SBC Reacts to Criticism by Tony Campolo
- The commentary comes from the Baptist Press, official news service of
the Southern Baptist Convention, which rejects women clergy.
Campolo: Opposition to women preachers evidence of demonic influence
By Gregory Tomlin
Jun 27, 2003
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
"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
"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
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-
"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
"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."