Prominent Evangelical Preacher Endorses Marriage Equality

As a Christian teenager, I remember watching Tony Campolo preach many times. He’s an evangelical leader who didn’t have the rough edges of so many of the more stridently fundamentalist preachers. Now he’s finally come out and publicly expressed his support for same-sex marriage:

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…

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.

And so it begins (actually, it has already begun, but this is a pretty big name that will get more attention). As much as many Christians like to pretend that their religion contains immutable, unchanging truth, the beliefs and dogmas of Christianity have always been very diverse and have evolved in ways big and small from the very beginning of the religion. And the pattern remains the same:

1. Furious, sometimes violent opposition to attempts to change in order to bring about greater justice and equality.

2. After they lose that fight, even more furious opposition and pledges to remain forever opposed to the new reality.

3. Their opposition fades until only a small portion of believers still take that original position.

4. The more liberal minded Christians construct theological arguments that say the change is okay after all.

5. That position becomes the new orthodoxy.

6. They spread the myth that Christians were the ones who came up with the idea in the first place.

We’re currently between 2 and 3 in that process and 4 is already well under way. In another 10-20 years, support for equality will become the new orthodoxy among Christians, with only the most fundamentalist among them still holding to their previous bigotry. 30 years from now, they’ll be claiming they were behind the fight for equality from the start. And they’ll quote people like Campolo, failing to mention the howls of outrage and accusations of heresy they’ll be throwing at him tomorrow.

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  • Modusoperandi

    “Care for the poor and oppressed”? “Social justice”? “Scientist”? Madness! Where’s the slut shaming, gay baiting and blind authoritarianism?

  • Anna Elizabeth

    This is nice and all, but I’m not ready to celebrate one Xtian behaving like a human being.

  • Die Anyway

    > “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 kind of think Campolo is wrong here. In fact, the case for the Bible supporting slavery is pretty strong. As is the case for the Bible calling homosexuality a sin or crime which is deserving of punishment. That *people* now agree that slavery is wrong or that homosexuality is ok… is a separate issue. Our (western humanity’s) problem was in thinking that the Bible should have any kind of authority in how we govern ourselves.

  • Modusoperandi

    Anna Elizabeth, be more sunshine, less rain. It’s one less who is a dick.

  • busterggi

    And in other news, we have always been at war with Eastasia.

  • theguy

    @4 – “It’s one less who is a dick.”

    And hopefully he will lead more Christians to change their minds in favor of equality.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    One of my favorite Campolo quotes (from The Progressive, 8/05):

    I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.

  • Michael Heath

    Any one out there well-versed on Tony Campolo? If so, does Mr. Campolo belong to a church that will marry and accept as members married gay couples? If not, does he support that happening?

    The membership of out gay people, and their ability to get married in a particular church, wasn’t brought up in what Ed posts here. It’s a key factor when it comes to Mr. Campolo and his allies beginning to end their abuse of gay people, especially congregants that are gay children.

  • martinc

    I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again

    It takes courage to say that in the world of Christianity. Good on him.

  • Anna Elizabeth

    Truthfully, what *I* could get behind, is if *every* cultist, no matter which flavor of fairy tale they favor, could make a resolution to close the anus under their nose and make zero pronouncements about *anything*.

    Their dipstick opinions, “informed” by their dep understand of dipstick mythology, are unwelcome. Yes, this means you.

    All of your “religious opinions” are unwelcome, unwarranted, and unnecessary. I don’t care what Jesus thought. I don’t care what you think. I need no advice about “sin”, “morals”, or “rights” from mythologists, and I don’t give a flying fuck if I’m offending the “nice ones”.

  • rturpin

    Religion crosses political lines. Regarding #6, Andrew Sullivan certainly was a spearhead of the movement for gay marriage. The problem, of course, is with the “they.” Conservative Christians today like to imagine themselves as the liberal or radical Christians of yesteryear, rather than as the conservative ones who fought fiercely against miscegenation, for slavery, etc.

  • sugarfrosted

    Heck with the civil rights movement and abolitionist movement there were some Christian groups that did push for them from the start, but on the other hand Christian groups opposed them as well, so it’s irrelevant. The fundamentalists coopt these people when it becomes necessary or convenient. For example they’re now utilizing the fact that MLK Jr. was a preacher to claim they were on his side.

  • left0ver1under

    It’s all about the Benjamins, the worship of mammon. More and more of those he fleeces…I mean, his flock are leaving and taking their money because of his anti-gay views. He has realized that it’s more profitable to change his tune than not to change it. It’s the same as in the 1960s and the issue of civil rights.

    I truly doubt his private views have changed at all. He’s either still a bigot behind closed doors, or he was always indifferent – he pandered to the bigots in the past, now he’s pandering to those who aren’t.

  • velociraptor


    Thank you, AnnaElizabeth for putting into better words my feelings on this subject. With your leave, I would like to paraphrase it elsewhere.

    You win one (1) Internet.

  • Anna Elizabeth


    Thank *you*, and feel free to use or paraphrase this anywhere you think it will be useful. :)

  • Friendly

    Any one out there well-versed on Tony Campolo? If so, does Mr. Campolo belong to a church that will marry and accept as members married gay couples? If not, does he support that happening?

    He’s affiliated with the (relatively liberal) Eastern Baptist Seminary and the (divided) American Baptist Convention. The Convention has, um, deep rifts between its liberal and strongly conservative wings; a small subset of ABC churches would marry and accept gays, but most would not. Fun fact: The ABC, formerly the Northern Baptist Convention, split from the Southern Baptist Convention over slavery in the 1800s; its leader at the time, Harry Emerson Fosdick, stated that “the blood of Jesus Christ has no more power to save than does pink lemonade,” which would get him tossed out of the vast majority of Baptist churches on his ear today.

  • Raging Bee

    I wonder whether Christian commenters like igotjesus or Dukedog will have anything to say about this…

  • raven

    Strangely enough, what used to be the dominant US xian religion does support gay marriage.

    Most American Mainline Protestants Embrace Gay Marriage

    www. huffingtonpost. com/…/mainline-protestants-gay-marriage_n_6901…

    Mar 22, 2015 – … mainline Protestants have solidified their support for gay marriage, … American Baptist Churches USA, does not allow same-sex marriage, …

    These would include Presbyterian (USA), Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Episcopals, and others.

    IIRC, they submitted briefs in the current Supreme Court case…in favor of SSM.

    The fundies heads would explode but they never noticed.

  • Ibis3, These verbal jackboots were made for walking

    Michael Coren (prominent now-former Catholic) too.

    Q: You say you could no longer worship with integrity as a Catholic. Why not?

    A: I could not remain in a church that effectively excluded gay people. That’s only one of the reasons, but for someone who had taken the Catholic position on same-sex marriage for so long, I’d never been comfortable with that even though I suppose I was regarded as being a stalwart in that position. But I’d moved on, and I felt a hypocrite. I felt a hypocrite being part of a church that described homosexual relations as being disordered and sinful. I just couldn’t be part of it anymore. I could not do that. I couldn’t look people in the eye and make the argument that is still so central to the Catholic Church, that same-sex attraction is acceptable but to act on it is sinful. I felt that the circle of love had to be broadened, not reduced.

  • eric

    @10: I can understand you not wanting him to speak to you on morality, but as far as I can tell, he isn’t doing that. You are not his audience, and personally I’m glad he is speaking this message to his audience. No, I do not want my SSM-allies-with-whom-I-disagree-on-other-subjects to shut their mouths and keep their opinions to themselves on SSM.

    @18: the Lutherans are split. ELCA supports SSM but Missouri Synod does not. Wikipedia tells me ELCA is the majority, but not by a huge margin; it’s about 60% of US Lutherans (3.8 million out of 6.4 million total).

  • raven

    @18: the Lutherans are split. ELCA supports SSM but Missouri Synod does not. Wikipedia tells me ELCA is the majority, but not by a huge margin; it’s about 60% of US Lutherans (3.8 million out of 6.4 million total).

    Yeah, I know.

    The Lutherans are split into ELCA, Missouri, WELS, and Free at the least. They aren’t very similar.

    Same with the Presbyterians except they are split even more. And the Episcopalians have split off their share of groups.

    There are 28 US types of Baptists.

  • Anna Elizabeth

    @20 – Whatevers. I have no use, no caring, and no interest in what any cultist thinks about *anything*.

    It’s been too many years of abuse, disdain, and threats. Xtians by definition are emotionally abusive, verbally abusive, and ethically bankrupt.

  • captainoblivious

    30 years from now, they’ll be claiming they were behind the fight for equality from the start

    I don’t see how they could pull that off, considering how their Magic Book of Fairy Tales is pretty clear on the fact that believers need to murder homosexuals.

  • Modusoperandi

    captainoblivious “I don’t see how they could pull that off, considering how their Magic Book of Fairy Tales is pretty clear on the fact that believers need to murder homosexuals.”

    Well, that’s only if they lay with man as they do with woman. So, right, off, lesbians are exempt, and men are exempt because they can’t lay with men as they do with women, because when they lay with men they might actually get half of the blanket.*


    * Take that, Brenda! I’m tired of one warm arm and a cold rest of me! And why don’t you ever put your tissues in the bin after you blow your nose? And what the fuck’s with all these pillows?! Yes, yes I will sleep on the couch, but not because you said so!

  • rietpluim

    I can totally relate to what Anna Elizabeth wrote. Christians always think that their Christianity is some excuse to ventilate their opinion anywhere and that it deserves attention because Yahweh.

    It may even get to the news if s/he is a pastor, a priest or a preacher. Bottom line is: it’s just an opinion, and it’s as good as anybody else’s, and coming from a religious leader doesn’t give it more credibility.

    However, in this far-from-ideal world, I must admit that religious leaders do have influence, and I’m happy to see that Campolo uses his for a good cause.

  • Anna Elizabeth

    What I’m saying is also this: don’t *any* of you tell me that I’m to be grateful when one worthless oppressor says one good thing, and don’t *ANY* of you ever tell me how to feel about being an abuse survivor again.

    What you see as one Xtian doing a good influential statement is what I’m seeing as the first coward slinking off as the artillery is about to barrage their position.

  • Matt

    Ok, Anna, but really? With that attitude you will never convince anyone in the middle, and that is who you need to worry about. Most people are religious to one extent or another and that is not changing anytime soon…there is a measurable drift away from organized religion in this country but it is still negligible, and in a democracy you had better care what the “cultists” think, because there are more of them than you and they vote. Be a derisive as you want, but many people get their meaning in life from their religion, and they are not going to give it up just because you mock them or call them names; in fact, what you do do is give support to the far right preachers who like to say “See? It’s the liberals who are really intolerant!” Religion is not going anywhere anytime soon, and you had better spend more time trying to influence those in the middle than trying to drive them away. There seems to be a lot of bitterness and scorn toward moderate or liberal Christians, but when they’re gone you’ll be left with the only the Dominionists. You don’t know what oppression is yet.

  • Raging Bee

    Matt: I disagree; people in “the middle” need to see people like Anna overtly rejecting the made-up “authority” of religious leaders, and not showing fear or spinelessness by trying to look respectful toward people who clearly don’t deserve respect. Religion is largely about emotional bullying and manipulation, and the public need to see more people overtly standing up against the bullies, and not playing along with their manipulative games. That means, among other things, calling out religious leaders when they pretend to be “authorities” about things that are none of their damn business.

  • Anna Elizabeth

    Raging Bee, that was well said.

    Matt – do *not* tell me what oppression is! I was raised by an emotionally abusive Deacon in the Southern Baptists. I hear intrusive questions, “friendly advice”, and loving threats that I belong in hell after I’m beheaded, all the time.

    There are *no* good Xtians. I reject their myths, I reject their “authority”, and I’m not interested in appealing to their better natures.

    They feel free to pontificate, usually loudly, about any and everything under the sun. *I* am going to push back, I don’t care if I hurt their little feelings, and you can take your tone policing advice and shove it.