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Is Sojourners afraid of the big bad backlash?

Is Sojourners afraid of the big bad backlash?

Intersections International has expended considerable resources creating Believe Out Loud, a campaign that’s

… a collection of clergy and lay leaders, LGBT activists, and concerned individuals, working together to help the Protestant community become more welcoming to gays and lesbians.

Using community organizing and social marketing strategies, we support individuals and churches in their efforts toward LGBT inclusion. A partnership of the country’s leading LGBT advocacy groups, both religious and secular, Believe Out Loud seeks to accelerate the existing Christian movement toward LGBT inclusion and significantly increase the number of local churches and denominations that are fully-inclusive of LGBT individuals, both in practice and policy. In doing so, we seek to create a widespread Christian movement for LGBT equality in the church and in broader society.

Central to the effort is a YouTube video that demonstrates what a clear and simple thing a word of welcome can be to an LGBT family desirous of church. (I note with some sadness that The Episcopal Church’s Hymnal 1982 seems to be used as some sort of pew-block device turning away this family. [Watch at 0:37.])

Other than the whole Hymnal thing, it seems sort of helpful. To me, anyway. So why would the web site for Sojourners say no to it? Believe Out Loud campaigners submitted the ad to Sojourners, then got a note back.

“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.”

Intersections International’s Founding Director, Rev. Robert Chase, rang them up to clarify. Surely there had been some sort of misunderstanding?

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.

Perhaps Sojourners’ reputation as a hub for Christian justice-seekers is unwarranted? It seems a fair question at this point.

Does the organization not really believe in welcome for “everyone” in our churches or do they believe everyone is welcome, but they are afraid to “believe out loud” for fear of alienating some constituents? On one level, it doesn’t really matter. Their dilemma, apparently, is a ringing testimony for both the urgency and the necessity of this campaign since the issues they confronted are similar to those that face congregational leaders in addressing this concern within their settings.

Perhaps Sojourners is less a bellwether than it fancies itself – or at any rate so fears potential backlash that it won’t even take an ad buy of this nature?

“The appearance of taking sides,” or the fear of alienating certain readers and advertisers? By taking a pass, is Sojourners – whose paid web ads seem sufficiently set apart from editorial content to avoid such confusion – effectively taking sides anyway?

Sojourners is largely synonymous with the Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical Christian writer and political activist best known as the founder and editor of the magazine running under the same name. We can only assume at this point that none of the media entities associated with the Sojourners brand wanted to “maximize visibility” for this particular cause.

Sojourners may have chosen not to participate, but you can. Watch the video, and share the welcome.


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Tim Yeager

Hi all. What is the status of Sojourners and the ad? Has there been any organized approach to Sojourners?

M. Brooke R.

Sorry about that. Is this better? M. Brooke R. ? I hope so. I’d like to keep it at M. Brooke R. rather than my whole last name. I suspect there aren’t many R’s out there, and I’d be easy to find even with the information I’ve provided, but I’d like to keep a weee bit of anonymity, if possible….


a) when i walked into our local episcopal church for the first time nearly a year ago it was our rector who was the most welcoming. during passing of the peace someone who knew me from the university walked all the way around the sanctuary to come give me a welcome because i wasn’t exactly being warmly welcomed by those around me. so, having a pastor in the lead of being welcoming in a video like this resonates with my own personal experience.

b) i am not happy with sojourners. i was wounded by growing up in southwestern virginia. having the voices of pat robertson and jerry falwell surround me culturally left me with a big distaste for the church. considering that my parents were academics, and my father wasn’t inclined to continue going to TEC (which he was raised in), that was my view of the christian church. it’s taken me a long time and a lot of soul searching to be able to accept the church into my life. messages like this by a group like sojourners, i believe, only continues to injure people who have already been injured enough.

i hope that jim wallis and those who run sojourners come around and recognize that they are one of the front voices of the progressive christian movement, even if they don’t intend to be. if they aren’t willing to be one of the front voices then they, particularly jim wallis, needs to step back and allow for truly welcoming and justice seeking christians to take lead.

Please sign your name next time you comment. Thanks ~ed.

John B. Chilton

So, I guess we should thank Sojourners for not running the ad.

Tobias, you’re absolutely right that it’s the congregation that determines its own membership. I’m reminded of this true story: A vestry of a white congregation was wondering, during the food counter sit in days, what they should do if a black family should happen to visit one Sunday. It was agreed they should be treated like any other newcomer. To which one wag said, “oh no, not that.” The vestry had a hearty laugh at itself and the church.

Visiting a church is, unfortunately, gutsy. I don’t if the congregation is giving them the hairy eyeball so much as ignoring them.

tobias haller

Well, the ad fails for all the reasons above. It also demonstrates unawareness of the fact that however welcoming clergy may be, it is the congregation that will determine its own membership. Clergy can model all they want, and they should, but even a handful of “gatekeepers” can create the atmosphere of exclusion.

And whatever the opposite of kudos is to Sojourners for a major fail.

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