in Analysis and Commentary

Well-known evangelical leader Tony Campolo has “come out” in support of the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the Christian church.

It’s a big move in the evangelical world, and one that will likely inspire more movement toward affirmation. You can read his full statement here.

But, words alone aren’t enough to repent for past injustices. Just like “faith without works is dead,” an apology absent any intentional steps toward repentance is merely a self-serving platitude lacking substantive quality. It does no one any good.

Writer Brandon Robertson explains:

It is not enough that Christian leaders simply step forward and announce their support for gay and lesbian Christians. It’s also important that they acknowledge the harm that has been caused by their use of an un-affirming theology and that they publicly repent for their sin of exclusion. This is a key move that many Christians leaders who have changed their mind have not considered, but is perhaps even more important than announcing their support for inclusion and equality. In order for LGBTQ to find the healing that we need, the acknowledgement of the oppression and harm we have faced at the hands of Christian pastors, teachers, and theologians is essential.

Which is pretty much similar to what I wrote a few weeks ago:

Many Christian leaders have already turned the tide. They’ve reflected long and deep on their actions or the actions of their fellow people of faith. They’ve undertaken public penance, putting their minds, hearts and efforts toward transforming their churches into what they should been from the beginning — a safe haven and refuge, a community of the beloved. They should be applauded and more should be encouraged on their journeys.

But others — by far still the majority — have more making up to do. Mere words of affirmation following a change of heart aren’t enough. A grave sin has been committed against God and his children. True, honest and intentional repentance is needed. Leaders must say “I’m sorry.” Over and over again. Publicly and to each individual LGBT person they meet. And they must put action behind their words — public and intentional efforts to right the wrongs of so many decades and centuries. For some, repentance might even require their resignation from ministry — great sins of harm, be it spiritual, verbal, psychological or even physical violence, toward the people they’ve been charged to protect and lead should not result in their continued role in shepherding God’s people.

Without this public penance, church leaders cannot be absolved of their sin. Without this public penance, LGBT people cannot ever feel fully welcomed or affirmed in places of Christian worship. It’s not an option. It’s not a preference. This is a requirement. My single message to leaders of the global Christian church is simple — turn the fingers you’ve been violently pointing toward LGBT people back to yourself and say: “Turn away from your wicked ways and repent of your sins.”

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