Michelle Shocked & Rob Bell Illuminate The Evangelical Divide

As reported by GLAAD and other online outlets, evangelical minister, author, and speaker Rob Bell made clear his support for marriage equality last weekend during a speech at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

"I am for marriage. I am for fidelity," he said. "I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man."

With this announcement, Bell moves from adopting a vague position on LGBT issues toward acknowledging that LGBT people have the civil right to marry.

However, Bell's statement did not make it clear whether or not this former pastor would perform same sex marriages or if he will push for equality in other areas of the church, such the ordination of LGBT people and advancing the role of women in the church.

Bell's announcement comes the same week that alt-folk icon and born-again Christian Michelle Shocked proclaimed "God hates fags" at a San Francisco show. Following a change.org petition created by LGBT activist John Becker, at least 10 venues canceled previously scheduled Michelle Shocked concerts.

In my reflection regarding Albert Mohler's articulation of the evangelical view of homosexuality, I questioned why even seemingly progressive evangelicals remained silent following Mohler's column. As I noted, "Silence speaks volumes. If progressive evangelicals do not agree with Mohler's position on homosexuality, it is time to articulate an alternative theology that addresses the concerns of the LGBT community."

Bell appears to have begun this quest by professing his own support for marriage equality. Moving forward, I hope that other progressive evangelical leaders will follow suit.

In particular, I hope that Bell can also move the conversation forward by creating spaces that welcome the contributions of women, people of color and and LGBT people. Those who might claim they favor academic rigor over diversity clearly have not been spending time with those clergy and academics working at the margins, for it is in these spaces that one finds theologies that can truly transform the world.

Photo via flickr user Paul Williams

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