Tony Campolo: The Christian Morality of Gay and Lesbian Inclusion

Tony Campolo: The Christian Morality of Gay and Lesbian Inclusion June 9, 2015
Tony Campolo (From his website
Tony Campolo (From his website

There is a new movement happening among Evangelicals.

“Behold,” God says through the prophet Isaiah, “I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

The old movement was based on excluding gays and lesbians from the church, using the Bible in an idolatrous way that demeaned and rejected them. But now Evangelicals are waking up to the new thing that God is doing in the world. Fortunately, more Evangelicals are perceiving that God is making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the dry desert heat for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Tony Campolo is the latest Evangelical to come out of the closet to support full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church. He posted a statement on his website yesterday that created quite a stir among Evangelicals.

He ends his statement by saying, “I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.”

Tony Campolo is a major voice in American Evangelicalism and he is pointing to the new thing that God is doing within the Evangelical movement. But there are those who want to hold onto the old way of exclusion.

One critic claims that Campolo’s acceptance of gays and lesbians “is significant as another prominent leader moves away from the faith once for all delivered by the saints.” And that American Christianity is going through a winnowing process that “is going to reveal whose consciences are bound by the authority of scripture and whose aren’t.”

This critic hits the nail on the head. Unwittingly, he reveals the very thing that’s wrong with the old version of Evangelicalism. To claim that accepting gays and lesbians into the church is to move “away from the faith once for all delivered by the saints” is ludicrous.

Do you know how many of the saints talked explicitly about gays and lesbians? Zero. In all of Scripture, in all the writing of the ancient church fathers, the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, heck, not even the word homosexuality appears in the Hebrew or Greek. Any modern translation of the Bible or an ancient church writing that uses those words is not a literal translation. It’s an interpretation.

And I’m all for interpretations. We have to interpret the Bible. In fact, there is no literal interpretation of the text, which is why people of faith have always debating the meaning behind scripture.

The point is that we need to take responsibility for our interpretation of scripture, which is what Campolo is doing. After all, we know that the devil can quote scripture just as much as anyone else. And what’s the devil’s role in scripture? As Rene Girard has taught us, the name Satan means Accuser. Satan’s role is to divide humanity through the principle of accusation. Any time someone points the finger at another person, or group of people, to exclude them, you can be sure that they are being influenced by the satanic principle of accusation. For many of us, it’s getting old.

Which is why I’m grateful for the new thing God is doing. The new thing is summed up by Jesus when he talked about the Paraclete. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, the word Paraclete means “called to one’s side” and has connotations of “advocate or helper.”

The distinction between Satan and the Holy Spirit couldn’t be more evident. Satan’s role is to accuse people of being evil. Satan will use any resource available to make that accusation, including the Bible. When we use the Bible as a means to accuse others of immorality, we have turned the Bible into a satanic idol. The Holy Spirit on the other hand, stands with those who are accused by the satanic principle of accusation. The Holy Spirit doesn’t use the Bible to accuse or exclude people; that’s Satan’s job. The Holy Spirit uses the Bible to lead us away from accusing our neighbors and toward loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

But I don’t want to do away with morals. Evangelicals are right to be concerned about them. But we should be concerned about morals in the way Jesus was concerned about morals. Jesus didn’t use morality or religious principles to accuse those whom the religious elite deemed immoral. Rather, Jesus flipped morality on its head. For Jesus, morals was about standing alongside those who were accused of being sinners. He fellowshipped with them, not in order to change them, but in order to love them just as they were. Loving others just as they are. That is the essence Christian morality.

Tony Campolo is being moved by the Holy Spirit. He is showing us how to be a moral Christian. He will continue to take heat for doing it. And that’s okay. He will, I hope, continue to love even his enemies.

I’m grateful that other Evangelicals have already discovered the new thing God is doing. I pray that many more will do the same.

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  • ccws

    I first heard Tony Campolo at youth camp in the mid-60s. He’s always
    been an activist who preaches and practices a remarkably “social” Gospel for a self-described Evangelical. For me, coming from a laid-back academic Social Gospel background, it was a real eye opener. What, it’s possible to be BOTH?

    Fast forward to the early 1990s, and my church becomes one of the
    founders of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. One of the movers and shakers in that is my fellow church member Peggy Campolo. Yup, Tony’s wife. I got to know her during that time and saw the two of them together on several occasions. Her views on a lot of hot button issues are more liberal than his, but they don’t let that get in the way – they’re a terrific example of mutual love and support in spite of their differences.

    So 20-odd years later (aka yesterday) I read on another blog that Tony’s had a change of heart, and the first thing I think (even before reading his entire post) is, “Wow, Peggy finally got to him, LOL!” Welcome to the right side of history, Tony!

    • Haha! Well put. I enjoyed his letter for what he said about Peggy, too. It was very sweet – not sentimentally sweet – but genuinely sweet. It showed great love and an ability to be transformed. That’s what love does to us.

      Thanks for the comment!


  • Errol Moerdyk

    I think, Adam, that you have gotten too carried away with yourself here. The use of the Bible to evaluate morality does not turn it into a Satanic idol. The inclusion of that one sentence is not only unnecessary to make your point, it is inflammatory at best and theologically irresponsible at worst.

    • Thanks, Errol. I appreciate your comment, but I stand by the statement. When we use the Bible to make accusations against others, including moral accusations, we have turned it into a satanic idol. Satan, after all, is the accuser. But, as I stated in the article, I don’t want to do away with morality. Morals that lead us to stand with and love those who are accused by people using religious principles are good! But, if stating that using the Bible to accuse people of immorality is theologically irresponsible, well, count me among the transgressors.


      • John Powell

        But scripture is a moral guide as it comes from a deeply moral and righteous God. It is proper to use it to know right from wrong and to evaluate ourselves, our culture and our history. Yes, it can be used to beat people up, and that is what needs to be repented of and changed in how LGBT persons have been treated by the church. But abandoning the moral guide would be both unwise and a flat out turn from God who does expect morality (righteousness, holiness) from his people. Otherwise you end up with an individualistic, man-centered theology in which we define morality for ourselves. Which is what this current debate (dare I say heresy) concerning gay marriage and LGBT issues is. Love and truth go together, and scripture and Jesus Christ are our perfect guide for both. But here is where enters the debate about what truth is and how to interpret scripture. Big issue. Still, I can’t get past a God who purposefully created two binary, non-fluctuating sexes to fulfill his mission in creation. The proper theology of the fall is that this, among other things, got royally screw up. But our solution is to dismiss, reinterpret, or just plain avoid the deep theology of the creation of the sexes in God’s plan and say we know better or that scripture is written only of men. If suspicion can be attached to scripture, then it looses all authority over man, and we are free to do as we wish. “Did God really say….?”

  • Frank

    There is nothing of the Holy Spirt in Tony’s decision.

    • Why not? Tell me more, Frank.

      • Frank

        God would not contradict himself. Homosexual behavior was, is and will always be sinful. No getting around that ever.

        • Look at the context, though: Romans taking young boys as their lovers (pedophilia), and shrimp being called an “abomination” more times than gay sex. No getting around that ever.

          • Frank

            I suggest that you study some more. Certainly pedastry occurred and was sinful. That fact doesn’t change the fact that all homosexual behavior is sinful. No getting around that ever.

          • How is it sinful if that’s not even what they were talking about?

          • Frank

            There are a lot of sins we are not talking about. The point is irrelevant.

          • I don’t understand. I was talking about the biblical authors, not us. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. How is homosexuality a sin, when they weren’t talking about that, but something else?

          • Frank

            They were talking specifically about that. Homosexual behavior was, is and will always be sinful. No getting around that. Many have tried, all have failed.

          • THey were talking about a specific form of “homosexuality” practiced in their day. NOT what we have today, with loving, monogamous, OF-AGE, couples. No getting around that. Many have tried, all have failed.
            I’m getting two different stories here: First, you say they were talking about pedophilia–right? THen, you say they were talking about standard homosexuality–right? Two different stories.

          • Frank

            The very idea suggesting that there were no committed same sex couples and even unions and God and everyone he guided in writing scripture didn’t know about them and weren’t talking about them invalidates your position entirely. As I said many have tried all, including you, have failed miserably.

          • Wait, so you’re just ASSUMING that God was talking about modern-day homosexual couples, even though he was talking about pedophilia?
            So you’re just dismissing my views as invalid because they’re not your own? Bullshit. I’m done here. You just want to tell people what to believe, like a five-year-old dictator.

          • Frank

            You are welcome to remain ignorant about the Word of God. All homosexual behavior is sinful. No getting around that no matter how much you pout and take your ball home.

          • No, I don’t believe that. No matter how much you try to bully me into it, without any evidence.

          • Frank

            What you believe is not relevant to the truth. It’s only relevant to you.

  • Rebecca

    Do you really think Tony is still a “Major voice in evangelicalism?” I don’t. I appreciate what he wrote…however I wonder what if anything will change or if anyone will be affected (or listen to) by what he said. Will he be taken seriously by any conservative or fundamental group? If not, is he preaching to the choir? Tony was written off years ago by fundamentalists as being “liberal” so few if any of them will listen to him now. Regardless…I am glad he made the statement. But being in the “fundamental” circle for a lifetime…Tony was written off years ago. Sad to say.

  • Andrea

    True christianity calls for a radical change in ones lifestyle. When the HOLY SPIRIT enters on the scene of ones life, the person whose life He has entered, KNOWS that this GOD who is calling him, wooing him, desiring a personal loving relationship with him has a very different Nature than his own. One very personal revelation the HOLY SPIRIT gives those who are seeking to understand who this saving God is, is the revelation of the Holiness and Purity of His Nature. The Gospel of our salvation is now and always will be a Gospel of Repentance a Gospel of Giving up our sin nature in exchange for His Nature. Scripture and our own heart tells us what sin is. God is not mocked, we cannot pretend to not know whát evil is. The number of Evangelical ministers that are accepting this homosexual lifestyle as OK with God is a definite sign that we are at a pivotal time in World/Christian history. It is a time for the separation of True Christians (those willing to be martyred for the Love of Christ) and those who claim Christianity as their Faith but have no love for Him and no knowledge of why He had to allow Himself to be brutally crucified in the Flesh. The Love Jesus talks about in the Gospels is a Divine Love, Agape Love. While we were still Sinners Christ died for us. What man calls love is not the same Love that Jesus demonstrated through His Crucifixion. There was no greater demonstration that God could give us than to show us how we must allow the Holy Spirit to give us the Grace to put to death in us all that is unholy in the sight of God. Tony Campolo is WRONG!!!! He is not loving with God’s Love. God loves us with an Eternal perspective. He wants us to be with Him forever. He asks us to Repent an Beleive the Good News!! Do Not choose the temporary fleshy ways of the world. Choose Life, Choose Him!!