By Bob Allen
Tony Campolo, a leader of the evangelical left who for years has famously disagreed with his wife about homosexuality, announced June 8 he now supports the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the church.
“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,” he said.
Campolo, 80, a professor emeritus at American Baptist-affiliated Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., has appeared many times in programs alongside his wife, Peggy, to model for Christians how to discuss differences over LGBT issues calmly and with respect. She advocated full acceptance, while he remained “somewhat ambiguous” on the morality of homosexuality.
Campolo, a popular author and speaker at events including the New Baptist Covenant Celebration in 2008 and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in 2003, said one thing that changed his mind is Christian gay couples he met through his wife “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,” Campolo said in a statement on his blog. “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.”
Campolo said as a Christian sociologist, he has heard every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, and in some cases he has made them.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he continued. “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.”
Campolo said in the past he thought he could best help gay Christians by “serving as a bridge person, encouraging the rest of the church to reach out in love and truly get to know them.” His other reason for staying on the sidelines, he said, is “like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right.”
Campolo said he hopes his announcement “will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.”
Campolo is a founder of Red Letter Christians, a group of religious leaders disturbed by the alliance between evangelical Christians and the Republican Party. He is best known for acting as President Clinton’s spiritual adviser during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.