Eugene Peterson, author of over 30 best-selling books — including a paraphrasing of the bible, The Message — is reversing on comments he had previously made that seemed to support same-sex marriage.
The 84-year-old caused a controversy in the evangelical community when he said during an interview with Religious News Service that he would perform a same-sex marriage if he were still working as a pastor. (Peterson retired in 1991.) His answer caused some waves, and on July 12, the same day that Peterson’s interview was published, Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing division, LifeWay Christian Resources, said it was preparing to pull Peterson’s books, Christianity Today reported. The LifeWay website lists 135 books by Peterson, including several versions of The Message.
“LifeWay only carries resources in our stores by authors who hold to the biblical view of marriage,” said a spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention. “We are attempting to confirm with Eugene Peterson or his representatives that his recent interview on same-sex marriage accurately reflects his views. If he confirms he does not hold to a biblical view of marriage, LifeWay will no longer sell any resources by him, including The Message.”
Some took to social media to express their views about Peterson’s interview and about their faith.
“Truly, how sad that a creative voice like Eugene Peterson would forsake the Scripture and the Tradition that he so eloquently wrote of,” wrote one Twitter user. Another tweeted that Peterson was a “huge influence,” but added that “even our heroes are flawed.”
Truly, how sad that a creative voice like Eugene Peterson would forsake the Scriptures and the Tradition that he so eloquently wrote of.
— Andrew T. Walker (@andrewtwalk) July 12, 2017
Eugene Peterson has been a huge influence on me & many in my “tribe.” Even our heroes are flawed. There is only one hero who isn’t.
— Sammy Rhodes (@sammyrhodes) July 12, 2017
Eugene Peterson affirms same-sex marriage.
Reminds me: faithfulness is costly.
But the threat of losing eternal life is more costly still.
— Owen Strachan (@ostrachan) July 12, 2017
Others took to Twitter to defend Peterson.
The problem at the heart of the western church is illustrated in this: our pastors reject Eugene Peterson while affirming Donald Trump.
— Matt Coulter (@mattrcoulter) July 12, 2017
Following the social media blowback and LifeWay statement, Peterson issued a retraction of his original statement in the Washington Post, writing that he believes that marriage should solely be between a man and woman. His essay was published the day after the original Religion News Service piece went online.
“When put on the spot by this particular interviewer, I said yes in the moment. But on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that,” Peterson said. “That’s not something I would do out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching on marriage.”
Peterson also said that, “To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.”
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After his retraction, LifeWay spokeswoman Carol Pipes said that “we will continue to sell his resources,” USA Today reported.
His about face prompted responses from some in the LGBT community.
Honestly, Eugene Peterson’s about face today does more damage to the LGBTQ community than not saying anything in the first place.
— Jayson D. Bradley (@jaysondbradley) July 13, 2017
Evidently, white evangelical gatekeepers are more upset by Eugene Peterson being compassionate than they are by Donald Trump.
— Diana Butler Bass (@dianabutlerbass) July 13, 2017
Feels like World Vision again, huh? Such carelessness. LGBTQ friends, I’m so, so sorry. You deserve better. #EugenePeterson
— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) July 13, 2017
“Honestly, Eugene Peterson’s about face today does more damage to the LBGTQ community than not saying anything in the first place,” tweeted one user.