PHILADEPHIA (Christian Examiner) -- Citing his concern for "social justice" as a primary motivation in announcing his decision to "call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church," speaker and author Tony Campolo said in an open statement on his website today he is compelled to emphasize Matthew 25 and the doctrines of the Apostles Creed in responding to "the least of these."
"Like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right," Campolo said, when recounting being asked the same question over and again -- "Are you ready to fully accept into the Church those gay Christian couples who have made a lifetime commitment to one another?"
The point of marriage, Campolo now says, is not only procreation, which he says came about by the teachings of St. Augustine, but so that God can assist "married partners" to help each other grow in the "fruits of the spirit."
Pointing to his wife Peggy, a longtime gay rights activist, Campolo said he has come to know many homosexual Christian couples, and believes now the Church should "actively support such families."
Campolo said in his statement that as a social scientist he has come to the conclusion that sexual orientation is "almost never a choice" and as a Christian, he says it is not his resonsibility to "condemn or reject gay people, but to rather love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church."
About this and other controversial issues, Campolo said, "I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one."
Earlier this year, City Church San Francisco, a church belonging to the Reformed Church in America, along with its Senior Pastor Fred Harrell and several members of its board of elders made a similar move.
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, quickly criticized the church's action, noting the congregation had long been a "model for convictional ministry in a challenging setting."
"The justification for their action was particularly troubling, even insidious," Iorg noted in a March 16 blog on the seminary website. "They claim they are taking the Bible seriously, but have found new ways to interpret the Bible which justify – even mandate – their position. ... They have invented a new hermeneutic to support their experience-driven conclusions that several thousand years of biblical interpretation has been wrong."
Last year Campolo shut down the ministry he'd grown over the last 40 years, the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE). It was a ministry that spawned 22 others -- all now independent.
His son, Bart, about the same time, became a humanist chaplain at the University of Southern California.
"My son made it clear to me that he didn't want to be responsible to carry on the old man's work. I think I can understand that," Tony Campolo said at the time. "My son's theology has drifted to the left when EAPE is definitely evangelical."
About the news his son now embraces humanism, Campolo told Religion News Service, "I leave judgments in the hands of God."