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Jim Wallis speaks for whom?

Jim Wallis speaks for whom?

After his Sojourners rejected an ad from a gay church group, progressive Christians are asking whether Jim Wallis of Sojourners be “THE” spokesperson for the Christian Left?

Liberal Christians Attack Obama Spiritual Adviser Jim Wallis

In the Daily Beast

Progressive Christian groups are asking whether Obama spiritual adviser Jim Wallis should still be the face of their movement after his organization rejected an ad from a gay church group. David Sessions reports.

Jim Wallis was a Beltway fixture long before the 2008 presidential election, writing bestselling books articulating a liberal evangelical view of social justice and castigating the rich in the political press. His popularity as an author and speaker made Wallis the face of progressive Christianity in Washington. But President Obama’s victory gave Wallis and his organization, Sojourners, new influence. His message of working beyond ideological lines resonated with the president’s campaign rhetoric about transcending partisanship, and Wallis became one of Obama’s spiritual advisers.

Now that status is in question, after Sojourners rejected a Christian group’s ad with a gay-rights message that was intended for Sojourners’ website and newsletter.

. . .

Jim Naughton, . . . said people inviting Wallis to policy briefings and White House meetings should realize that he “is far to the right of the people he’s allowed to speak for.” And now, when liberal Christians “are making progress by the second,” he added, is a particularly bad time to hedge on the church’s welcome of gays and lesbians.

. . .

Rev. Canon Susan Russell . . . said. “The issue in the ad was, ‘Is there room for a family in church on Mother’s Day?’ If [Sojourners] doesn’t have a position on that, they need to re-evaluate.”


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Frederick W. Schmidt

There is another issue as well — the failure of progressive Christianity to define what it is in theological and spiritual categories that ground its decisions:


I would guess that there is at Sojourners a sense that their primary audience is evangelicals who need to see social justice as integral to the Gospel. If so, then I can see why the ad might have been refused so as not to offend that audience. Reasons like that aside, I think Sojourners made the wrong decision and, in spite of my admiration for Sojourners and Wallis, I am inclined to cancel my magazine subscription unless there is an admission that they made the wrong decision.

Mark Preece

I wish Sojourners would change its policy, because I support full inclusion for LGBT Christians. I wish they would change their policy on the “issue” and also their policy on taking advocacy ads on the issue. But I also wish we would focus our anger on those policies, rather than on some claim that this campaign is just about “welcome” and nothing more.

The Believe Out Loud website has a document called a “One Page Overview”, which states their purpose thus:

“The religious right’s divisive paradigm is paralleled by progressive stances that have resulted in inclusive institutional transformation within secular and religious settings, notably the Episcopal Church’s recent lifting of its ban on gay bishops and the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s vote to ordain non-celibate gays and lesbians. In California’s Proposition 8 battle, 50% of white Mainline Protestants voted for marriage equality.1 If the level of Mainline votes had risen to just 60%, gay marriage would still be legal in California. Indeed, a recent survey of mainline clergy confirms that a pro-gay Christian movement is not merely feasible, but grounded in a growing base of support: of the 2,700+ responding clergy, 29% are already vocal supporters of LGBT rights and another 41% are a “moveable middle” that could be persuaded to preach and teach in support of LGBT rights.

Believe Out Loud seeks to exploit and bolster this increasing level of LGBT acceptance within religious communities, creating a high-profile, trans-denominational Christian movement for LGBT equality – one that both opens religious doors previously shut to the LGBT community and mobilizes people of faith to work for LGBT rights in larger society.”

It’s at

Surely this basically acknowledges that the ad is part of a strategy for effecting social change well beyond what it explicitly advocates. Again, I’m all for that, but if I were an editor committed to remaining editorially neutral on the issue it would certainly give me pause.

There’s a whiff of disingenuousness in saying “we’re not asking you to take a stand; this is just about welcoming a family to church.” I’ll let them know I’m unhappy, but it’s about their policy, not about this particular application of it.

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