charles stanley

Charles Stanley Declines Award After Jews Question His Views on Gays

Photo via Staff Sgt. Nancy Lugo / Wikimedia Commons / RNS
Dr. Charles Stanley. Photo via Staff Sgt. Nancy Lugo / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Amid a heated debate over his vocal opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Atlanta pastor Charles Stanley will decline an award he planned to accept from the Jewish National Fund in Atlanta on April 23.

News that the longtime pastor of First Baptist Atlanta and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention would be honored by the JNF angered many Jews who pointed to his history of vitriolic anti-gay comments.

Stanley said the award was causing too much strife within the Jewish community, and for the sake of his love for Israel, he would not accept it, according to the JNF, a nonprofit that sponsors environmental and educational programs in the Jewish state.

It was Stanley’s idea not to accept the award, JNF spokesman Adam Brill said Tuesday.

“Dr. Stanley feels that he did not want to see any further controversy and I think it’s a laudable and heartfelt decision, and we totally support and embrace it.”

Decrying Stanley’s “sordid history of virulent homophobic statements and actions,” the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN) led a campaign to get JNF to change its mind on bestowing Stanley with its Tree of Life award, which was to be given to him for his support for Israel by the JNF’s Atlanta chapter on Thursday, Israel’s independence day.

“We respect Dr. Charles Stanley’s decision,” said Rebecca Stapel-Wax, executive director of Atlanta-based SOJOURN, on Tuesday.

“We are so grateful for the strong support of hundreds of people across the country. We look forward to a productive dialogue with JNF in the coming weeks and building our relationship together to support the local Jewish and LGBTQ communities and Israel.”

Abortion and the Front Lines

Exactly eight years ago, Sojourners printed a special issue titled, "What Does It Mean to be Pro-Life?" Members of the traditional anti-abortion movement had prescribed an acceptable "pro-life" position as one that argued for a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Nothing less would do, and nothing more was deemed necessary.

Confessing our own lack of clarity about specific legal remedies for abortion and our mixed feelings about the Right to Life movement, we nevertheless declared our opposition to abortion. And we argued that the "pro-life" label, to be true and accurate, should reflect a commitment to the sanctity of all life, born and unborn.

It was a definition that stretched and challenged two dissimilar and often antagonistic groups to be consistent in their values and to unite around a shared reverence for life. Peace and justice groups that opposed nuclear weapons, capital punishment, and violence were encouraged to see opposition to abortion as another issue of preserving and protecting life; while anti-abortion groups were urged to be as concerned about women's rights and life after birth as they were about life in the womb.

While that argument, more recently referred to as the "seamless garment" ethic, has won some converts over the years, abortion has continued to divide people and groups more than unite them. Most peace and justice groups remain "pro-choice" on the issue; the vast majority of persons affiliated with the Right to Life movement have not wavered in their support for nuclear weapons and capital punishment or their opposition to equal rights for women and many social programs; and even the churches have been unable to agree on abortion. Sojourners remains committed to the sanctity of all life.

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