Slog readers who wrote to Dr. Jeff Owens via Shenandoah Bible Baptist Church's website to register their disgust with his sermon calling for the murder of out gay men and lesbians have been getting this email back from Owens:

Nearly 15 years ago I preached a sermon that promoted physically hurting gay people. I was young, stupid and immature. I didn’t even hold to the belief of hurting people when I wrongly made those comments. I regret those words and have asked God to forgive me for them. I am not a believer in the gay life-style but I was profoundly wrong in making any comments about hurting people. If I could retract those words I certainly would.

I wrongly represented both God and myself. I truly believe that God is a God of LOVE. I believe he loves the whole world even when people in the world do things that are wrong; Such as my wrong representation of how to treat someone who does not believe the same way I do.

I no longer preach like that and I purposely teach and train others to preach and behave properly as well. The hurtful words in that sermon tape were erased many years ago and somehow have resurfaced much to my disappointment and embarrassment. I realize I have disappointed many who have heard those words in that sermon. May I include my disappointment in myself. Once again, I offer my humble apology.

With a sincere heart,

Jeff Owens

Stupid and immature I'll give him—but young?

Owens looks to be in his fifties, judging from the photo here. And according to his bio Owen has been "preaching the Gospel since 1976." So he had been a preacher for nearly two decades when he delivered his soon-to-be-infamous sermon way, way back in 1995. So, again, stupid and immature—and hateful and vile and disgusting—we can give him. But the man wasn't young.

I sent Dr. Owens an email asking for an interview. I'd like him to walk me—and all of you—through how he got from kill-the-gays to tolerate-the-gays-but-condemn-their-lifestyle. What changed him? Who touched his heart? What was his yellow-brick-road-to-Damascus moment like? My email to Dr. Owens is after the jump. I'll let you know if I hear back from him.

dr. owens,

my name is dan savage and i'm a writer, author, editor and... blogger. along with Joe Jervis, I posted that YouTube clip of your sermon today, the one where you seemed to be calling on your congregants to literally murder out gay men and lesbians. i understand that you've received numerous emails and calls as a result of your old sermon appearing on our websites today, and that you've responded directly to people who've reached out to you, disavowing that old sermon.

I was curious if you still believed the things you espoused in that sermon. earlier today i posted a link to what turned out to be a later sermon, one in which you explicity stated that harming gay people — or our property — was a sin. i pointed out the discrepancy between those two sermons. my post is here:

i would like to interview you for my blog, perhaps for my column, about that old sermon. i realize that you'll most likely regard my post and the updates, if you read them all the way through, as snarky and highly disrespectful. sorry about that. but so long as you're out there condemning my "lifestyle" — and you do continue to condemn my "lifestyle," whatever that means, even if you are no longer calling on your followers to actually murder me — i feel justified in subjecting you to a little sarcasm.

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anyway, dr. owens, if you would like to talk about that old sermon, what you were thinking when you delivered it, what you're thinking now, and if you would like to walk my readers through how your thinking evolved — how you got from openly advocating murder to instructing your followers to be tolerant — i would happily make some space available. you can take this as an opportunity to apologize to folks who were offended by your old sermon but also, around the edges, to do a little evangelizing in a place — my blog — where that sort of thing rarely ever happens.

let me know.

dan savage
editorial director
"the stranger"