A popular Christian author who had her books withdrawn from LifeWay shops after announcing her support for gay rights has spoken out after receiving backlash.
In a lengthy Facebook post on Monday, Jen Hatmaker said she had come to her conclusion "with prayer and careful study and deliberation", and insisted: "We wrestled with and through Scripture, not around it."
"Our view of the Word is still very high, as is it for the hundreds of thousands of faithful believers who believe likewise."
She said she did not come to be in favour of same-sex relationships in order to gain "the approval of people", but instead after engaging with different perspectives and discussing the issue with trusted friends.
"Here is the truth: I don't love the approval of people, but I do love people," she wrote.
"I love them because Jesus' love for us is so insane and big and outside our templates and it reaches and reaches and reaches past our comforts to draw people to Him, and He does this with or without our permissions and sanctions and rules and hierarchies, and He has done it for all of time and will continue to do it for all of time. We are standing outside the city gates with people He asked us to stand with, and that is the beginning and end of it."
She urged readers to remember that the LGBTQ community will be watching as the conversation unfolds.
"They are watching how we respond, how we talk about them, how we actually feel about them in our churches," she said.
"They are your neighbors, your colleagues, they are in your churches already, some of them are in your homes, some of them are your children and you don't know it. Most of them are quiet because they are scared. With good and obvious reason. But they are beautiful people loved by Jesus and no matter what, we should speak in a way befitting the way of grace, the same way that found and saved and redeemed and healed us too.
"Please don't mistakenly take me to the mat in public or private and imagine it doesn't carry weight with tender, beloved people who are bearing witness to all this."
LifeWay announced they would be pulling Hatmaker's books from shelves last week. "In a recent interview, [Hatmaker] voiced significant changes in her theology of human sexuality and the meaning and definition of marriage – changes which contradict LifeWay's doctrinal guidelines," spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press.
In an interview with Religion News Service earlier last week, Hatmaker had said "any two adults have the right to choose who they want to love". She went on to say gay couples should have the "same legal protections as any of us".
She added: "From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not.
"Not only are these our neighbours and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn't treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better."
She went on to say she thought LGBT relationships can be holy.
Both Hatmaker and LifeWay have received public backlash for their decisions.