Tony Campolo Calls For Full Acceptance Of Gay & Lesbian Christians Into The Church

On Monday, Dr. Tony Campolo, well known evangelical activist, educator, speaker, and founder of Red Letter Christians released a statement on his blog announcing his official change of heart and mind on inclusion of gay couples in the church. In the statement he says: 

While I have always tried to communicate grace and understanding to people on both sides of the issue, my answer to that question has always been somewhat ambiguous. One reason for that ambiguity was that I felt I could do more good for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters by serving as a bridge person, encouraging the rest of the Church to reach out in love and truly get to know them. The other reason was that, like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right.

It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.

Dr. Campolo has been an advocate for a more Christ-like and loving posture towards LGBTQ people in the church for many years now. His wife, Peggy has also been an advocate for full inclusion for many years, while Tony has notably remained unchanged in his position about what the Scriptures teach about same-sex relationships. Until now.

A new day is dawning in Christianity, indeed.

The Spirit of God is moving on the hearts of Christian pastors, leaders, and laypeople alike and causing many to return to the Scriptures again with fresh eyes, listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit calling us to see a more expansive and inclusive vision of Christ’s Church.

In the midst of this great step forward by Dr. Campolo, I do believe two critiques are necessary—

It is not enough that Christian leaders simply step forward and announce their support for gay and lesbian Christians.

It’s also important that they acknowledge the harm that has been caused by their use of an un-affirming theology and that they publicly repent for their sin of exclusion.

This is a key move that many Christians leaders who have changed their mind have not considered, but is perhaps even more important than announcing their support for inclusion and equality. In order for LGBTQ to find the healing that we need, the acknowledgement of the oppression and harm we have faced  at the hands of Christian pastors, teachers, and theologians is essential.

It is also notable that Dr. Campolo only addresses “gay and lesbians,” without acknowledging bisexual, queer, and trans* people.

For far too long, in both the Church and the broader LGBTQ community, these minorities have felt invisible. When Christians are moved to announce their support for inclusion, it is also essential that they include all sexual minorities. Otherwise, the oppressive cycle of invisibility will be perpetuated.

For a more in-depth critique of Campolo’s statement from an LGBTQ perspective, read my friend Eliel Cruz’s post here.

None the less, I am so grateful for leaders like Dr. Campolo who have taken years of intense study and prayer on this very important topic and have been bold enough to respond to the prompting of God’s Spirit and to speak out for inclusion and equality on behalf of LGBTQ individuals. It is my prayer that many other leaders will be emboldened to follow the Spirit’s leading and to become advocates for inclusion and acceptance of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Originally published on Revangelical at Patheos.com; Photo via Revangelical

Comments (5)

Thank you!! I am so thrilled to here this from you!!

I am struggling with the 3 items in your critique

1) Acknowledging the harm. When Campolo writes: "How important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end," I read acknowledgement. "Exclusion and disapproval" are hurtful, by definition. Also, "We in the Church should actively support such families. Furthermore, we should be doing all we can to reach, comfort and include all those precious children of God who have been wrongly led to believe that they are mistakes or just not good enough for God, simply because they are not straight." If you're looking for specific wording, this might not work for you, but I see the acknowledgment of hurt caused in the past, and potentially into the future.

2) the call for repentance is a tricky one. There are things which I've changed my mind about over the years. Some of them I remained willfully blind about, others, I simply did not understand or read the evidence accurately. It doesnt' feel like "repentance" is something I can genuinely feel about the latter. Abortion, for example. I've come around to thinking that the decision is best left between a woman and her doctor. When I thought differently, I don't remember digging in, or feeling superior, or doing anything for which "repentance" would make sense looking back. Maybe one day I'll feel differently.

3) I too would like to have read "bisexual and transgender," but I would ask Campolo why these were not mentioned. Is he not yet decided? Did he think the one use of the term "sexual orientation" covered what needed to be said. If we're pouring over this like a piece of scripture I find it interesting that he spent so much time on marriage and the question of same sex couples in our churches. Was he confining his comments largely in the face of the upcoming supreme court cases, and that conversation in churches? Was he being strategic -- rightly or wrongly. That does seem to be an admitted part of his MO -- helpfully or not so much. I for one am a little glad for the dog and pony show he and his wife put on for years. It got into church circles and created discussions in ways that might not have happened. It was too easy to dismiss "liberal" Christians as having fully left the fold. I might have wished he'd given up the bridge builder crusade earlier, but I see what he was trying to do.

Long story short, I'm inclined to give this 80 year old man, for whom life has tossed quite a few curve balls requiring re-adjustment, the benefit of the doubt and recognizing he's come down repeatedly on the side of justice. He's taken hits as his son became the humanist chaplain at USC recently as well. Let's at least recognize that he has had to walk away from a sizable section of his people, time and again. He's not asking for my sympathy, but I have a bit, though plenty more for LGBT people left to feel hopeless. Can I have both?

I am glad this is happening more and more. Perhaps one day we can have a truly celebrated life, not hidden behind doors. Perhaps one day people who truly love each other can be together and not harassed by their family and peers to be "Normal".
This was the happiest day of my life. Oct 20, 2012
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yfl17S4qVU

Wow - wonderful blog! So thoughtful, thorough, and well-written. Thank you. Peace, Reverend Kat

God bless you Dr. Capolo! This public statement for the acceptance of gay and lesbian couples is exactly what the world needs! Immoral sexual acts can no longer be equated with the loving, monogamous relationship between homosexual couples, especially those who love and worship God. The church has caused entirely too much pain including suicide to young Christians struggling to find peace between the natural way they feel and how they can love God and be "an abomination" . Spiritual leaders like yourself are crucial to saving these young Christians! God bless you and your journey.

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