Aysha Khan at Religion News Service is reporting that the progressive Christian magazine Sojourners has replaced Jim Wallis as editor in chief and “announced a new policy of editorial independence from the organization’s advocacy work.” Wallis founded Sojourners and is President of the Sojourners organization. The announcement stems from Wallis’s decision to remove (and then restore) a controversial essay published at the Sojourners website. The essay was critical of the Catholic Church.
Here is a taste of Kahn’s piece:
The decision came after weeks of turmoil over Wallis’ removal of an essay criticizing white supremacists within the Catholic Church, which led two staffers of color to resign from the magazine.
Wallis, a prominent progressive theologian and activist who has also written for RNS, will continue to serve as president of the Sojourners organization, the magazine announced Friday afternoon (Aug. 14). He had served as a leader at the magazine since its founding in 1971 as the Post-American.
Sandi Villarreal, who had been the executive editor at Sojourners, has accepted the role of editor in chief. According to the statement, she has been promised editorial independence in overseeing Sojourner’s web and print publications.
The controversial essay, written by University of California Los Angeles lecturer Eric Martin, was published in the magazine’s August print issue under the title “Harboring a Culture of Hate” and online as “The Catholic Church has a Visible White-Power Faction.”
On July 28, following backlash from Catholic leaders, Wallis removed the article from the site, saying it “made unwarranted insinuations and allegations against many Catholics.”
In three lengthy subsequent editor’s notes, he criticized Martin’s claim that U.S. bishops voted to reject language condemning swastikas, Confederate flags and nooses in their 2018 pastoral letter against racism. In fact, he wrote, the bishops’ letter does name nooses and swastikas as a “tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animus.”
The article has now been restored to the site with a correction about the bishop’s letter appended above it. The publication has also committed not to remove published articles from its site.
As the controversy played out online and within the organization, two associate web editors, Dhanya Addanki and Daniel José Camacho, publicly resigned from the publication.
Read the entire piece here.
Here is the official statement from Sojourners.
Here is the statement from Jim Wallis. He says that this whole controversy is related to the “natural and ongoing tension between our identity as a publication and as an advocacy organization in and supportive of broader movements.” I would like to know more about this. Martin’s essay seemed pretty convincing to me. I thought it was also fair. He acknowledged that he was not writing about all Catholics. I can also understand why some Catholics who partner with Sojourner’s advocacy efforts might be upset about the piece. In the end, Wallis should not have removed it from the website.
But as I read Khan’s piece at Religion News Service, it appears that abortion and LGBTQ issues are also part of this story. (Although not directly related to the controversy over Martin’s essay). Wallis is pro-life on abortion, but not in the same way that many conservatives are pro-life. He supports same-sex marriage. But he also works with religious groups–such as the Catholic Church–that do not share some of his views on sexual ethics, but do have common concerns about addressing the plight of the poor. I appreciate Wallis’s efforts at finding common ground here and though I don’t agree with his decision to pull Martin’s piece, I can understand why he did it.