Mired in a sea of controversy of his own making, an anti-gay Atlanta pastor set to be honored on Thursday has stepped aside and declined to be honored by the Jewish National Fund.
Charles Stanley, the 82-year-old senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta in Dunwoody, moved to quiet criticism of JNF and its honoring of him with its Tree of Life Award during a Thursday breakfast. The group stood by him, despite opposition from a gay Jewish group and gay-friendly religious leaders, but said Tuesday that Stanley is bowing out.
Pastor Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta and a best-selling author, has pulled out of an event during which he was to be honored.
According to Jewish National Fund spokesman Adam Brill, Stanley informed the Jewish National Fund “that because of his deep love for Israel, and his reluctance to be a point of controversy and conflict within the Jewish community, he has declined to be recognized at the Jack Hirsch Memorial Breakfast in Atlanta, on Thursday.”
SOJOURN called attention to Stanley's long history of anti-gay statements and urged JNF to reconsider honoring him. To which JNF told the gay Atlanta group to pound sand.
Stanley, according to SOJOURN, has called AIDS God’s punishment for homosexuality, called homosexuality “destructive behavior,” claimed that being gay is a choice and stated that “medical research has proven, absolutely unquestionably, that the person can be free from homosexuality if they want to.” He has said that “God does not agree with the lifestyle of the homosexual” and that accepting gay people is “an act of disobedience to God.” Stanley has evened put armed guards on horseback to keep gay Pride marchers from his church.
UPDATE | SOJOURN released a statement saying the group is pleased with Stanley's decision.
“We are pleased with the news that Dr. Charles Stanley has informed the Southeastern Region of the Jewish National Fund that he has declined to be recognized at the Jack Hirsch Memorial Breakfast on Thursday, April 23. We are grateful for the strong support of hundreds of rabbis, community leaders, and community members from around the country and in the Southeast. We look forward to a productive dialogue with JNF in the coming weeks and building our relationship together to support the local Jewish and LGBTQ communities and Israel.”