Shortly after announcing via Instagram that he was kissing Christianity goodbye, former pastor and author Joshua Harris was recently seen marching in Vancouver's Pride Festival.
A photo was posted on Twitter of Harris and gay rock singer, Trey Pearson at the parade on August 4.
— Trey Pearson “LOVE IS LOVE” OUT NOW (@treypearson) August 4, 2019
On July 26, Harris shared that he was renouncing his Christian faith and that he and wife Shannon would be permanently separating.
My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision. I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.) The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now. Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. 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. But I specifically want to add to this list now: 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. To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Harris also used his farewell post to issue an apology to and to announce his support for the LGBTQ community. He credited his erstwhile perspectives to his "self-righteousness" and "fear-based approach to life."
"To the LBGTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality," he continued. "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," he added.
Last fall, the 44-year-old author and former pastor started by rejecting his past writings, saying he "no longer agrees with its central idea that dating should be avoided," referring to his book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," which was popular in conservative Christian circles.
Harris' more recent announcements about his marriage and loss of faith have shocked the Christian community, but evangelical leaders are urging believers to hold on to their faith.
Dr. Corne Bekker, dean of the School of Divinity at Regent University, says there are many lessons for us to learn from Harris' story.
"What's very sad for me is that Joshua has not only given up on the faith, he's given up on all of the principles he has stood for so long," Bekker explained. "The Scripture says that when we see somebody fallen and trespassed like this, that we should correct them. But do it in a spirit of gentleness. And then watch ourselves as well."
The members of the church Harris pastored for 11 years are understandably shocked and dismayed at this turn of events. How should his former congregation cope as they're struggling to come to grips with Harris' announcement?
"I would say to them 'hold on to the faith," Bekker told CBN News. "The glorious thing about the Christian faith is that it's not located in a human person. It's located in the faithfulness of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior. So I would say to them, 'Hold on to the scriptures. Hold on to Christ. Your foundation is firm.'"
Harris' former church, Covenant Life, issued a statement to the congregation that included a strong message of faith.
That old Bukowski poem has been ringing in my ears. “If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start.” Well, I’ve started. But there is a long road ahead. And maybe a cold park bench. Two seemingly contradictory things are important for me right now: First, to refuse to disappear. To live my life. Hold my head up. Look my Christian friends in the eyes and smile when I pass them on the sidewalk. Even the seemingly insignificant act of posting a picture on Instagram is important for me. To say I’m here, I’m alive, I’m not ashamed. Second, to sit in quietness and be silent. The inner journey that I’m on isn’t something that I need to broadcast. Which is why I’m not engaging in public arguments online. It’s why I’m not doing any interviews with the media. It’s why I’m not writing a book or starting a podcast. I want connection and relationships and dialogue with real people. But I need to avoid audiences and the pressure of becoming a spokesperson for anyone or any cause. That has gotten me into trouble in the past. Your letters and stories have been such an encouragement. Your forgiveness has meant so much. I am reading what you’ve written even if I can’t always respond. To know you’ve walked this road or are just starting out has been a gift. I am learning from you and I feel less alone.
On a recent Instagram post, Harris wrote that he has "started", but he won't "disappear."
"The inner journey that I'm on isn't something that I need to broadcast. Which is why I'm not engaging in public arguments online. It's why I'm not doing any interviews with the media. It's why I'm not writing a book or starting a podcast. I want connection and relationships and dialogue with real people," he wrote.