Welcome, Everyone?

Some of you have been following the story about Sojourners' decision to not run a Mother's Day themed ad by Believe Out Loud, a LGBT Christian advocacy group. Here's the ad:

Over at Religion Dispatches, Rev. Robert Chase discusses the incident and tries to process the reasoning behind the decision. A bit of his analysis and reaction:

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.”

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.
Jim Wallis' response is here.

Additional reflections here and here.

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5 thoughts on “Welcome, Everyone?”

  1. Ironically, by trying not to take sides on this issue, Sojourners has created a bigger firestorm than if they had just quietly accepted the ad. Like any good firestorm, if nothing else it has gotten people to think and discuss the issue.

    I agree with the quote you reproduced above. The ad itself is not in the least offensive and contains a message that all churches need to hear. I suspect that Sojourners was trying to avoid, among other things, endorsing the rest of Believe Out Loud's message, which is much more controversial, namely that churches should fully accept gays: as members, workers, leaders, etc.

    It's sad that Sojourners didn't feel they could show this ad, but it's also sad that they are not being given the benefit of the doubt. In any case, the ad is out there now and people are talking, which is generally a good thing.

  2. I am disappointed by this obvious political decision. I have
    been a supporter of Sojo for years and I would have expected a riskier
    response. I can imagine that in Wallis' context, the last thing he wants is to
    draw more virulent attacks from his critics for yet another issue of
    difference. But I'm afraid prudence is not the sound of the prophetic voice. It
    reminds me of this oft quoted line from MLKJ (my memory is it was in response
    to fellow clergymen advising him to cool his civil rights activity and rhetoric);
    "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of
    this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people,
    but the appalling silence of the good people." We all have to
    choose our battles carefully but this surely was a no-brainer.

  3. I assume this will just highlight that there are different groups of people who identify as "progressive" Christians. Sojourners has been a place for politically progressive mainliners and evangelicals to come together with Jim Wallis leading the charge. Episodes like this will probably make many mainline progressives, who tend to also have liberal theological stances, on other issues besides social issues, question there willingness to let evangelicals such as Jim Wallis who have progressive social views speak for them.

  4. A few years ago I was talking with my boys' school band director, and he told me about a kid who had been bullied in the general high school population for having two moms. School, like church, can be brutal. But in the band program, he was included, accepted, and not treated differently. It made huge difference in his life to have a safe place within the high school population to be just a kid with friends and a group to hang with.

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