Me thinks the lady doth protest the right amount

This won’t make sense to you unless you’ve read yesterday’s Symphony of a Thousand, but here is Carol VanderNat earlier today, the final day of the West Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Speaking on stage is Tony Campolo, yet another “progressive” Christian leader who still thinks homosexuality is a sin. (Campolo’s “solution”? Gays should remain celibate. Astonishingly, this ridiculousness is what still passes for progressive in a great many Christian circles.)

In the email to which she attached this photo, Carol wrote me:

Tony C. was talking about being an evangelical, and the inerrancy of scripture. I did the chimpanzee thing. [I’m not sure what exactly Carol means here, but I think it’s safe to guess no feces sailed through the air.] He saw me—and faltered.

The conference is done, but during it God did some great stuff. I had a pastor tell me, “You have shown me what it means to be a living sacrifice, more deeply than in all my years of ministry.” Throughout the conference members of my church showed up to sit with me. People saw your blog post, and were really moved by the stories you shared there. So they came over to share blesssings, prayers, and to just sit with me. One guy cried, saying how much my silent witnessing had impacted him—and he was one of the ones who had rolled his eyes at me on the first day.

Boy! Am I tired!

Nobody ever asked me to leave. Security was definitely trolling around, but people kept sitting down with me, and even with the guest speakers and all coming in, I’m pretty sure security understood that if they tried to throw me out, there would be a lot of noise. And there would have been.

We brought over 500 rainbow stoles, and came home with about six!  It’s amazing what God can do. And He didn’t need my voice, my “wisdom,” or anything to do it.

You know what? I think I’ll write a book called: You Want Me to do WHAT?!

I’d buy that book, Carol.

I sure love the way it’s begun.

Get some rest, sister. I know I speak for all of us here when I say very well done, you good and faithful servant.

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  • Carol, I am in awe of you and your audacity. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being an example of how I can truly serve. Rest your tired head!

  • Jana Harrison Currier via Facebook

    I love her!

  • cat rennolds

    thanks. carol. and john.

  • Rhea Flanery

    Thankfully Tony’s wife (Peggy, I think) is very supportive/truly progressive when it comes so the not-so-straight community 🙂

  • I used to be a fan of Tony Campolo’s site Red Letter Christians but stopped reading it a year or so ago because I felt incredibly unwelcome. That comments section is one of the most toxic I’ve come upon in the “progressive” Christian blogosphere. It’s unwelcoming to the point of being triggering some days. If you want a taste of the level of hostility there, read the comments on the series about racism in modern Christianity. The bigotry there will astound you. Or better yet, save your brain and do something enjoyable instead.

  • The “Red Letter Christians” are a joke I don’t find funny at all. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

  • Allie

    Awesome hippie ponytail! You are a great lady and I salute you!

  • Carol VanderNat

    No, no feces were thrown…(but that’s not a bad idea….) LOL

  • Driftwood2K11

    You’re a testimony to living dignity, Carol!

    Also, thank you, John, for posting this!

  • Mindy

    Carol, you ROCK. I know that’s becoming a cliche, but in this case, it is oh-so-true. Thank you.

  • I can’t write off all the columnists there, because there’s some folks that are really trying to expose some more progressive interpretation of scripture to a mainstream audience. I’m always going to have a soft spot for Shane Claiborne, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye all the time, because he’s the person who got me back into church.

    But the community there as a whole? Yikes. I think even before the comments section got to me, I starting losing faith in the site (no pun intended) with Tony’s “No, brah, it’s totally cool that I met with an international head of state that slaughters gay and lesbian citizens of his country. WWJD, amirite?”

  • Leslie Marbach

    Ditto what John told you! Thank you for speaking up for me, for all of us.

  • Kerry


    I was thinking the same thing about his wife. I keep hoping her views will finally win him over. I listened to some audio clips with both of them talking and I got the impression there was hope for him to “evolve” further.

    Here is the link to those audio clips

  • Kerry


    Wow – THANK YOU for doing what you did and telling us all about it.

    I especially loved this part of your update:

    “One guy cried, saying how much my silent witnessing had impacted him—and he was one of the ones who had rolled his eyes at me on the first day.”

    You have given a lot of people hope and renewed resolve to keep trying to change hearts and minds for the better.

    Thanks again 🙂

  • Matt

    Yay Carol! Thank you for all your hard work :).

  • Yep. I have mixed feelings about Tony for sure. Definitely wish he would come ’round to accepting and embracing homosexuality within the Church. That said, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t claim to be a progressive Christian, but rather, a liberal Evangelical Christian. Major difference theologically.

  • I’m truly and utterly shocked. I’d been promoting them. And while I still very much believe that turning back to the “red letter” portions of the Gospels are the best survival bet for Christianity as a whole and the most direct way for a Christian (or follower of Jesus’ wisdom and example) to practice what they believe in and preach, this really angered me.

    I hadn’t read Campolo’s site in quite a while. Screw this guy and his fetid followers. How the hell can you preach following the direct teachings of Jesus and be such a horrible bigot?

  • Keetcha

    Carol, you are a beacon of light in a dark world. What a tremendous showing of compassion and sticktoitedness. Yes rest now. You did an amazing job. Tears spilling over my cheeks here. From a middle-aged, married, straight Canadian girl.

  • Carol VanderNat

    God is the beacon of light…don’t think I didn’t argue with him about doing all this…I felt like Moses: “Are You sure? Can’t You send someone else?”…LOL…but some things are impossibly to deny, God being one of them…thank you for your kind words!

  • Carol VanderNat

    oops….”impossible”….still tired…hahaha

  • otter


    You started a ripple, it’s growing into a Tsunami. May it sweep all bigotry away.

  • Lymis

    It is amazing what people will do if someone gives them (real or symbolic) permission to do what they already know is right.

    There’s a reason that it was a little child who announced that the Emperor had no clothes.

    Carol, thanks for being a courageous prophetic voice where it is needed!

  • Another woman who’s not afraid to wear her hair long and grey in middle-age and beyond. Carol, I salute you, my hair sister! I hope someday I find the courage to do something as awesome as what you did.

  • DR

    Carol, you’re fantastic. Thank you.

  • Cat Rennolds

    Yeah. me too. I got the greybraid but not the guts. or maybe I just don’t have the energy…..thanks for standing up for me.

  • Pastor Mike

    “Screw this guy and his fetid followers. How the hell can you preach following the direct teachings of Jesus and be such a horrible bigot?”

    I have not followed Tony Campolo’s blog. I see that are some who are perturbed by “the level of hostility there” I suppose if it is similar to the level of hostility reflected in your comment I’ve quoted, it would be distressing. I have considerable confidence that he treats those with whom he disagrees with an attitude that comes closer to reflecting Jesus’ love than what you demonstrate here.

  • Steve

    Another reason I’m glad I’m not a UM any more. The UMC is a sinking ship.

  • Driftwood2K11

    I used to love Tony Campolo, back when I was very devout. He often talked about celebration, and joy in Christ, but then I guess his celebration and joy had limits when it came to two same sex people in love. It’s a shame.

  • Simon

    [comment from yet another crude fundie clearly obsessed with sex deleted–the same troll, actually, who left this ignorant comment, and who also uses spammer software, so he’ll be more difficult to block. But I’m sure he’s a good Christian. sigh …]

  • Driftwood2K11

    Ooh, a troll, and one that can almost use punctuation!

  • Driftwood2K11

    Aw man, now my joke doesn’t go anywhere. LOL

  • Wendy

    Carol, I love you! You are an amazing inspiration…I’d sit in protest with you anytime!

  • Melody

    Is his real name Frank? He really needs to get a life.

  • Carol, you are an amazing woman and an even more amazing Christian. I’m in awe of you!

  • me

    not true you made it up

  • That’s a good point. Sometimes those overlap, but they are definitely two distinct theological backgrounds.

  • Kristyn

    Peggy is right on this issue. Tony’s view is, unfortuately, for lack of a better word, “outdated” and very biased toward the old patriarchal type of Biblical interpretation. He’s such a great fighter for social justice in the inner city, and I hope he comes to understand that this is another facet of social justice. I say this having truly fond memories of him and his organization, EAPE. I volunteered for them in Passyunk (Southwest Philly) summer 1992.

  • Michael S.

    Well, Carol, good news! You’re getting a new, more progressive bishop and the awful Keaton is going. (Of course that means he’ll be inflicted upon the Illinois Great Rivers Conference for 4 years.)

    I have actually met and talked with Tony Campolo personally, and he is very supportive, or at least he was, of civil rights for GLBTQ people including the right to be legally married. His statement to me was that just because his religious beliefs were that homosexual sex is sin doesn’t mean he can block full access to the secular laws of the land. I know it’s not enough. He’s a baptist and believes in inerrancy of Scripture, which doesn’t say what he thinks it says on this issue. He’s an old man and set in his ways. The problem is that so-called bishops of the United Methodist Church are quoting him. Wesley would roll over in his grave to see what state that denomination is in…oh excuse me…”missionary movement.”

  • Carol VanderNat

    I’m also thrilled to see that Bishop Keaton is moving on….and I will pray for the IGR Conference. The reason I’m so upset with Tony Campolo is that he represents for me the worst of the offenders….very charismatic, great storyteller, and total bullshit artist. “Just because his religious beliefs were that homosexual sex is sin…..” IT AIN’T! Pure and simple…he just encourages people to sit smack dab in the middle of the road. When he started telling little “cool guy” stories about his sticking up for a gay girl, that’s when I started jumping up and down to show him that I was there, and listening, and not buying it! It is no excuse to be “old and set in your ways” if those ways are wrong….I’m old, too! And gay…and mad at people like Mr. “doncha knowit” Campolo…..there…venting over….thanks for the comment…I liked seeing the picture again….

    ps. civil rights are crap if you’re being told you’re a flawed sinner…..