Author Tony Campolo has apologized for “misunderstanding” about his keynote speech at the recent Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly.
In a July 3 letter to Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, Campolo asked forgiveness for the “intemperate manner” he used in speaking about those who differ with him on topics including women’s ordination, homosexual rights and support for Israel.
In hindsight, he said, he believes those words have been misunderstood and should have been chosen more carefully.
Baptist Press published a lengthy story June 27 reporting on Campolo’s June 26 speech to the CBF, which included critical remarks apparently aimed at Southern Baptists for their views against women in the pulpit and homosexuality.
In the speech, Campolo described forbidding women preachers as “evil” and alluded to Southern Baptists’ Disney boycott as an example of discrimination against gays. SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman decried Campolo’s remarks as “unwarranted and unnecessary,” according to Baptist Press.
In fielding responses to the BP article, Campolo said in his July 3 letter that he had “become increasingly fearful” that his message was being misunderstood by people who weren’t present for the CBF General Assembly.
Campolo said published reports of his message failed to “make plain the important distinction between structural sin and personal sin.” While “organizations and social structures” that prevent women from exercising their spiritual gifts are sinful, he said, individuals who participate in them are not necessarily instruments of the devil.
“While I am convinced that the policies of many institutions are injurious to women, I am equally convinced that the people who form and support those policies mean well,” he wrote.
Campolo said his reading of the first chapter of Romans doesn’t allow him to support “same-gender eroticism,” as some of his critics have charged. In his comments at the CBF meeting, he said, “as always, I was simply calling on the church of Jesus Christ to show love and understanding to our homosexual brothers and sisters.”
Campolo also clarified comments in his speech criticizing the “evangelical lobby” for pushing Israel to drive out all Palestinians and establish Jerusalem as capital because it fits their dispensationalist theology.
“As a biblical, evangelical Christian, I believe that Jesus may return at any moment, that making all of Palestine into an Israeli state with Jerusalem as its capital is not a prerequisite for the Second Coming, and that those who oppose President Bush’s roadmap to peace because it includes the establishment of a Palestinian state are needlessly hindering the resolution of the crisis in the Middle East,” Campolo said.
“Nevertheless, I very much want to apologize for the intemperate manner in which I spoke of those who differ with me on these issues,” Campolo concluded his letter. “I should have chosen my words more carefully on June 26, and I sincerely ask the forgiveness of those who may have been hurt by my failure to do so.”
A CBF spokesman reached late Tuesday said leaders there had not seen the full text of Campolo’s letter, which EthicsDaily.com obtained from Campolo’s office, and would not comment based on a second-hand account of its contents reported by Baptist Press.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.