“Some Evangelicals Take New Look at Bible’s Stance on Gays,” announced the New York Times this morning, reporting on a conversation at Biola University among author Matthew Vines (God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships) and conservative evangelicals like apologetics professor Sean McDowell, radio host Frank Sontag, and pastors Ian DiOrio and Caleb Kaltenbach.
(A few days ago Vines also published a long, thoughtful response to Tim Keller’s recent review of God and the Gay Christian, in which he robustly disagreed with Keller on many point and yet concluded, “We dearly need both the kind of civil dialogue Dr. Keller has initiated here as well as robust engagement of differing theological viewpoints in order for this conversation to advance both the witness and the mission of the church.”)
As it happens, today was also the day that Tony Campolo, one of the country’s leading progressive evangelicals, announced that he had changed his mind and now believed that churches should fully accept committed same-sex couples:
Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.
However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.
So does Campolo’s announcement (like ethicist David Gushee’s last year) and conversations like the one at Biola signal changes within evangelicalism? If so, it doesn’t seem to have reached the rank and file.
Today also marked the release of a new poll from the Pew Research Center, finding not only that 57% of Americans now favor same-sex marriage (against 39% opposed) but that Republicans are as likely as Democrats to think it inevitable that SSM will be recognized as legal (72% for each). But while majorities among Catholics (56%), white mainline Protestants (62%), and the religiously unaffiliated (85%) also support SSM, 70% of white evangelical Protestants oppose it.