Evangelicals + same-sex marriage = major headlines this week.
If you pay attention to religion news, you've undoubtedly noticed that.
Of course, tmatt posted Tuesday on the New York Times' front-page story on the sex debates and the quiet evangelical left:
In that same post, tmatt referenced breaking news involving a prominent evangelical progressive, Tony Campolo, who revealed Monday that he now supports "the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the church." Also, tmatt said reporters should keep an eye on statements by former Christianity Today editor David Neff.
No surprise here, but Sarah Pulliam Bailey -- a former GetReligionista who now covers religion for the Washington Post -- pounced on Campolo's statement and related developments and produced an excellent breaking news report.
Bailey's meaty lede:
Ahead of a highly-anticipated Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, many evangelicals are wrestling with the question of whether you can support the issue and remain an evangelical.
Evangelicals are America’s least likely religious group to support same-sex marriage, but a handful of leaders and churches within the movement have divided publicly on the issue in recent years. Some are wondering whether the shifts are a signal of what’s to come, whether evangelicalism could fracture or whether divided evangelicals can continue to happily live under the same umbrella.
Just in the past few days, Tony Campolo announced his support for same-sex couples’ inclusion in the church, while Franklin Graham announced that he would pull Billy Graham Evangelistic Association accounts from LGBT-friendly Wells Fargo bank. The two represent two different approaches within an older generation, a group that tends to hold financial and theological influence among other evangelical leaders and institutions.
“This issue will eventually break relationships: personally, congregationally and institutionally,” said Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who called today a “crucial moment.” “There’s not going to be any way around it.”
White evangelicals remain deeply opposed to same-sex marriage. Just 27 percent favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry, while 70 percent oppose it, according to the most recent survey research from the Pew Research Center. The support among evangelicals has still jumped 13 percentage points since 2005.
Now, if I were Bailey's editor, I'd tell her that the Associated Press Stylebook -- "the journalist's bible" -- says not to put hyphens between adverbs ending in -ly and the adjectives they modify (so it should be "highly anticipated"). But since I'm not her editor, I won't mention that, and I'll hope she refrains from pointing out all my typos and subject-verb disagreements at GetReligion.
Seriously, Bailey's expertise on evangelicals (a hard group to define, much less write intelligently about) shines in just those first five paragraphs. Her use of the description "a handful of leaders and churches" immediately provides valuable context on the size of the shift among evangelicals, while the Pew survey numbers offer additional valuable context. And Mohler is certainly a credible source.
Mohler, by the way, shared the story link on Twitter and called it an "important" piece:
Bailey's story nailed that other development, too, that caused waves on social media:
After Campolo’s announcement, David Neff, retired editor in chief of Christianity Today who still writes a column for the magazine, indicated his similar support on his private Facebook account, drawing notice from some observers.
Neff confirmed his support for same-sex marriage in a statement. Neff says that he still holds a high view of biblical authority, but that he has learned to read the relevant biblical passages in a different way than he used to.
“I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships,” Neff said in a statement to CT. “I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages.”
CT issued an editorial Tuesday, writing that “we’re saddened that David has come to this conclusion,” and “yes, another couple of prominent evangelicals have come out in support of gay sexual ethics.” The magazine that Billy Graham founded reaffirmed their position that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“We at CT are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular thinking on this matter,” CT’s current editor Mark Galli wrote. “And we’ll continue to be sorry, because over the next many years, there will be other evangelicals who similarly reverse themselves on sexual ethics.”
As we've pointed out before, it's a little awkward when we GetReligionistas start praising Bailey. After all, she used to be one of us, and we're proud of her.
But sometimes, given the importance of her work and publication, it's impossible for us to ignore her.
This is one of those times. Kudos, old friend. And please keep up the great work.