Same-sex evangelicals

Dear Pastors

I would be absolutley stunned if anyone I know as a CC pastor is at risk of rationalizing same-sex marriage. This is true, I believe about CC pastors in CCA and in CGN and unaligned CC pastors. Nevertheless, I recently came across an article on a website written to warn all Bible beliving Evangelicals about the need to stand up for what the Bible says about heterosexual marriage. In this article, the author identified well-known men and women (once thought of as devout Bible believing evangelicals) who now openlly promote, encourge and support same-sex marriage. I have to admit that besides his very “left of center” social policies, I was shocked to hear than Tony Compolo had surredered to the dark side on this issue.

Anthony “Tony” Campolo (born February 25, 1935) is an American sociologist, pastor, author, public speaker and former spiritual advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton.[1] Campolo is known as one of the most influential leaders in the Evangelical left and has been a major proponent of progressive thought and reform within the evangelical community. He has also become a leader of the Red-Letter Christian movement, which aims to put emphasis on the teachings of Jesus.[2][3] Campolo is a popular commentator on religious, political, and social issues, and has been a guest on programs such as The Colbert Report, The Charlie Rose Show, Larry King Live, Nightline, Crossfire, Politically Incorrect and The Hour.

Tony is one of the best known so-called evangelicals to support same-sex marriage but he is just one of many so-called evangeicals that have gone the same-way.

Here is Tony’s own story in his own words

Tony Campolo: For the Record

June 8, 2015; Tony releases a new statement urging the church to be more welcoming.

As a young man I surrendered my life to Jesus and trusted in Him for my salvation, and I have been a staunch evangelical ever since. I rely on the doctrines of the Apostles Creed. I believe the Bible to have been written by men inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. I place my highest priority on the words of Jesus, emphasizing the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus makes clear that on Judgment Day the defining question will be how each of us responded to those he calls “the least of these”.

From this foundation I have done my best to preach the Gospel, care for the poor and oppressed, and earnestly motivate others to do the same. Because of my open concern for social justice, in recent years I have been asked the same question over and over again: Are you ready to fully accept into the Church those gay Christian couples who have made a lifetime commitment to one another?

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.

For me, the most important part of that process was answering a more fundamental question: What is the point of marriage in the first place? For some Christians, in a tradition that traces back to St. Augustine, the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, which obviously negates the legitimacy of same-sex unions. Others of us, however, recognize a more spiritual dimension of marriage, which is of supreme importance. We believe that God intends married partners to help actualize in each other the “fruits of the spirit,” which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, often citing the Apostle Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ’s sanctifying relationship with the Church. This doesn’t mean that unmarried people cannot achieve the highest levels of spiritual actualization – our Savior himself was single, after all – but only that the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth.

In my own life, my wife Peggy has been easily the greatest encourager of my relationship with Jesus. She has been my prayer partner and, more than anyone else, she has discerned my shortcomings and helped me try to overcome them. Her loving example, constant support, and wise counsel have enabled me to accomplish Kingdom work that I would have not even attempted without her, and I trust she would say the same about my role in her life. Each of us has been God’s gift to the other and our marriage has been a mutually edifying relationship.

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. 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.

As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church. When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am”, I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.

Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, 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.

I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.

For example, one writer says:

These popular Christian writers, pastors or musicians, in no particular order, have publicly broken from the traditional hard-line position against same-sex marriage.

Jen Hatmaker

Photo courtesy of Jen Hatmaker

Evangelical leader, author and HGTV star Jen Hatmaker publicly changed her views on gay marriage in 2016. Both a Facebook post calling for LGBT acceptance and comments about supporting same-sex marriage in an interview with RNS led LifeWay Christian Stores to quit selling her books in October.

Jim Wallis

Photo courtesy of Jim Wallis

The founder of Sojourners magazine, Jim Wallis was raised evangelical. He defended traditional marriage in a 2008 Christianity Today article, saying he wasn’t sure he’d perform a same-sex blessing, although he did express support for gay and lesbian civil rights. In 2013, Wallis answered “yes” when asked if he supported same-sex marriage in a Huffington Post interview.

Matthew Vines

Photo courtesy Matthew Vines

After taking a leave of absence from Harvard University to study the Bible and homosexuality, Matthew Vines gave a speech at his church about accepting gay Christians that has amassed over 1 million views on YouTube since 2012. He also started The Reformation Project, a nonprofit trying to “reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity,” and wrote the book “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.”

Rob Bell

Photo courtesy of Rob Bell

The former pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church publicly stated his views on gay marriage while speaking at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral in 2013. He then reaffirmed them during an Odyssey Networks interview the same week. At Grace Cathedral, he also said evangelicals should no longer be assumed to be conservatives. He described “a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, evangelical subculture” that he sees dying out.

Trey Pearson

Photo courtesy of Trey Pearson

In a post on his website titled “My Coming Out Letter,” Christian rock musician Trey Pearson told fans that he identified as a gay man, despite being married with children. As he explains in the letter, published in June 2016, he was raised in a faith that taught him “sexual orientation was a matter of choice,” so he repressed his sexual desires most of his life. Since coming out, he has written about life as a gay Christian and created a music video depicting his experience.

Julie Rodgers

Photo courtesy of Julie Rodgers

Although she has identified as gay since high school, Julie Rodgers has officially supported gay marriage for only a few years. As she has chronicled on her blog and in The Washington Post, she first spent a long time advocating celibacy for Christians who were gay or lesbian. Now, she speaks and writes as an advocate for LGBT Christians.

Rachel Held Evans

Photo courtesy of Rachel Held Evans

In 2015, The Washington Postcalled Christian author Rachel Held Evans “the most polarizing woman in evangelicalism.” This label comes from her positions on LGBT rights and homosexuality, topics she’s grappled with publicly since starting her blog in 2008. In one of her old posts, “An Evangelical’s Response to Homosexuality,” she refuses to chose a side of the issue but does admit to wondering if the evangelical church “has it wrong.” In more recent years, she has referred to herself as an “ally” and wrote about LGBT Christians in her 2015 book “Searching for Sunday.”

Vicky Beeching

Photo courtesy of Vicky Beeching

Christian rock star Vicky Beeching still considered herself an evangelical, even after coming out via an interview with The Independent in 2014. During her keynote address at the 2015 Gay Christian Network’s annual conference, the U.K.-based singer said she still loves the church. According to her official site, she now works as a speaker and writer, often discussing her personal journey and LGBT issues in the church.

For the Bible-believing evangelical these are perilous times. It may be a time to include a statement of faith regarding sexual orientation. I would suggest that an Evangelical statement of faith include a statement affirming what God affirms and opposing what God opposes.