Sojourners draws criticism for ad rejection

Sojourners magazine and its founder, popular evangelical preacher Jim Wallis, have come in for criticism following their rejection of a video ad on the magazine’s Web site for a group seeking to highlight the social stigma facing Christian gays and lesbians.

Controversy sparked when the group responsible for the ad said Sojourners had told them in a rejection letter the magazine did not want to “take sides” on the issue.

The ad, made by a group calling itself “Believe Out Loud,” shows a young boy entering a church with two women, presumably his mothers. After receiving disapproving stares from those in the pews, a man wearing liturgical vestments gestures for them to join the congregation and says, “Welcome, everyone.”

As the video concludes, words appear, calling on people to “Open your heart. Break the silence. Believe out loud.”

A project of Intersections International, the “Believe Out Loud” Web site says the group wants to help Christians “love one another” by becoming “fully inclusive of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In a May 7 posting on the Religious Dispatches Web site, the head of Intersections, United Church of Christ Rev. Robert Chase asked rhetorically: “What are the sides here? That young children who have same-gender parents are not welcome in our churches?”

Wallis responded to the criticism in a May 9 posting on the Sojourners Web site. While the group believes issues of gay marriage and ordination should not be allowed “to divide the churches,” he said those debates are not “the core of our calling.”

“[We are] much more focused on matters of poverty, racial justice, stewardship of the creation, and the defense of life and peace,” wrote Wallis.

“Essential to our mission is the calling together of broad groups of Christians, who might disagree on issues of sexuality, to still work together on how to reduce poverty, end wars, and mobilize around other issues of social justice.”

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