Karen Ocamb

Supposedly Progressive Christian Sojourners Rejects LGBT Ad

Filed By Karen Ocamb | May 09, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Believe Out Loud, Jim Wallis, Michael Jones, Rev Robert Chase, Sojourners Social Justice Ministry

Perhaps you've seen Rev. Jim Wallis on TV - he's a self-described Christian "public theologian." Jim-Wallis-Photo-from-Sojourners-website--300x214.jpgBut he's also an influential one as a best-selling author and the president and CEO of what heretofore has been considered the progressive Sojourners Social Justice Ministry with its widely read publication and website.

Perhaps his biggest coup was organizing a presidential debate on religion that aired on CNN on June 4, 2007, where the second question of the night went to John Edwards: "Do you think homosexuals have the right to be married?"

It turns out Wallis may not really be all that progressive after all. According to a Monday, May 9 opinion piece in Religion Dispatches by Rev. Robert Chase, Founding Director of Intersections International, a multi-faith social justice organization in New York City, Sojourners refused to run an LGBT "welcoming" ad promoting the United Church of Christ's Believe Out Loud project described as "a trans-denominational effort to promote LGBT equality in mainline Protestant congregations."

The new campaign was launched on Mother's Day "to invite one million believers to 'sign up' for full LGBT equality in our churches and society-at-large." The centerpiece is a video showing a young boy and his two moms walking down a church aisle to stares and scorn until welcomed by the minister.

Chase writes:

So, you can imagine our dismay when Sojourners refused to run our ads. In a written statement, Sojourners said, "I'm afraid we'll have to decline. Sojourners position is to avoid taking sides on this issue. In that care [sic], the decision to accept advertising may give the appearance of taking sides."

Taking sides? What are the sides here? That young children who have same-gender parents are not welcome in our churches? That "welcome, everyone" (the only two words spoken in the ad) is a controversial greeting from our pulpits? That the stares the young boy and his moms get while walking down the aisle are justified? I can't imagine Sojourners turning down an ad that called for welcome of poor children into our churches. So why is this boy different?

I called the folks at Sojourners and asked what the problem was, what the "sides" in question might be. The first response was that Sojourners has not taken a stance on gay marriage (the ad is not about gay marriage); or on ordination of homosexuals (the ad is about welcome, not ordination); that the decision, made by "the folks in executive" (why such a high level decision?) was made quickly because of the Mother's Day deadline. The rationale kept shifting. The reasoning made no sense.

Michael Jones at Change.org is already on it with a petition telling Sojourners: "Stop Silencing LGBT People of Faith."

cross-posted at LGBT POV, img from the Sojourner's website


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Yawn, another Christian bigot hypocrite, I am surprised because? That type owns the brand now, this effort, while nice, is far too little, far too late. Christian has come to mean bigot in the minds of many people these days and not just on LGBt issues either. Catholic priest has become shorthand for child molester as well.

Jesus would be so damn proud.

Nice ad.

Too bad Sojourners continues to turn a blind eye toward LGBT people & issues. (which challenges their "progressive" "social justice" values)

Hope they see the light.

To understand what happened here, you have to understand the history of Sojourners and their media strategy.

The founders of Sojourners came from conservative evangelical church colleges. They started a movement to work for social justice and connect with young people, but they are still tied down to ideas from the past, such as Biblical inerrancy.

Sojourners today thrives on media attention and publicity. They think they get media attention by being radical and edgy and by being beyond traditional left and right politics.

They do this by taking liberal positions when it comes to things like income distribution, the Iraq war, environmental protection and health care reform and by taking conservative positions when it comes to abortion and LGBT rights and faith-based initiatives.

I bet that if you did a poll, the vast majority of the people who work and volunteer at Sojourners are 100% fine with gay marriage and LGBT rights. There are a few at the top who are on a quixotic quest to convert Bible believing conservative fundamentalist Republicans to the cause of social justice, and they're afraid if Sojourners says anything to support gay marriage they'll turn them off. Good luck with that!!

I know progressive Christians who are like that. Yeah, they think that if they just compromise on the "unimportant" stuff, they can get people to agree on the other stuff.

Which isn't going to happen. Usually, conservatism is caused by a false understanding of how the world works. The only way to convert people is to discuss fact and make arguments, not assume that there can be some sort of grand compromise.

Alex, you are absolutely right. This has been the strategy of progressive Christians for too long. That is why the vote that will occur today in the Presbyterian Church falls well short of full equality. Yet progressives are celebrating it as a victory,

Nothing so rare as a Christian church actually following the teachings actually attributed to Jesus. Really you all should change the name of the overall religion to Paulianity

california panda | May 10, 2011 6:27 AM

Christian hypocrisy made manifest. If you won't take a stand on behalf of the oppressed in social justice issues then you don't follow Christ's teachings. End of story. He was, if you can believe the accounts, a social justice advocate of the first order. How's that working for ya, Sojourners?

I would say you are overreacting.

Go to their site search and enter gay, lesbian or transgender. Pretty progressive stuff.
http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=home.site_search

Jim Wallis has a response on their site
http://blog.sojo.net/2011/05/09/a-statement-on-sojourners-mission-and-lgbtq-issues/

Wow. That ad is soooo not shocking or even controversial.

Hmmm. Methinks Jim Wallis wants to have it all ways at once without actually grappling with the implications and meanings of his (I guess) rejection of the ad. The ad is a wee bit heart-string-tuggy, since it focuses on the boy, not his Moms. But so what? The message is clear and unambiguous: welcome to all and please join us. I wonder what Wallis thinks will happen when the little queer family attends the post-service coffee hour/social? More shunning? Perhaps that's what he could provide some leaderly thinking on instead of dithering on the ad and the "controversial issue" of queers attending church.

Rhone Fraser | May 15, 2011 4:10 PM

Brian McLaren's response to this issue on the sojo.net website is anemic. He defends Sojourners by saying that they are taking "the lead" on LGBTQ issues by simply running an ad. This is an absolutely unnecessary exaggeration. Sojourners is obviously caving into demands of the evangelical right like Obama did when he dissed Common and Van Jones. The reality is that many children today have openly gay and lesbian parents, and these parents should not feel excluded from the Gospel and from the very important social justice message that Sojourners provide to progressive people of faith. Obama and the Democrats are already turning progressives into loyal Blue Dog Democrats in Congress; let's not repeat this trauma in the faith community as well, please. -RF.