Alistair Begg stands by same-sex wedding advice

Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio.(Photo: Vimeo/American Family Studios)

Pastor Alistair Begg is refusing to backdown following a backlash over his advice to Christians about attending same-sex weddings.

In the podcast for his radio ministry "Truth For Life", the Ohio-based pastor discussed the advice he gave to a grandmother who asked him whether she should attend her grandson's wedding to a transgender person.

He told her that as long as her grandson was aware of her disapproval, it was okay for her to attend and that she should even "buy them a gift". 

He argued that staying away from the ceremony could reinforce "judgemental" stereotypes about the Church and that attending could "build bridges" with an unbelieving culture. 

His comments led to the American Family Radio, run by the American Family Association, dropping his programme. 

Addressing the controversy in front of his congregation at Parkside Church in Cleveland on Sunday, Begg suggested the pushback from critics reflected a form of "Pharisaism" and suggested that Christians attending same-sex weddings was no different to Jesus eating with sinners. 

He also suggested that his answer was specific to the particular circumstances of the grandmother and could not necessarily be applied to every situation. 

"In that conversation with that grandmother, I was concerned about the well-being of their relationship more than anything else. Hence my counsel. Don't misunderstand that in any way at all," he said. 

"If I was on the receiving end of another question about another situation from another person at another time, I may answer absolutely differently, but in that case, I answered in that way, and I would not answer in any other way no matter what anybody says on the internet."

He continued, "If people want me to recant and to repent ... I repent daily because I say a lot of things that I shouldn't say ... But the fact of the matter is, I'm not ready to repent over this. I don't have to." 

The comments by the influential 71-year-old have stirred debate on both sides of the Atlantic, with Christian Concern's Paul Huxley calling it "deeply unwise counsel". 

He argued that the participatory nature of a wedding ceremony makes it challenging for Christians to attend without signalling their approval and that Christians themselves could be tempted.

"The ceremony and reception are going to present this union as beautiful and good. Many Christians who know and believe what the Bible says on sexuality will still be emotionally vulnerable to this kind of deception," he wrote.

"A strong story, the smiles on peoples' faces, music, dance, wine; many Christians have been tempted by such things to believe that sin isn't such a big deal after all.

"On top of those temptations, the Christian is going to be pressed by others in attendance: 'wasn't that beautiful?', 'they make such an adorable couple, don't they?'. How many Christians would deftly handle that situation without either compromising or causing a scene?"