Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and former senior pastor at Covenant Life Church, has issued a new statement on his Instagram account. He is being very honest. Not only does he confirm that he is going through a divorce, not just a separation, but he has also abandoned his faith. I’ve copied the text below in case it doesn’t show up large enough in the Instagram post.
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.”
I have nothing but heart-felt support for Josh. Yes, I know some of you are upset because of how the SGM sex abuse scandal was handled and you believe Josh did not tell the truth. Yes, I know some of you don’t believe that he was sincere enough in his apology about his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Also, some of you feel like he didn’t represent you well in the documentary. I get it. I really do. And your concerns are valid and appropriate. I don’t want to dismiss your reality at all. It’s important to acknowledge the truth – from all sides.
In my earlier post about Josh, I shared my thoughts that I believe he was a victim of the culture in which he was raised. I mentioned his father, Gregg Harris, was a superstar in the Christian Homeschool Movement. This culture was destructive. It has left families in shambles, some completely torn apart.
And then he moved on to be mentored by C.J. Mahaney and take his place as senior pastor. We all know about C.J.’s character and why so many pastors removed their churches from the mother ship, Covenant Life and Sovereign Grace Ministries.
So then, after Josh left CLC and moved to Vancouver with his family, he sought out – asked for – people to send him stories about how his book affected them. I have read many, many comments and articles on the internet of people sharing how Josh’s book harmed them, their marriage, contributed negatively to their lives. Try to imagine yourself as Josh reading all of those notes – knowing your book affected lives so deeply. That’s pretty heavy.
Not many people are willing to do that. I give Josh credit for taking the difficult road and trying to understand what people went through.
Somewhere along this process, evidently Josh has also been questioning his faith and foundation. This is understandable. He’s in his 40s and doesn’t it make sense that he would want to re-evaluate his core beliefs after the mess he inherited and left at CLC?
Josh says he is no longer a Christian. He had to say that because in his old Calvinist camp, of course they would say that. They probably say that he never was a Christian because that’s what Calvinist’s believe: once God calls you, you can never leave. If you leave, then you never were. At least that’s what I’ve been told numerous times by numerous Calvinists.
We don’t know the spiritual and emotional battles he has faced these past years as he has been reflecting. We don’t know what has been in his thoughts or his heart. But for some reason, he has been willing to share part of his journey publicly with us. He didn’t have to share anything, but by doing so, he is showing his humanity, his vulnerability, and transparency.
But do you know how difficult it is to challenge everything that you’ve ever known? Do you know how difficult it is to take what you’ve learned from your parents and sift through it? Do you know the emotions that go along with that – the feelings of anger, betrayal, and sadness when you discover that you can no longer hold onto those teachings?
“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.”
Josh is not alone in this journey. There is a grieving process during this sifting work. It takes time, along with emotional and physical energy. This is hard work. But Josh is currently walking the path that many of us who have harmed by church have taken. This is good stuff. We should be grateful that he is doing this necessary and challenging work.
We do not know where Josh will be spiritually in 10 years. I am very grateful that he is taking the time to reflect and figure out where he is emotionally and spiritually. I hope and pray that he is able to weed through the crap, and when he gets to the end of the end of this process, that he finds Jesus, who was waiting for him the whole time. The sad reality in many of these personal stories is that he may not find Jesus, and I understand why he may not, but that is my sincere hope and prayer. Let’s give him the time and space he needs to do that.