Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To Jim Wallis and Sojourners: Welcoming Gays Is a Social Justice Issue

You've probably read on the news that Believe Out Loud, a project of Intersections International, attempted to purchase ad space on the Sojourners website for a short video. The ad's message was elegantly simple -- see for yourself:

Sojourners decided to turn them down. In a statement posted on the group's site, Sojourners founder Jim Wallis said that, while the group does support civil rights for GLBTQ people, and calls for churches "to be loving and welcoming to all people," the issues raised by the ad "have not been at the core of our calling." Sojourners has always been recognized as a social justice ministry, and has never shied from being controversial before. If this video showed an interracial family, or an obviously impoverished family walking into an affluent church, would this ministry have remained silent? So why now?

I'm thinking -- and hoping -- that the reason for this decision is that the folks at Sojourners have yet to wrestle with the issue themselves. Yes, as many have pointed out, this ad isn't about same-sex marriage or the ordination of openly gay clergy. But it's also been raised that raising one issue inevitably leads to the other, and that's very true. The real question that the folks at Sojourners needs to ask is whether it's consistent with their faith and calling to avoid having that discussion.

When Paul affirmed that Gentile converts should not require circumcision, the early church did not avoid the issue. They heard him out, debated the matter, and made a decision. Perhaps they considered when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, or commended the faith of a Roman centurion. Or Phillip's baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. Perhaps Peter recounted the vision he had before a group of Gentiles was introduced to him, eager to hear the Gospel message.

Margaret Chase Smith pointed out that the right way is not always the easy way. For Jim Wallis and Sojourners, having this discussion is not going to be easy. But it is a discussion that Christian communities across the country are already having, because it's the right thing to do. And it's time for Sojourners to join in.

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