Tony Campolo to shutter the evangelical ministry he started 40 years ago

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Tony Campolo, a progressive evangelical leader who has counseled President Bill Clinton. Photo courtesy of Tony Campolo

Tony Campolo, a progressive evangelical leader who has counseled President Bill Clinton. Photo courtesy of Tony Campolo

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(RNS) “Too often, we old guys hang on too long and steal the spotlight from the new, bright, shining stars emerging as speakers and leaders,” Campolo said. “We keep occupying leadership without stepping aside and getting behind these speakers.”

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  • It is a testament to how poorly both organized and run is any ministry which cannot survive the either retirement or death of its founder. Either that, or Compolo is saying, in effect, that if he can’t personally go the good, then NOBODY gets to do the good. I’m sorry, this bothers me.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
    Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

  • I meant “do” the good, not “go” the good. Typo. Sorry.

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
    Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

  • Pastor RMLB

    Considering that Tony Campolo has been a huge force in reminding evangelicals that justice is core to the message God has been communicating to us for thousands of years… and that — at 78 years old — he’s continuing to speak 200 times this year… and that he’s continuing to mentor new leaders like Shane Claiborne… and that EAPE is leaving behind $300,000 and 22 (!) offshoot ministries that are doing dynamic ministry… considering all that, I’m not sure that I would be proud enough of my discernment of what was “hidden” to speculate about motives of who gets to do what, or how EAPE was organized or run. Stop nitpicking at a brother in Christ. Organizations aren’t made to continue forever. They are hopefully created and run for a time and a purpose. EAPE has done incredible ministry, and its 22 offshoot ministries, and the millions of people that Tony Campolo and EAPE have reached are pretty good indicators that Tony Campolo has been – and continues to be – a good and faithful servant.

  • Gregg, I think your “either/or” options are too limited. Focus on “poorly organized and run” as the main explanation for the cessation of an organization is a bit limited. We’re dealing with definitions of success and failure. We’re dealing with the breadth of support an organization has, and the demand for its “product.”

    And as for your “or” option, it sounds to me like Tony Campolo would have loved it if his son Bart would have decided to head the EAPE. Problem is, the EAPE was designed to channel money from Tony’s speaking engagements into organizations. Bart was literally unable to head the EAPE because his spiritual gifts and calling are simply different from those of his father’s.

    The EAPE was a vehicle to channel the proceeds of Tony Campolo’s speaking engagements. If Bart is not a gifted speaker, then the actual purpose of the EAPE cannot be fulfilled. Sounds like the EAPE was a temporary structure established for a particular moment in time, a particular opportunity, whose time has passed.

    A mechanism for succession is a valuable thing in many situations, yet the demand for the perpetuation of an institution through time is also problematical. Remember how the disciples wanted to set up three tents, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. They wanted to preserve a passing spiritual experience in an institutional, concrete form.

    Instead of preserving experiences in institutional form, we need to pursue spiritual reality so that God can work in new ways. People say that God never does the same thing twice. People, on the other hand, often want to conjure up old spiritual moments and experiences. They don’t open themselves to an unpredictable God, who will keep you off balance and dependent upon him, if it’s really God who is making something happen.

    I admire Tony Campolo for seeing that the time for his “baby” has come to an end, and not demand that others perpetuate his temporary non-profit organization.

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  • Dean Snyder

    I love Tony Campolo and I highly respect Bart. Good for Tony not to be motivated to build an empire as a legacy.

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  • Atheist Max

    Tony is a great man. I admire the hell out of this guy.

    “While you were sleeping last night, 45,000 children died due to malnutrition. Most of you don’t give a s**t,” he would say in a variation of his talk to Christian groups. “What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said s**t than that 45,000 children died from diseases related to malnutrition.”

    That is how a humanist talks. That is also how an atheist talks.

    If Christians would really use the pulpit this way, maybe I could be convinced that religion could be useful.

    Unfortunately, his interpretation of Christianity is extremely rare – too rare – and that alone argues against the existence of a real god.

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  • melody

    He isnt giving up !!. He is saying.” I did what I was told to do.. Now instead of waiting on a rooftop with me for God to take me home.. let us see what the younger generation is going to step up and do”…
    He is still sharing, he is still leading, Most wise of all, he is allowing new blood with a word from the Lord to step out of the wilderness and take up the mantle and lead
    Thanks for kicking us all the the butt, Tony, Go with God, we are right behind you.

  • lateef adelleke

    Tony retiremnt shd be planned along side wth succession,Bart may have different idea or talent, tony can still groom frm members of his ministry.However, except on health problem, tony shd continue, there is purpose why God called him, as Jesus,Elisah,Moses etc. did it till death.

  • gilhcan

    I guess Jesus was also a self-appointed evangelist, a prophet as they were called. Each should be measured by the good they attempt to do for humanity in general and the efforts they use to expose all the “false prophets” of whom there are always so many.

    If nothing else, history proves that religion can be for evil just as much as it can be for good. The same is true for politics and government. That is precisely why religion and government are such a dangerous, awful mix.

    We are seeing that danger again in the United States in spite of the wisdom of those who framed our government and added the separation of church and state as our very first right in an effort to attain democracy. That struggle for democracy, with all its setbacks, many caused by religion, continues to this day.

  • gilhcan

    Question? How much is Campolo being paid for all those speeches? Why can’t preachers, like everyone else, even popes recently, recognize that there’s a time to stop working and smell the roses for a while before taking the long trip from which there is no return? Retirement should mean a time for reflection, contemplation, meditation, preparation to die.

    Jesus was such a trouble-making prophet that he was done in by those who were “holier than thou” at 33. There are at least as many with whom to be making trouble today, but let the younger ones take your place.

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  • Suzanne

    Did you know that Tony and his wife only keep something like $50k a year to live on and donate the rest?

    I’m confident that Tony has continued to work this long in this capacity because he knows what he can do, given strength from the Lord. Let’s let him alone so he can decide about his own life. And didn’t you read about him helping up younger people to lead other ministries?

  • m.J.

    I thought what Jesus did on the cross is the core message.

  • Lindy

    Max, If you are trying to find your god in how people are then you will never find God. If you are trying to find God in an organization, then you will never find God either. Sometimes you have to go back to the basics. I can’t look at a sunset or a human eye and say it’s all accidental. As far as Christians go, they are a poor representation of the God they profess to serve. But don’t judge God by the ones who profess to be His Representatives. God is bigger than that.

  • Kathleen McCullough Ollek

    I hope that Tony Campollo gets to see this:

    I worked in 1984 in Bartrum Village, in West Philadelphia, with your son Bart, along with approximately 16 others. We ran a daycare program that provided children between 6-12 with Christian teaching, the whole group of us meeting together every morning with the children and us, able to sing songs that were Christian based for the kids, and to provide them with the uplifting that they so badly needed, Then we would take them out for a daily experience of arts & crafts, hikes, etc. and meet back with each other in the afternoon to close the day out. I had had the opportunity to work and live with Christian college kids from all over the country for the summer. One of those was Bart Campollo.

    Tony, I am so very sorry for the ultimate choices Bart has made, and I know you did your best at raising him. I absolutely loved you. I will try and include Bart in my prayers, and just know that you were one of the best dads I can think of – other than my own!! You took a special interest in what we did and where we were in our own lives, took us to the movies as a group, etc. I will never forget that. It turned out to be an experience of a lifetime.

    Forever Grateful, Kathleen (McCullough) Ollek

  • Kristine Rowland

    What a sweet comment Max. Thank you. Dr. Tony’s pretty awesome, huh?

    Hugs, from a Christian that loves the hell out of atheists (not literally, I don’t believe in Hell.)

    You rock, Max!