Evangelicals and LGBTQ equality …

Tony Campolo recently came out in support of LGBTQ equality.
Perhaps more surprising, retired Christianity Today editor David Neff did as well, saying:

“I think the ethically responsible thing for gay and lesbian Christians to do is to form lasting, covenanted partnerships… I also believe that the church should help them in those partnerships in the same way the church should fortify traditional marriages.”

A CT editorial responded by reminding readers that the vast majority of the world’s Christians have not (yet) changed on this issue, and are not likely to do so any time soon. The editorial then added:

“We at CT are sorry when fellow evangelicals modify their views to accord with the current secular thinking on this matter.”

The response employs the time-tested strategy of interpreting the motives for the change (to accord with the current secular thinking), and in so doing, it discredits the person who has changed as a mere accommodationist or compromiser. (One can imagine exactly the same strategy being deployed in, say, 1858 regarding slavery or in 1958 regarding segregation.) The editorial then applied the strategy preemptively to all the others who are considering joining Jim Wallis, Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, David Gushee, Tony Campolo, David Neff, Laura Truax, and many others:

“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.”

Meanwhile, Franklin Graham recently called for a boycott of gay-friendly businesses. (This boycott stands in fascinating contrast to the boycott led by 350.org.) I think Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler is correct when he says,

“Every one of us is going to have to give an answer in short order. There are good number of evangelicals who have been trying to fly under the radar. It isn’t going to work.”

Meanwhile, many progressive Evangelicals are not retiring or retreating: they’re organizing and moving forward. For example, the Open Network recently formed to foster a “just and generous progressive Evangelical expression of Christianity.”
All this tumult will play out during the upcoming election cycle, no doubt, with many candidates courting the Evangelical vote by appealing to its most conservative wing. Animating the most conservative wing will also arouse those who do not feel comfortable with its positions or rhetoric, further straining the fabric of Evangelicals tent.
Which raises an interesting question: Will conservative Evangelicals find a way to excommunicate or refuse to associate with more progressive Evangelicals, will they learn to peacefully coexist, or will they decide to cede the “Evangelical” label and adopt a new term altogether? The next few years will be interesting, and an opportunity for all concerned to practice Christian virtues.
An encouraging sign: the CT editorial on this subject made it clear that they plan to peacefully coexist with their differing sisters and brothers rather than excommunicate, refuse to associate, or withdraw:

We’ll be sad, but we won’t panic or despair. Neither will we feel compelled to condemn the converts and distance ourselves from them…. It’s disappointing, but no reason to react defensively or angrily. We plan to treat with charity and respect those with whom we disagree….

That response is, to me, the most encouraging news of all.