By Associated Press
July 31, 2019

A former relationship guru and megachurch pastor who advocated premarital purity in his million-selling 1997 book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” now says he’s “not a Christian” — and he hopes gay people will forgive him for contributing “to a culture of exclusion and bigotry.”

“I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus,” Joshua Harris announced. “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

Harris posted his explanation on Instagram, where he announced earlier in July that he and his wife, Shannon, are divorcing. In his post, Harris also said, “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 … I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful.”

Harris quit as senior pastor at the Covenant Life Church in Maryland in 2015, renounced his bestseller and moved to Canada. He now runs a marketing strategy firm in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“I have lived in repentance for the past several years,” Harris wrote in his post, “repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few. But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am 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’ book — published when he was 22 — warned that dating could cause irreparable emotional damage, and recommended that young people pursue friendship before romance. Harris advocated for strict boundaries, including no kissing or holding hands. In the process of repudiating his book, Harris became the subject of a documentary film, “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” in which he sat down with some of the book’s harshest critics and listened to their stories.

Harris subsequently announced that his publisher would halt future printings of the book.

Contacted by The Associated Press, Harris declined to grant an interview, but sent a link to an interview he gave in April to PremierChristianity.com. In that interview, he said the decision to renounce his book entailed “a lot of sadness and a lot of regret.”

“It was harder for me than I think I anticipated,” he said. “It was my ability to say I was a bestselling author, so to critique it and ultimately to bury it and discontinue the publishing of it felt like a part of me was dying.”

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