The Maryland-based megachurch that I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Joshua Harris once led responded to the news of him leaving his faith and his wife, stating that it “hits home personally.”
“These updates are hard to hear. We love Josh and Shannon. For most of us, Josh isn’t just some distant public figure,” wrote Covenant Life Interim Senior Pastor Kevin Rogers in a letter to his congregation, which was posted online on Saturday by author and investigative journalist Julie Roys.
“He’s a beloved former pastor and friend. So this news isn’t just a lot to process theoretically. It hits home personally.”
Harris served as senior pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg from 2004 until his resignation in 2015 in order to pursue graduate studies at Regent College in British Columbia.
Rogers explained that after learning about Harris’ separation from his wife and decision to leave Christianity, he read through the New Testament book 1 Timothy.
“Several times Paul mentions former Christian leaders ‘swerving from,’ ‘wandering from,’ or ‘making shipwreck’ of their faith. So while this is sad and confusing, it isn’t new,” sai Rogers.
“Paul says some had gone off course theologically. Others behaved in ways that violated Christian conscience. For others, it was greed. In every case, Paul’s hope was for redemption and restoration. That these leaders would develop ‘love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.’ (1 Tim 1:5) That should be our hope and prayer for Josh as well.”
Rogers called for the congregation to pray for Harris and also to ask “the God of all grace and power for fresh resolve in your own fight of faith.”
Harris wrote the best-selling 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which rejected traditional dating and courtship, and also argued that any physical intimacy before marriage was sinful.
Earlier this month, years after having renounced the message of his book, Harris announced that he and his wife were separating, yet intended to remain friends to help raise their three children.
Then in an Instagram post last Friday, Harris announced that he no longer considered himself a Christian, referencing the biblical term “falling away” to describe his spiritual state.
“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,” wrote Harris in the Instagram post.
He also expressed regret for his past opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, explaining that he was “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,” Harris added.