After decades of “bridge building” between the LGBTQ community and those who identify as evangelicals in opposition to full LGBTQ inclusion, Tony Campolo spoke out in favor of both full inclusion of same-sex couples in the church, as well as for marriage equality.
“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 wrote on his blog on June 8.
Campolo explains why it’s taken him this long to go public with this position. For one, he has spent many years trying to strengthen healthy discourse between the two often disparate groups. Anyone who knows Tony and his gifts is aware that he is unparalleled in his ability to help people of differing views feel heard and affirmed. But he also admits that he has been unsure of what he believes about proactively affirming full inclusion of LGBTQ people in church, as well as supporting marriage equality.
So what changed?
Anyone who knows Tony well also knows his wife, Peggy, and what an instrumental part of their joint ministry she is. As he notes, she has been essential to his own spiritual and theological formation. She also is know to be a much more vocal advocate for LGBTQ inclusion and equality. It’s always fun to watch the two of them lovingly spar when the subject is raised, and as per usual, it’s all done in a spirit of love. But over time, it’s been the relationships Peggy has brought him into with LGBTQ people that changed his heart.
Yes, Tony knows scripture, perhaps better than anyone else I know. He’s a theologian-bar-none, and he preaches the doors off of nearly anyone alive today. He’s written scads of books, and thought and prayed for hours on all matters biblical, theological, spiritual, and related to social justice. No public statements of his comes off the cuff and without prayerful discernment.
But what has moved him to act and speak out on behalf of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters were face-to-face connections, shared stories, broken bread, and the compassion that emerges from such relationships. It’s inevitable, but only if we put ourselves in a place to allow it to happen. He writes:
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.
Ultimately, marriage equality and being both open and affirming of people of all sexual/gender identities and orientations in our larger Christian community are not issues: They are people. They’re human beings, stories, families, relationships, children, struggles, and joyful discoveries. They are school lunches, utility bills, career moves, birthdays, weddings, and funerals. They’re self-doubt, a search for meaning, belonging, and, often times, a desire to be connected with something bigger and more enduring than ourselves.
They’re like anyone else in these ways, and many more. They are us.
All it usually takes is a willingness to sit down, listen, share and change in whatever ways love and compassion may work within us. It worked for Jesus. It worked for Tony. It’s good enough for me. What about you?
Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician, and spoken word artist.