Friday, January 27, 2006

Bill Gaither and Mark Lowry - Whaaaaa???

Bill Gaither has been around FOREVER. I remember singing (or listening to my sisters sing) "I AM A PROMISE" on my parents' eight-track in the old Dodge Royal Monaco growing up. (It's bubblin', bubblin', bubblin' in my soul . . . God likes to talk to little boys while they're fishin' . . . oh, the memories!). Gaither even has a page in the Baptist Hymnal - he wrote "He lives, He lives - Christ Jesus lives today - you ask me how I know He lives - He lives within my heart."

Gaither's fame and influence has increased exponentially with the incredible popularity of his "Homecoming" concerts and video reunions. On these occasions, he manages to get the best and brightest in the Souther Gospel industry to gather and soulfully sing everyone's favorites. Anyway, we've all heard of Bill Gaither and those he sings with, such as comedian/singer Mark Lowry.

You might not have heard of Marsha Stevens. The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music says “If Larry Norman is to be called the father of Christian Rock, then Marsha Stevens certainly deserves to be known as the mother of contemporary Christian music, a title that Christian Century and others have bestowed upon her. She was the leader of what is considered to be the world's first contemporary Christian music group, Children of the Day.”

Where Marsha Stevens really became famous was a decision she made -
Stevens became the first (and as of 2002, the only) major singer in the contemporary Christian music subculture to identify herself publicly as a lesbian…Christian Century Magazine has said that Stevens became "conservative Christianity's worst nightmare - a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, God-fearing lesbian Christian."

Someone will have to explain the multiple-level oxymoron in that description. If you can, I'll explain to you why that is no nightmare to me! Such a creature does not exist!

David Cloud (and I am no big fan of David Cloud and his KJV-Only & Anti-Reformed Theology screeds) but let's not fall prey to the genetic fallacy here - consider the argument as presented, not the presenter of the argument) wrote the following: (You can read Stevens' own version of the night HERE: (http://www.christiangays.com/news.shtml) - just do a page search for "Gaither" or scroll down til you see it (near the bottom as of Jan 27)).

In late 2002, Bill Gaither and Mark Lowry met with and encouraged Marsha Stevens, the lesbian author of the popular gospel song "For These Tears I Died." Stevens, who has a ministry called BALM (Born Again Lesbian Music), attended the Gaither Homecoming concert in Phoenix in December 2002, with her lesbian partner. (NOTE: Here's a picture of Stevens with her "bride" at their "wedding.")

Mark Lowry, who has sung with the Gaither Vocal Band for many years, approached her and said that he was proud of what she is doing. Surprised, she said, "You know what I'm doing now?" He replied: "I sure do and I wish the fundamentalists would find Jesus. They're going to have a lot to answer for, leaving out people that Jesus died for" (Marsha Stevens, New Years Eve 2002 with Bill Gaither," www.christiangays.com).

Bill and Gloria Gaither then came over and told her that they, too, appreciate her ministry today. A photo at Stevens' web site shows her and her lesbian partner with Bill Gaither and Mark Lowry.

In the last part of the concert later that night, Gaither invited the crowd to sing along to "For Those Tears I Died." He then said: "You know, the young woman who wrote that song is here with us tonight, and maybe you're like she was and you've heard about a God who would reject you for who you are or who might turn you away for something you've done or where you've come from. Well I want you to know that I don't know that God. The only God I know is the one in this song that she wrote. The one that says, 'I am right here for you.' The one who sent His son. The one who says, 'You are my child, I love you, come stand by my side.' So sing with me again!"

I am stunned! Gaither and Lowry might think they are doing what Jesus would do - the whole "judge not" thing. But this is not showing Christian love to these two women. These two men are giving tacit approval and are outright condoning their sinful lifestyle. That is not presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When Christ crossed paths with individuals engaging in open public sin, He told the woman caught in adultery to "go and sin no more" and confronted one woman with the truth that she was living in sin with another man. Jesus sure didn't just idly hope the fundamentalist Pharisees would find Him! Jesus would have told these two ladies that what they are doing is wrong and they need to repent!

I tried to verify this story. A friend of mine contacted Mark Lowry Productions and received an answer that this episode occured several years ago and has been retold and changed so much that it is hardly accurate anymore. The answer further revealed that they no longer respond to this issue (and did so this time only because of a common bond with this friend). That is amazing to me - if this event did not happen the way the gay community thinks it did, I would want everyone to know the truth and would place a permanent link on my website and have a form letter/form email at the ready for each and every inquiry.

With all that being said, I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt. But, on the chance that this is true at all - shame on Lowry and Gaither for bowing before the politically correct throne of the world and allowing their ministries and thoughts to be governed by a worldly anti-biblical tolerance for evil.

Shame on Lowry and Gaither for compromising the gospel of Christ. You can talk all you want about "not judging" and "loving the sinner and hating the sin," but sin is sin. Just because many don't call out divorce or other such plagues in the church is no excuse to let slide another sin - especially one that is so public.


12 comments:

Jim Pemberton said...

Astonishing, but not unprecedented. God's love is an outcropping of His Holiness. Therefore, there is no godly love without righteous judgment (which should not be confused with legalistic judgmentalism).

When conservative Christians use the term "fundamentalists" the connotation is "legalist". Liberals use the term in reference to conservatives to confuse them as "legalists" while ignoring the distinction between godly judgment and legalistic judgmentalism.

So when Bill Gaither uses the term, his condoning of homosexuality indicates that he fails to see the distinction. There is no love in ignoring - or especially in condoning - sin.

Chuck said...

If I were Larry Norman I wouldn't be very happy about being mentioned in the same conversation along with Martha Stevens. It's interesting that in the late 60's and early 70's Larry Norman was completely ostracized from the conservative/contemporary Christian music establishment as well as most mainline Christian organizations. Stores wouldn't sell his music, radio wouldn't play his songs. He had to go overseas, he spent a lot of time in China visiting underground churches and played solo for 6-8 people at a time. Why was he ostracized? Loud music and long hair. 30 years later Bill Gaither still will not have anything to do with Larry Norman but he'll stand shoulder to shoulder and endorse what Martha Stevens is doing. That says a lot. Here's a message from Larry Norman. Bill Gaither and the contemporary/southern gospel apologists might learn from it.

AS I SEE IT

A Joyful Noise

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

I think that most of us have heard this Bible verse before.

What does the word “joyful” connote?

It suggests an overflowing, irrepressible expression. But what kind of noise is appropriate for utterance in the presence of God? And how can we best convey joy in our worship?

Psalm 33 says, “Rejoice in the Lord, oh you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.”

This seems to imply that God “hears” the righteousness of our heart, not the execution and demonstration of our verbal, musical acuity. Not the decibel level.

“Praise the Lord with the harp. Make melody with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song.”

Mouth harp, stringed harp, six string guitar, ten string cuatro or charango; whatever instruments might exist within your culture. Does it matter? Probably much more important is this; that you “Sing to Him a NEW song.”

“Play skillfully with a shout of joy.”

“Skillfully”: do your best with all your heart, soul and might. “With a shout of joy.” Again the joy which can’t be whispered – it bubbles up and overflows and explodes into a shout.

"For the Word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice;

God seeks to find righteousness and justice in His people. God “hears” our hearts."

FROM YOUR LIPS TO GOD’S EAR:
For a Christian who is attempting to worship and praise God, what exactly is God hearing us express when we are in the act of communicating our gratefulness to Him?

If I may offer a suggestion, the Bible doesn’t say “Make a contrived noise unto the Lord.” And it doesn’t say “Make a socially acceptable noise unto the Lord.” And it doesn’t say “Make a very commercially pleasing noise unto the Lord.”

So if you are trying to “praise” and “worship” God with one of the more prominent selections from the Time-Life Series Of PRAISE AND WORSHIP SONGS (As Advertised On TV) then I’m not really sure if God is that much interested. In fact, I’m quite sure He’s already heard those particular songs thousands of time.

But I think, deductively, that God would be pleased if you “Sing to Him a NEW song.”

I believe that the song which overflows from your heart is the song God wants to hear. And it has never been expressed in that exact way until the moment you “confess” and declare it and offer it to Him. It is a new song. It wasn’t contrived by a professional “praise and worship” writer who cranks out songs for the publishing division of the record company which specializes in the distribution of music which conforms to this very popular genre. The Bible doesn’t say, “Make a contemporary noise unto the Lord.” Remember, the NEW song can only come from YOU.

“Well, I don’t really know how to write a song. It can’t be very good,” you might think.

But the very fact that you can’t formulate a structured composition is possibly what God would appreciate about it the very most. The humble song of the righteous man is more pleasing than the competent song of the professional writer who gives God “lip service” ... for a price.

God is seeking a relationship WITH us, not a performance FROM us. He wants us to open up the parts of us which can’t be opened, except by letting go. He wants to enter into the uncharted, undesignated, unchoreographed parts of our faith.

ENTER INTO HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING:
I don’t believe that God cares about record sales and popularity and chart position. And I somewhat wonder if the C.C.L.I. organization (Christian Copyright Licensing International) – which charges money every time the church sings a praise and worship song which is registered by their society – is cause for vexation in the Heavenlies? After all, if a song is written FOR God, to worship God, then shouldn’t it be GIVEN to God? If it’s FOR Him, shouldn’t HE own it?

God doesn’t charge us a fee to worship Him. Isn’t it enough that the publisher and writer make money from the CD sales? Do they also have to be paid every time a congregation sings their song? They also get paid for the sheet music which choirs use to memorize their compositions. Isn’t that enough money?

And if the praise and worship staff writer says “Well, it’s not exactly written FOR Him, it’s supposed to be TO Him. It’s for people to use when they sing TO Him” – then what is its true purpose? Adoration through worship or royalty accrual?

Should the church be forced to pay when they use music to “Enter into His Gates with Thanksgiving, and into His Courts with Praise.” Is it wrong to praise God or worship God in song unless there is payment to a licensing organization?

As a matter of fact, this idea of paying on a “per song” basis reminds me of ancient church history when a prayer was believed to be more speedily directed to Heaven when accompanied with a lit candle – and each candle had a price. The people were told that the prayers ascended more effectively up toward Heaven, carried by the wispish curl of smoke from the wick and flame.

When Jesus came into the temple and cleansed it by driving out the “money changers,” the problem was the same. Only temple money could be used to buy a sacrifice. Secular money had to be traded in for temple money. If Ten World Dollars can only buy One Temple Dollar, then the worshippers are being told that their sacrifices aren’t good enough unless officially sanctioned by the church; that their candles aren’t holy enough; that the New Song which springs from a believer’s lips is not as spiritual as an official praise and worship song, seen via the overhead projectors.

Am I making any sense? I find that words are sometimes so ineffectual. Let me ask you a different question. What would you think of a contemporary culture where one person was chosen as “the winner” for the BEST PRAYER OF THE YEAR Award?

“And now this highly coveted prize for The Best Prayer Of The Year goes to Ronnie Repettis. Ronnie, that was a GREAT prayer. It has warmed the hearts of people all over the world. It’s made such an impression upon the pop culture that it was featured on the Time Life CNN Aol.com website download called ‘WOW, THAT’S WHAT I CALL PRAYER.’ Ronnie, this must be your proudest moment...I mean...your humblest moment.”

“Well, thanks, everyone. I really appreciate this award. I’d like to mention a few names here...I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick up this award again this year but...I didn’t want to forget anyone so I wrote all of the names down. First of all...I’d like to thank my support team, all the staff at Intercession Publications, all the undocumented factory workers in the print house who have been listed as voting members of the Academy...and of course, my wife and kids for really inspiring me to write down this prayer. And I just want to say to any of you kids out there who might be having a flagpole prayer meeting at school in the morning, or who might even just be praying before your big test....you never know when you might get the inspiration for that special prayer...and then, if you pay your dues and work hard at it...you’ll be up here someday, encouraging others.”

BEST PRAYER:
I guess that sounds preposterous. But in actuality, there have been “hit” prayers, written down and recited by others, centuries after the original author has passed away. Top Ten Hit Prayers. How about the Serenity Prayer, (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...”) the Prayer of St. Francis ("O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace! Where there is hatred, let me sow love...”), The Irish Prayer (“May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be ever at your back...And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”) and of course the famous bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

And while we mortals DO give out Grammies and Dove Awards and other graven images for Best New Artist, Best Album Of The Year and now even for Best Praise and Worship Album, we certainly don’t yet give out awards for Best Prayers. In fact most of the written “prayers” which are read at political forums, national holiday events, inaugurations and state funerals have one thing in common. Most seem, at least to me, dreadfully boring, formally rigid and only vaguely sincere.

Let us consider the nature of prayer. When you worship God, does your prayer have to be “memorable”? Does it have to be quoted by others, circulated on the Internet, printed on posters and wall plaques for God to take note of?

No. Of course not. The Bible says that when we pray, God inclines His ear toward us. He hears the prayer of our heart. God inclines His ear toward those who pray with sincerity.

Jim Pemberton said...

Amen, Chuck. (Many people also confuse "joyful noise" with "talent".)

I generally don't mention this, but it seems appropriate here. Several years ago, God caused me to fast from music ministry for a period of about three years. I sang congregational music on Sunday morning, but otherwise sang and played praise to God in total solitude. Knowing the sin of my heart, that I struggle with seeking any praise for myself, I need the experience of relying only on God for acceptance of my musical praise so that when I offer anything in public, it can't be with any thought that I deserve anything, but that God should receive all glory and praise.

Therefore, it pains and angers me that a platform for praise to God should be used to promote sin against God.

Joseph said...

Who are you to judge these people. Your so called "Christian" lifestyle has blinded you to what is or is not acceptable in the eyes of God.

Remember, the "Bible" you so embrace was written by "Man" who is not with out fault or flaws and you can tell in the writing of this so called "Inspired" Word of God. If God "Inspired" these words, then this "God" is full of errors himself and "God" the ONE TRUE GOD, can not error or make mistakes, yet his "Bible" is full of errors, mistakes and plagiarism.

Jeff A. Spry said...

Who is your one true God, Joseph?

Lee said...

Bill Gaither Issues Statement Regarding Misrepresentation

Photo to Right: Marsha Stevens, second from left (an open lesbian who's career is singing Gospel music) with her wife, Cindy. The man to the right of Marsha is Southern Gospel Music legend, Bill Gaither. Marsha had just performed on the show at a Gaither Homecoming concert. Far right is Mark Lowry.

ALEXANDRIA, IN (Press Release) - Apparently, a visit by Marsha Stevens to a Gaither Homecoming concert in 2002 is being misrepresented and misused by her and others. Marsha Stevens is an outspoken lesbian singer-songwriter who operates an organization called Born Again Lesbian Music (BALM Ministries). Her story is a sad one.

In 1969, as the 16 year-old leader of what many consider to be the first contemporary Christian music group, Children of the Day, Marsha wrote "For Those Tears I Died," which quickly became one of the most popular songs of the so-called Jesus Movement. Featured on "Maranatha's "The Everlasting Living Jesus Music Concert" album, her song became one of the best known Christian folk songs of the decade.

Gloria and I, along with hundreds of churches around the country have sung that song for years. Unfortunately, in more recent years Marsha publicly declared herself to be lesbian and took her music and work in a very different direction from where it started.

In December 2002, we had a Gaither Homecoming concert in Phoenix, where someone told us she was in attendance and asked if she could come backstage and say hello. Mark Lowry and I greeted Marsha and her partner and someone snapped a photograph of the four of us, a picture Marsha has exploited on her Web site ever since. False reports of what transpired at the concert have also surfaced on various Web sites so we pulled the videotape of the concert and reviewed it. Here is exactly what happened.

Gloria and I were celebrating our 40th anniversary that night and we sang a number of songs that had been special to us over the years, including, "For Those Tears I Died." I mentioned, from the platform, that the woman who wrote that song "is here tonight." I then said that I love that song because someone "may have seen a grownup with a Jesus that maybe is pushing you away, that wouldn't let you in. And you were never good enough. The only Christ I know is the Christ in that song, with His arms out very wide, saying, "Come to the water, That's the only Christ I know -- come as you are."

We then continued the concert without any further mention of Marsha or this song. Any other report of this concert is simply and sadly false. I regret that this brief exchange has apparently been used to suggest some sort of endorsement of Marsha and her current life and work. Clearly I do not endorse or support either, though I believe God can, and does still use this song to minister to people. I pray for Marsha and encourage others to do the same.

Bill Gaither

END

Emily said...

Do you understand that people like you (Jim) are the reason that dozens of depressed teenagers kill themselves every month? Do you realize the anger, exclusion and judgement that are in your words? Where in the the exact words of Jesus, (and only Jesus, not the racist bigots who penned the rest of the new testament) do you find justification for such hatred? Are you really a disciple if you cast stones?

Maybe you should grow a pair, think outside of the blinders of typical extremist (similar to Islamic extremism, actually) conservative "theology", and look at what the One you claim to follow actually said.

Have a fabulous day!

el said...

Oh My! God is LOVE. Simple truth. Stop judging. That is not your job. Jesus loves all of his children! No matter what they have done, will do, or are doing. If we give our hearts to HIM, he loves us unconditionally. And he forgives all sin, no matter what it may be!! Stop hate. Spread Love!

oldtimeway1 said...

We need to remember God hates sin but loves the sinner. Last time I checked, homosexuality was still a sin according to Romans 1; there is also an entire list there that will make you holler ouch if you can't holler amen.

Oh, and what kind of Baptist Hymnal you have???? Bill Gaither did not write "He Lives" (He lives, He lives, . . .) Get your facts straight. He and Gloria wrote "Because He Lives" which very well might be in your hymnal. Please check your facts out before running folk down. It doesn't help add to one's credibility.

Howard Hawkins said...

The wonderful hymn in the Baptist hymnal "He Lives" was NOT written by Bill Gaither; it was penned by Alfred Ackley (1887-1960). This historical and musical error makes me seriously question the credibility of this article's author.

tami unruh said...

Just because we don't approve of the gay people doesn't mean that we hate them, we just hate their lifestyle, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the gay people so no true christian can condone it or make it ok because it is not!

Hay Man said...

I believe we are not to judge each other..
We need to make sure our relationship with God,study the Bible, earnestcprayer, and we'll see what is right and wrong..
We are not to follow any men, any customs and traditions, and any organization
But only God....