Perhaps you’ve seen Rev. Jim Wallis on TV – he’s a self-described Christian “public theologian.” But 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.
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.”Michael Jones at Change.org is already on it with a petition telling Sojourners: “Stop Silencing LGBT People of Faith.”
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.