Brantley Gasaway on the Sojourners LGBT Flap

In the last few days Jim Wallis’s organization, Sojourners, has been taking some heat from the LGBT community and progressive Christians for refusing to run an ad on its website by Believe Out Loud, a group the promotes LGBT inclusion in Christian churches.

I think the ad does a nice job of portraying the kind of homophobia often found in churches today.  It also does a wonderful job of portraying the kind of love and grace that the church must extend to all of God’s children, regardless of sexual orientation.  Whether one agrees or disagrees with gay marriage, homosexuality, or other LGBT issues, it is hard for a Christian to disagree with the message presented in this ad.

Why did Sojourners, an organization devoted to progressive Christian causes, reject this ad?  Brantley Gasaway, the author of a forthcoming book with North Carolina University Press on the evangelical left, a religion professor at Bucknell University, and a regular reader of this blog, provides some historical context over at Religion in American History (where he is a new contributing editor). 

Here is his conclusion:

Thus, the disillusionment of religious and political liberals among Sojourners’ supporters is understandable. Many who define full equality for LGBT individuals as vital to social justice are angered. Few find credible Wallis’s and Sojourners’ desire to promote social justice but allow for different standards within the church. And many would even question Wallis’s ostensible commitment to LGBT civil rights since he supports civil unions rather than same-sex marriage.

Ultimately, this controversy illustrates why the progressive evangelical movement has remained small over the past four decades. Leaders like Wallis, Ron Sider, and Tony Campolo have been too politically progressive for most evangelicals but too theologically conservative for most political liberals. Wallis may consider his political positions “prophetic,” but he no doubt wishes they would remain more popular.

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