, and I want you to know that I share your concerns.  As an ally of the LGBTQ community myself, it grieves me when churches or religion are used as weapons against God’s LGBTQ children.

Let me share why we invited Max to preach. We have to come out of our corners, find common ground where we can, and find ways to live with and see each other as the beloved children of God that we are. We have all grown too accustomed in our silos and echo chambers. In order to start the process of rebuilding, we need to hear from each other.

That does not mean we will always agree. In fact, I don’t agree with Max’s views on LGBTQ issues. We can still hold our convictions and cling to our values in the midst of disagreement. But the work that we cannot ignore is the vitally important task of what Isaiah called “repairing the breach.” That starts, first and foremost, with those with whom we disagree. When we only engage with those with whom we agree on every issue, we find ourselves in a dangerous (and lonely) place. My hope is that all churches and faith communities will find ways to open their doors to perspectives different from their own. 

This Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people, proudly so. That means this Cathedral, and this pulpit, are big enough and strong enough to welcome pastors, rabbis, imams, clergy of every faith. It does not mean we agree with everything they might believe, but it does mean that we exhibit and inhabit a sense of open handed welcome.

Again, thank you for writing. I do appreciate it, and I do hear you. I hope you’ll join us on Sunday, and I look forward to remaining in dialogue with you.

The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith

Dean

WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL

What was even more interesting about Lucado’s appearance at the Washington National Cathedral was the Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopalian Church, presided over the service.

Watch Lucado’s sermon:

If you listen to the end, you will also hear Provost Jan Naylor Cope echo some of Hollerith’s ideas about “repairing the breach.”

Part of this controversy reminds me of when Barack Obama chose evangelical megachurch pastor and author Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his first inauguration ceremony. People like Katha Pollitt and Bill Press went nuts. E.J. Dionne liked the pick. Of course Obama himself was a proponent of traditional marriage in those days.