CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–Anyone who resists the notion of women preachers is functioning as a tool of the devil, Tony Campolo, founder and president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, said during the opening session of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s general assembly June 26.
A sociologist by training, Campolo said that one of the primary reasons the CBF exists is because “another group” said it would not endorse the idea that women can serve as pastors. He characterized that statement as “about as evil a statement as one can make.”
“It’s one thing to be wrong, but that isn’t wrong, that’s sinful. The Bible says, ‘neglect not the gift that is in you,’ and when women are gifted with the gift of preaching, anybody who frustrates that gift is an instrument of the devil,” Campolo said.
Campolo encouraged the CBF to continue combating the sexism of those whom he said, “change the Bible to fit their theology.” He also said that the other group, still anonymous, had an improper attitude about homosexuals. Any doubt that Campolo was targeting the Southern Baptist Convention dissolved when he said that some have “drawn the line” and said they would “fight out” the issue of homosexuality.
In a statement to Baptist Press, Morris H. Chapman, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee reproved Campolo for his strident remarks against Southern Baptists and their beliefs.
“I read with regret the unwarranted and unnecessary remarks of Tony Campolo. For some time now, those in evangelical circles have observed with sadness his drift from biblical authority.
“Tony Campolo is known for bombast and overstatement, but I think this may be a new low for him. His remarks are unbecoming of one wishing to be recognized as a Christian spokesman. Pugnacity should not be mistaken for the prophetic spirit.
Chapman specifically addressed Campolo’s characterization as “sinful” what Southern Baptists believe about the role of pastor.
“The intemperance and unkindness of his tone pale in comparison to the gravity of his characterization as “evil” and “sinful” those who take what they believe to be a biblical position on the issue of female pastors. I presume that to his mind, the majority of Christians of all ages, who have held to the teaching of the Scripture on this topic, is evil as well. Southern Baptists have plainly stated what we believe New Testament teaching on the issue to be. For that, we have no apologies to offer Mr. Campolo.”
Chapman also remarked on Campolo’s objection to Southern Baptists’ beliefs about homosexuality.
“We believe we will have miserably failed those entrapped by homosexuality if we are unfaithful either in biblical witness or compassionate ministry to those with same sex attractions. As important as the struggle for dignity is, it is even more important that we live under the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Scripture, and teach others to do so.
Stating that Scripture says that homosexual activity is an abomination to the Lord, Chapman added, “That is an extremely serious statement, and cute quips cannot substitute for serious thought in dealing with it.
“We do take the injunctions against homosexual behavior seriously, but we also strenuously believe that God shows His mercy and grace to all who repent, and that homosexual persons, like all sinners, are candidates for the forgiveness, grace, and cleansing of the Lord when they turn to Him from their sin. We also deeply believe that we are responsible to treat all others with kindness, and that hatred of anyone is forbidden.
Campolo said that he and his wife have different opinions about gay and lesbian marriages. She favors them, but he does not and refers to himself as a “conservative” on the issue.
“Both of us are committed to justice for gays and lesbians regardless of what we may in fact say theologically,” he said. “When in fact we live in a society that makes life hell for gays and lesbians, this community has got to stand up and say, ‘We’re on your side as you struggle for dignity,’ and, ‘Yes, we will defy anybody who says otherwise, even if we have to go to Disneyland to prove it.'”
Campolo apparently was referencing a resolution adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1997 that encouraged Southern Baptists to boycott Walt Disney theme parks and motion pictures because of the company’s soft stance on homosexuality.
He said that he wasn’t asking participants at the CBF meeting to take one theological position over another, but only to show love and compassion for people “who have had their teeth kicked in by the church for far too many years.” He also said that even conservatives needed to stand up and fight for gays and lesbians.
Southern Baptist leaders stressed the need to reach out in ministry to homosexuals in numerous sermons and press conferences at the 2003 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix last week. There, James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, and Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, reported on Southern Baptists efforts to reach homosexuals for Christ.
“God loves all people, including those trapped in homosexuality, and He is looking for people who will reach them with His saving, healing love through Jesus Christ,” Draper said. “We pray that you will make yourselves available to God’s leading and that He will lead you to begin a ministry to reach all the precious men and women for whom Jesus died.”
“We want to encourage you to consider how God could work through you and your church to reach homosexual men and women,” Land said. “Churches must become places of healing.” Land said that the Bible teaches that homosexuals can change in relationship with Christ.
Campolo said that his views on homosexuality and women in the ministry were drawn from the Bible, which most mainline denominations have not used in so long that they’ve become “biblically illiterate or biblical insensitive.”
“Don’t you ever listen to Billy Graham? Every fifth sentence that Billy Graham utters is what? ‘The Bible says,’ ‘The Bible says.’ People, they won’t believe anything we tell them unless we can convince them that the Bible says it. …When we say we’re Baptists, we accept no creed but the Bible, but then after we say that we never talk about the Bible. We never announce what it is the Bible says on each and every social issue and theme,” Campolo said.
Campolo included a number of political statements in his sermon. He attacked the Bush administration’s tax cut and environmental policies on several occasions, labeling the policies “evil” and “sick.”
“Five hundred thousand kids will lose their after school programs to pay for this tax cut to the rich. The rich are going to benefit. I’m going to benefit. It’s the poor that are going to take it in the teeth,” he said. He also said that 44 million people in the United States have no healthcare coverage.
“It is evil for the richest nation on the face of the earth not to provide medical care for all its people. That’s obscene,” he said.
A solution to these problems, Campolo said, is for Christians to do good on personal and societal levels and combat racism, war and poverty. He encouraged CBF participants to be advocates for the Jews and the Palestinians.
“Time magazine’s cover story this week is ‘Should Christians try to convert Muslims.’ Well, how are you going to do it if you’re kicking them every time you turn around? Where do we get off?” He said that the Palestinian people had been driven off their land and lost more than 2,000 villages to Israeli bulldozers.
“I do not justify Hamas and terrorism any more than I legitimate the terrorism of the Israeli army,” he said. “One half of all our foreign aid goes to Israel. They’ve now created the fourth most powerful army in the world.”
The perpetual cycle of violence in the Middle East is not the result of Palestinians, according to Campolo. He said that the “evangelical lobby” is pushing Israel to drive all Palestinians from the land and establish Jerusalem as a capital because that fits with their dispensational views about the end times.
“I hear Christian radio denouncing poor Harry [Potter] who chooses the right friends and runs with the right crowd and does the right thing. … That’s good for kids to hear,” he said. “Instead of preaching against Harry Potter I suggest that you people who are preachers start preaching against those really hot sellers in the Christian community, those ‘Left Behind’ books. Nobody wants to say it. You are scared to attack the ‘Left Behind’ books which are false theology and unbiblical to the core. And it is about time you stand up and say so.
“I mean all of this stuff comes out of not only fundamentalism. It comes out of dispensationalism, which is a weird little form of fundamentalism that started like a hundred fifty years ago. … Augustine doesn’t talk about it. Calvin, Luther, none of those people talk about it. Southern Seminary has now enshrined Calvin. Well, if you’re going to enshrine Calvin at least accept his eschatology, which would put ‘Left Behind’ out of business tomorrow,” he said.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said to Baptist Press that Campolo’s comments show how far out of step he is with Southern Baptists.
“Unfortunately, Dr. Campolo is a sociologist rather than a theologian. His venom toward the Southern Baptist Convention and his advocacy of liberal positions on social and moral issues puts him in no position to judge the SBC or its institutions,” said Mohler.
“Controversy follows Dr. Campolo wherever he goes, and it seems to be as much for his enjoyment and publicity as for any constructive purpose. The fact that the CBF would have him as one of their major speakers says everything.”
Campolo said that Christians would “never leave suffering people behind” and stay until the end “or we couldn’t call ourselves Christian. What the Bible makes clear is that we are to stay here in this world struggling against the powers of darkness until the Second Coming.”
Campolo said that he believes in the rapture of the church, but not as described in the theology of the “Left Behind” series that many have used to avoid engagement in society and political life. He also said that evangelicals have “made the UN the instrument of anti-Christ.”
“No wonder America spits on the UN,” he said. “And they put down what government can do. I think that we need to challenge the government to do the work of the Kingdom of God, to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. That whole sense of the rapture, which may occur at any moment, is used as a device to oppose engagement with the principalities, the powers, the political and economic structures of our age.
“I have already made the point that we need to have to win people to Jesus Christ, but we must also preach the whole Gospel which not only calls people to love Jesus but to bring His justice into the political and economic arena in which we live.”