Can a Christian Attend a Gay Wedding? Alistair Begg and the Bad Pharisee


Anne Kennedy

Article ID:



Apr 10, 2024


Apr 3, 2024
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“Can I attend a Gay Wedding?” This question has been bubbling up in Christian circles for almost twenty years. However, since Obergefell became the law of the land in 2015,1 it has become ubiquitous and unavoidable, dividing churches, families, and friends. Inherent in the question is a knot of theological and cultural threads tangled together — matters of identity, the gospel, the Scriptures, the nature of a celebration, evangelism, and all before you come to personal conviction. For some, the question is abstract and theoretical, though the number of people for whom that is true is diminishing at an accelerated rate. Recently, a study was released that just under 30 percent of professing Christian Millennials identify as one of the letters on the LGBTQ acronym.2 Most faithful believers are asking the question because they love someone who is planning to get “married.” They don’t want to blow up their relationships any more than they want to disobey the Scriptures.

Like so many others, about two months ago, my heart in my throat, I stood listening to a sermon by a preacher whose thoughtful and deft exegesis of the Bible over a lifetime has sustained me in innumerable ways. I was wandering around Aldi, trying to do my weekly shopping, distracted by my phone, when the link appeared in my feed. The preacher was Alistair Begg, and this was going to be his answer to the enormous pushback he received from the advice he gave on the subject of whether it is acceptable for a Christian to attend a gay or trans wedding.3 To a grandmother agonizing over what to do about the upcoming marriage ceremony of her grandson to a transgender person, Begg advised her to go.4

What astonished American evangelicals about his advice is that Begg is so persistently biblical in his preaching. He does not veer off text. He has never succumbed to progressive ideology. He has never minced words about anything the Bible says about contemporary American culture.

And yet, serious cracks show in the interaction Begg reports having. “Does your grandson understand your belief in Jesus?” he asked. She thought the grandson did. “Does your grandson understand that your belief in Jesus makes it such that you can’t countenance in any affirming way the choices that he has made in life?” continued Begg. The grandmother believed that was so. “Well then,” counseled Begg, “As long as he knows that, then I suggest that you do go to the ceremony. And I suggest that you buy them a gift.” The grandmother, Begg says, was “caught off guard.” He continued, possibly employing some form of Family Systems Theory,5 “Your love for them may catch them off guard, but your absence will simply reinforce the fact that they said, ‘These people are what I always thought: judgmental, critical, unprepared to countenance anything.’”6

Heartbroken, thousands of faithful Christians wrote to Truth for Life, asking for clarification. My husband was one of them. He expressed our appreciation for Begg’s preaching and our grief over this counsel. We serve a community in what many people call “hard ground,” a post-Christian world where tepid cultural Catholicism all but inoculates people to the gospel. Those who do believe struggle to find healthy churches and are pressed by social values that increasingly assume Christians are wicked for not becoming “affirming.” In our congregation, almost everyone has a close personal connection to someone identifying along the LGBTQ acronym. Many have family members, friends, and ordinary acquaintances who are caught up in destructive ways of life, and who yet demand affirmation and acceptance for their lifestyles. Thinking about the call of love in each particular situation and relationship occupies much of our care for our congregation. The question posed by that grandmother is one we face at least twice a month, usually more often.

Celebrate Me. Indeed, one has to have been living under a rock not to know the complexity of this issue. Every human relationship, regardless of sexual identity, represents a tangle of emotions and history, of love and shame, of anxiety and alienation. A parent whose child recently came out as gay, or (this actually occurred in my town) a sixty-year-old pastor who left his wife and congregation because he suddenly decided he is a woman, or the eighteen-year-old gender-bending grocery store clerk, or the two men dressed as women who wander around the gym I frequent — the instances of sex confusion that impinge on peaceful relationships proliferate. In each case, it isn’t just the individual who makes the choice, the whole community, fractured as it is, must respond or act, either in affirmation or opposition or apathy. The heartbreak and anxiety function as a cloud of disorientation for people trying to preserve and strengthen the few meaningful relationships they have left.

But the issue is also simple, though its simplicity is no less troubling. Faced with a congregation full of people who long to avoid being called bigots, pastors must, week by week, encourage the people of God to obedience and faith. God made the human person. God determines the parameters of the self and sexual activity. Most of all, God is the measure and meaning of love. Whether or not a person is caught in a web of relational complexity, the truth doesn’t change. Marriage is between one man and one woman (Ephesians 5:22–33). God created us male and female (Genesis 1:27). All sex outside of marriage is sin (Leviticus 18). God is love (1 John 4:8). Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing (1 Corinthians 13:6). God does not lie (Titus 1:1–3).

Christians who contemplate attending the wedding of two men together, or two women, are not anxious about tainting their witness or their personal holiness so much as communicating a lie to the beloved. By their very presence, they participate in a celebration that glorifies sexual sin.7 The ceremony joins two people together who may not be rightfully joined. The flowers, music, photographic record, and cake all tell a falsehood, that a blessing is falling over the couple and assembly, rather than a curse. A grandmother who loves her grandson or granddaughter will not do anything to communicate joy over the destruction of that precious child.

Mobs and Pharisees. Begg, to the grief of thousands of Christians, doubled down on his advice in his sermon.8 Working through Luke 15, he likened those who disagreed with him to the older brother, who, in the text, represents the Pharisees accusing Jesus of welcoming sinners and eating with them. This older brother would not rejoice at the return of the prodigal son. He, Begg says, was afraid of being tainted, polluted by the sins of the prodigal. This is a bit like those Christians today who are compassionless and hard against those caught in sin. By refusing to attend the wedding, they entrench the already accepted narrative that they are “judgmental, critical, and unprepared to countenance anything.” I stood, crushed in the baking aisle of Aldi, listening to this great preacher, for the first time in my hearing, twist the Scriptures.

It isn’t that a single child has run away to the pigsty and to wild living. Thousands of people who once lived within the warmth of Christian grace have embraced lives contrary to the truth of the gospel, and then turned, not to repentance and belief, but to demand acceptance of those anti-gospel values by the church and individual Christians. Those in the church, who, in this scenario, represent neither the older brother nor the younger one, are in a peculiar and sticky position, though one that Jesus warned many times they were sure to encounter. When a rebellious world demands the blessing of the church, or Christians in the church, a blessing the church and her members cannot give, those Christians inside that warm and gracious space have to gird up their loins. They must, in the same moment, celebrate the glad joy of being members of God’s household while mourning over those who refuse to repent and believe. They must rejoice over each prodigal who comes staggering home and yet resist the mob banging on the door demanding they cease being Christian at all.

Not to be pedantic, but the parable of the Prodigal Son was not a good text to justify the advice that it might be okay to go to a gay wedding. In fact, any way one works through the story, there are complexities that make the analogy break down. Certainly, there are ways to fall into Pharisaism, to judgmentalism, to hard-heartedness. But Christians anxiously grappling with how to love someone bound and determined to reject the God of the Scriptures are not those people.

Love Is Tearing Us Apart. The irony, tragically, is that the LGBTQ agenda is breaking real families apart. As young people, and older ones, confuse their sexuality for the spiritual satisfaction of being a child of God, mothers and fathers and grandmothers become overwhelmed by anxiety. It isn’t as though a young person decides to seek “gender-affirming care” or discovers a “queer” identity in total isolation from everyone else. Each one craves connection and the love of real family. But they demand the joy of fellowship while destroying the spiritual fabric that gives that love its richness and meaning.

More often than not, in the tangled web of family relationships, Christians fall into the trap of assuming that their relational connections carry salvific power. Ceasing to have a close connection to someone, it is believed, will sever the only possibility that person might ever have to hear the gospel and repent. But having once begun to believe that your personal love will be the gateway into eternal life, the opportunities to speak the truth suddenly narrow. So much emotional capital is poured into the eternal consequences of the beloved that the risk of speaking the truth becomes too great. The right moment is always just around the corner.

The truth is that there is a path down the center. Maintaining your relationship with a child or friend or loved one who is committed to sin is possible, while at the same time not celebrating the very thing that threatens to destroy her. You can go out to lunch, or have your child over for the weekend, or text 24/7, and at the same time, use your moral and spiritual witness to say no to the wedding.

Warm Comfort for a Lost Soul. It has been said hundreds and thousands of times by Christians down the ages that the reason marriage is between a man and a woman is because of the tableau it creates of the union between Christ and the church. Believers aren’t free to alter it, to expand it to same-sex couples or more than two people, nor to narrow it to some absurdity like “self-marriage,” because it doesn’t belong to us. We may participate in the mystery, but we are not its origin or measure. It is God’s gift of self-revelation that ordinary people unwittingly display.

Properly ordered Christian marriage is a grace, a spiritual balm, a thing of beauty. It is the household of faith, the affectionate life that manifests God’s immeasurable love for the world he has made. It is for these reasons that everyone wants a piece of it. Why would two men want to get “married?” Because they long to be made whole, to be gathered into the mystical union of Christ. And yet they refuse to be joined to God on the terms that God provides. Why would a woman try to change her sex to become a man, to make everyone refer to her by new pronouns and a new name? Because she is alienated first and foremost from God, and she longs to go back and find acceptance and mercy. And yet she will not ask for help to live within the limits of her own body. Why would a pastor, of all people, try to relieve the conscience of an anxious grandmother whose life has been upended by a child she loved? I don’t know the answer to that question, though I have a variety of guesses. Begg’s sermon was laced with a sense of personal grief, of disappointment that his detractors questioned his judgment.

It is a weary business to deal with a bride determined to run away from her husband. She stood by the side of the road, begging men to take her in, willing to offer money to anyone who would be with her (Ezekial 16). And yet her husband went, and got her, and paid the money to get her back (Hosea 3:2). He wasn’t just any husband. He was the sort of Husband who was willing to give His life to buy Himself this Bride. He paid for her in His blood. He spared nothing to rescue her out of the mire. Eventually, we will all be able to see what she is really like — her beauty, her light, her grace, her truth. We won’t see the huddled failure of disappointed Christians who can’t remember how to obey their Lord. We won’t remember how, when the world said dance, so many of us did. All we’ll be able to remember is how forgiving and kind our Savior is, and what a pleasure it is to be with Him. —Anne Kennedy

Anne Kennedy, MDiv, is the author of Nailed It: 365 Readings for Angry or Worn-Out People, rev. ed. (Square Halo Books, 2020). She blogs about current events and theological trends on her Substack, Demotivations with Anne.


  1. Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015). See “Obergefell v. Hodges,” Oyez, accessed April 2, 2024,
  2. Paul Bond, “Nearly 40 Percent of U.S. Gen Zs, 30 Percent of Young Christians Identify as LGBTQ, Poll Shows,” Newsweek, October 20, 2021, updated February 8, 2022,
  3. Alistair Begg, Sermon: “Compassion vs. Condemnation,” Parkside Church, January 28, 2024, The following is the original interview in which Begg spoke of offering the advice: Alistair Begg and Bob Lepine, “‘The Christian Manifesto’ Interview,” Truth for Life, September 1, 2023,
  4. In the initial interview, Begg says it was a grandson; in the sermon, he says it was a granddaughter and adds that he suggested the gift be a Bible and that the grandmother sit in the front row. See references in note 3.
  5. Edwin H. Friedman, in his seminal work, Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue (Guilford Press, 1985), offers a variety of suggestions to break through entrenched dysfunction in a family. One of them is to try doing the opposite of what is expected. In the sermon version of this event, it seemed Begg may have been thinking along these lines. Family Systems Theory can be an enormously helpful tool for pastors to employ, but all of Friedman’s extraordinarily helpful insights need to be guided and governed by the Scriptures.
  6. Begg and Lepine, “‘The Christian Manifesto’ Interview.”
  7. For an excellent point/counterpoint of whether or not a Christian should attend such a function, Joe Dallas and Michael F. Ross authored a pro-con piece in the Christian Research Journal entitled “Should Christians Attend Same-Sex Weddings? PRO — CON,” published February 25, 2015, updated August 15, 2023,
  8. Begg, Sermon: “Compassion vs. Condemnation.”
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