A former pastor who once said he didn’t believe in any physical touch before marriage is now getting divorced, and says he’s no longer Christian

Joshua Harris the author of

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Joshua Harris the author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.”
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Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

  • On Friday, prominent former pastor Joshua Harris, the author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” wrote on Instagram that he no longer considers himself Christian.
  • He also apologized for using his platform to oppose equality for LGBTQ people.
  • “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,” he wrote.
  • Harris and his wife Shannon Bonne, a musician, had previously announced that they were getting divorced.
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On Friday, Joshua Harris, a former pastor and author, wrote on Instagram that he no longer considers himself Christian.

When Harris was 21, he published “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” The book emphasized a chaste approach to dating and encouraged people to avoid all physical touch until marriage, including kissing.

Now, Harris has said he and his wife, Shannon Bonne, are getting divorced and that he no longer considers himself Christian.

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My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.)⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” 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.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. I have lived in repentance for the past several years—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.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

A post shared by Joshua Harris (@harrisjosh) on

In an Instagram post on Friday, Harris said he recently underwent a “massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus.”

“By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian,” he wrote. “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.⁣⁣”

Harris also apologized to members of the LGBTQ community for not standing for equal rights.

“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,” he wrote. “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.⁣⁣”

On July 17, Bonne and Harris announced their divorce, citing that “in recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us.”

This isn’t the first time Harris, who was a pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, from 2004 to 2015, has spoken out against his previously held views. In 2018, he asked his publisher to stop printing “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” as he no longer agreed with the content, he wrote in a blog post.

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“In light of the flaws I now see in ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye,’ I think it’s best to discontinue its publication, as well other supplemental resources tied to it (this includes the two books I wrote after it whose content is similar),” he wrote. “My publisher, whose encouragement in this process has been deeply meaningful to me, supports this decision and will not reprint the books after the current copies in their inventory are sold.”

He was also the subject of a documentary called “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” which explored the ramifications of Harris’ book and the purity movement within the Evangelical church and youth groups.

“You can have good intentions, and think you’re making good decisions, but the effect in people’s lives can be very different than you’d planned,” Harris told NPR. “And that’s the first time that I started thinking, ‘Maybe there are problems with my book.'”