Eugene Peterson on Changing His Mind About Same-Sex Issues and Marriage


(By Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service). When a journalist has a chance to interview a paragon of the Christian faith like Eugene Peterson, there’s a lot of pressure to pick the perfect questions. I’d asked him about why he was leaving the public eye and if he was afraid of death. I’d asked him about Donald Trump and the state of American Christianity. But there was one more topic I wanted to cover: same-sex relationships and marriage.

It’s one of the hottest topics in the church today, and given Peterson’s vast influence among both pastors and laypeople, I knew his opinion would impact the conversation. Though he has had a long career, I couldn’t find his position on the matter either online or in print. I did discover thatThe Message,” Peterson’s popular paraphrase of the Bible, doesn’t use the word “homosexual” and “homosexuality” in key texts. But this wasn’t definitive proof of anything. After all, those words never appear in any English translation of the Bible until 1946.

So here we discuss his views on this divisive topic. Peterson’s answers are measured, but pointed and provocative.

RNS: You are Presbyterian, and your denomination [PCUSA] has really been grappling with some of the hot button issues that we face as a culture. I think particularly of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Has your view on that changed over the years? What’s your position on the morality of same-sex relationships?

EP: I haven’t had a lot of experience with it. But I have been in churches when I was an associate pastor where there were several women who were lesbians. They didn’t make a big deal about it. I’d go and visit them and it never came up for them. They just assumed that they were as Christian as everybody else in the church.

In my own congregation–when I left, we had about 500 people–I don’t think we ever really made a big deal out of it. When I left, the minister of music left. She’d been there ever since I had been there. There we were, looking for a new minister of music. One of the young people that had grown up under my pastorship, he was a high school teacher and a musician. When he found out about the opening, he showed up in church one day and stood up and said, “I’d like to apply for the job of music director here, and I’m gay.” We didn’t have any gay people in the whole congregation. Well, some of them weren’t openly gay. But I was so pleased with the congregation. Nobody made any questions about it. And he was a really good musician.

I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.

RNS: A follow-up: If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?

EP: Yes.


Related articles:

A Response to Eugene Peterson’s Affirmation of Homosexuality

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships: A Review Article, by Tim Keller, The Gospel Coalition

Eugene Peterson on why he’s leaving public life and whether he fears death

Photo above: Eugene Peterson lecture at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Washington sponsored by the Seattle Pacific University Image Journal. (By Clappstar (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)



  1. REPLY
    Linda says

    The thinking of Rev. Peterson reveals a complacency that is concerning, but is represative of the PCUSA.
    Below the surface, there is a lack of awe and respect for God, God’s character, even God’s plan of salvation presented in Christ having to die for our sin. In essence, it is a form of idolatry….bringing God down to our views and agenda rather than being respectful and mindful of God as the One who alone gives dictates for His creation. Peterson tries to override God’s word, like so many others in twisting scripture to fit their wills not God’s will. Peterson is one voice, but a larger concern is those churches charged with shepherding a congregation, that takes a similar leadership view in leading people astray. God has severe warnings about this and Peterson and leaders should have the kind of awe of GOD that leads them to be more cautious in setting aside scripture.

  2. REPLY
    James h says

    I was a little surprised at this, but not shocked, and I love his translation of the Bible, WOW

  3. REPLY
    Robert Lee Stowe says

    The Bible is unequivocal about homosexual activity being a sin. I would refer Mr. Peterson to Matthew 18:6.

  4. REPLY
    T. H. Gilmore says

    Unfortunately, no surprise. Clearly a case of the “frog in the kettle” syndrome. Stick around the PCUSA for too long and you become marinated in their false teachings. The disappointing thing is, as a teacher, he leads the naive on to the path that leads to death.

  5. REPLY
    peter gregory says

    When in a few decades in the future and the book is written on the demise and death of the old mainline Protestantism the prime issue cited for the reason why, will be the entire LGBTQ matrix and sexuality matters. Nothing could be further from the truth, In Presbyterian polity if a church chooses to ordain say, a talking parrot as their next pastor, and Presbytery concurs, who is say otherwise. It’s their choice, good or bad. I think the vast majority of folks tend to live and let live. And keep your nose out of my backyard. And we all will get along in life.

    The root cause of the various death processes playing across the old denominations to greater and lesser degrees is administrative and management in origin. As pertains the PCUSA, folks and churches are fleeing the entity not so much because church X down the road called a LGBTQ person as their pastor, but most have figured out that the governing structure, Louisville, GA, OGA, PMA, the 170 Presbytery- synod model of polity is not only non-functional, but incompetent in organizational skills, tone deaf in response to others concerns, and venial to self-absorbed in their own concerns. They are trapped in their own organizational silos and echo-chambers of fawning sycophants. Their concerns for the health and welfare of the local churches are limited to matters of resource extraction, chilling of dissent, and or the various legal tugs of war , there at times everybody is suing everybody else. In essence they just do not care. Who and why would ever anyone want to sign on or sign up to that toxic stew?

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