Like many others before him, Campolo’s conscience seems to have been moved not by scripture but by relationships he’s had with gay friends. He writes: “One reason I am changing my position on this issue is that, through Peggy, I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own. Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end.”
Tony Campolo has released a statement today calling for “full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.” Campolo has long been a stalwart of the theological left, so this announcement is no surprise. Still, it is significant as another prominent leader moves away from the faith once for all delivered to the saints. He is not the first to have done this, and he will not be the last. American Christianiaty will be in a period of winnowing for the foreseeable future, and there will be more to come.
A few observations about Campolo’s announcement:
1. Like many others before him, Campolo’s conscience seems to have been moved not by scripture but by relationships he’s had with gay friends. He writes:
One reason I am changing my position on this issue is that, through Peggy, I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own. Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end.
The winnowing process that we are witnessing right now is going to reveal whose consciences are bound by the authority of scripture and whose aren’t. I am grieved when professing believers allow scripture to be eclipsed by other considerations, but I welcome the clarification (1 Cor. 11:19).
2. Campolo says that the church’s teaching on homosexuality is wrong just as it has been wrong on the women’s issue and on slavery. He writes:
I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.
This portion is particularly disappointing not merely because it is a poor argument, but also because it effectively makes traditional marriage supporters into the moral equivalent of misogynists and racists. This statement–though polite in tone–puts him on the side of some of Christianity’s fiercest critics. It gives credibility to the arguments that the enemies of the faith are using against us in their culture war–that we hold our position not from good faith but from animus and hatred.
3. If I am reading Campolo correctly, his new position is not a call for accepting gay couples who are “married,” but for accepting gay couples who are committed to one another–which would include couples who are in same-sex marriages and those who are not. If he is now supporting unmarried gay couples as full members, does he also believe that churches should accept unmarried heterosexual couples as well? In other words, does this statement imply not merely an acceptance of homosexual immorality but of heterosexual immorality as well? Perhaps he will clarify this point.
In the meantime, you can read his full statement here.
Denny Burk is Associate Professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.