Prominent US pastor and speaker Max Lucado has apologised for being "disrespectful" and "hurtful" to the LGBTQ community after complaints were sparked following his invitation to preach at a Washington National Cathedral Sunday service.
In an open letter addressed to the Cathedral community, the pastor apologised and asked for "forgiveness of Christ".
The letter reads: "In 2004 I preached a sermon on the topic of same-sex marriage. I now see that, in that sermon, I was disrespectful. I was hurtful. I wounded people in ways that were devastating. I should have done better. It grieves me that my words have hurt or been used to hurt the LGBTQ community."
It continued saying that he believes in "the traditional biblical understanding of marriage" but "LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ families must be respected and treated with love" as "They are beloved children of God".
Lucado had been invited to preach at a Sunday service at the Washington National Cathedral on 7th February but his 2004 sermon caused outrage among many members of the church, resulting in the launch of a petition demanding the resignation of Dean of the Washington Cathedral, the Very Reverend Randy Marshall Hollerith.
"Lucado's teaching and preaching inflicts active harm on LGBTQ people. To cite one example, in 2004 he wrote of his fears that homosexuality would lead to "legalized incest" and likened same-sex marriage to incest and bestiality. Fear-mongering and dehumanizing messages from powerful speakers like Lucado have been used to justify rollbacks of LGBTQ rights and to exclude LGBTQ people from civil protections and sacred rites," the petition reads.
However, the leaders of the church ultimately allowed him to preach.
Responding to the petition, the Very Revd Randy Marshall Hollerith said the purpose of inviting Lucado was to "build bridges" but recognised he had "made a mistake", apologising for inviting Max Lucado to preach while ignoring the concerns from his congregants.
"In my attempt to build new relationships with others, I didn't see how my actions were damaging already cherished relationships with those who have been hurt by words and teachings of religious leaders like Reverend Lucado. And for that I apologize.
"Was it a mistake to invite Max Lucado to preach at the Cathedral? Seeing all too clearly now the pain that it caused and the trauma it resurrected for so many, I know that it was. I made a mistake and I am sorry."
Concluding his letter, Lucado said he shares the Cathedral's commitment to "building bridges and learning how to listen -- to really listen -- to those with whom we disagree" and added: "That work is difficult, it is hard, it is messy, and it can be uncomfortable. But we need it now more than ever."
Revd Hollerith will hold an online public discussion on 21st February to hear about the experiences of his congregation.