In an unforeseen development, Pastor Joshua Harris, author of the bestselling book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” which emphasised traditional relationships, railed against sex before marriage and homosexuality, has confirmed the end of his marriage, apologised for opposing LGBTQ rights and announced he is no longer a Christian.
The former lead pastor of Covenant Life Church, whose book sold over 1 million copies and became a fixture in Christian youth groups after coming out 22 years ago is now saying the 1997 work “contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry,” and that he has “undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus.”
Harris stepped down as lead pastor at Covenant Life in 2015 to pursue graduate studies at the evangelical Regent College in British Columbia. During this period, he said he experienced a profound change of heart since writing his book that was celebrated in conservative circles.
Writing on Instagram, he said:
“By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”
“I have lived in repentance for the past several years — repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few,” Harris wrote in the post.
“To the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me,” he went on.
In another statement, Harris said,
“To those who read my book and were misdirected or unhelpfully influenced by it, I am sincerely sorry. I never intended to hurt you. I know this apology doesn’t change anything for you and it’s coming too late, but I want you to hear that I regret any way that my ideas restricted you, hurt you, or gave you a less-than-biblical view of yourself, your sexuality, your relationships, and God.”
I Kissed Dating Goodbye encouraged young people to avoid dating and remain celibate before marriage. It includes numerous sections on the dangers of lust, such as one in which Harris wrote: “Lust is a problem. And God hates it. So should you.”
The book also featured a passage in which Harris described being “checked out” by three gay men.
“I’ll never forget the anger and disgust I felt at that moment,” he wrote. “It was so wrong, so filthy.”
Harris has disavowed his book on a handful of occasions in recent years, including during a 2017 TEDx Talk called “Strong Enough to be Wrong.”
He wrote a handful of other books, including “Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is)” and “Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship.”
A few weeks ago, via Instagram, Harris announced the end of his 21-year marriage to Shannon after realising that “significant changes have taken place in both of us”, yet intended to remain friends to help raise their three children.
Meanwhile, Pastor Haris’s parish in Maryland has responded to the news of him leaving his faith and his wife, stating that it “hits home personally.”
“These updates are hard to hear. We love Josh and Shannon. For most of us, Josh isn’t just some distant public figure. He’s a beloved former pastor and friend. So this news isn’t just a lot to process theoretically. It hits home personally,” wrote Covenant Life Interim Senior Pastor Kevin Rogers in a letter to his congregation, which was posted online on Saturday.
Rogers explained that after learning about Harris’ separation from his wife and decision to leave Christianity, he read through the New Testament book 1 Timothy.
“Several times Paul mentions former Christian leaders ‘swerving from,’ ‘wandering from,’ or ‘making shipwreck’ of their faith. So while this is sad and confusing, it isn’t new,” said Rogers.
Senior Pastor Rogers called for the congregation to pray for Harris and also to ask “the God of all grace and power for fresh resolve in your own fight of faith.”
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