After years of evading the question, Tony Campolo announced that he supports Christian gay couples in the church.
Campolo is a long time progressive evangelical leader well known for providing spiritual counsel to former President Bill Clinton. He’s written numerous books and currently teaches at Eastern University as a professor of sociology.
“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,” his statement read.
In his statement, Campolo says he changed his position by interacting with gay couples and with studying scripture fervently. Ultimately, it was through his own marriage that he concluded “marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth” and that Christian gay couples can reflect that goal.
Campolo announcement is a step in the right direction. He makes a stirring case for including gays and lesbians into the pews — though seems to lack fluency in the LGBT conversation.
“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,” Campolo said. “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.”
Most importantly, Campolo said he believes “sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to ‘cure’ someone from being gay.”
Campolo’s announcement isn’t incredibly surprising. Many have speculated his loving tone towards LGBT people has meant a shift in theology. Yet, Campolo kept quiet about his beliefs — and in many ways still does.
But look at what he doesn’t say.
Perhaps it was an extremely large oversight but Campolo never once said that same-sex intimacy is not a sin neither does he say that he unequivocally affirms same-sex relationships.
All he promoted was that Christian gay couples should be welcomed.
Surely, Campolo, a respected author and speaker, knows the importance of language. That is why these blatant oversights — or perhaps intentional omissions — is telling.
That’s not the only place Campolo lacks in language. In his statement, not once does he mention bisexual or transgender Christians. This may seem trivial, but as a bisexual Christian, I personally experience the effects of being left out of the conversation. Failing to acknowledge bisexual identities perpetuates ugly stereotypes Christians have about bisexuals. So, in language and in practice it’s always important to be inclusive of the full acronym.
Given the height of media around the trans community, the exclusion of transgender Christians almost seems negligent at this point. Of course, the conversation surrounding same-sex sex and gender identities are two separate conversations. It’s important not to conflate the two. However, it is important to advocate for the full inclusion of transgender Christians alongside with gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.
But perhaps the most puzzling question is where’s the apology?
Campolo recognizes that he caused damage by preaching traditional stances of scripture but he doesn’t offer any apology for it. Unlike other evangelical leaders who have take similar shifts, Campolo didn’t even hint at an apology.
Ultimately, Campolo’s announcement will be pivotal to many of his readers. Someone of his stature, announcing this type of shift in stance towards gays and lesbians, will always make an impact.
But in order to be a formidable ally, Campolo needs to do more than release a statement. He needs to partner with LGBT Christian organizations and uplift the LGBT Christian voices who have been in the trenches of this debate long before him.
Hopefully, his future publications on the LGBT community will be inclusive and forthright about his stances on sames-sex relationships and transgender identities.
Until then, his statement leaves much to be desired.