Forum on gays centers on tolerance Methodist minister, wife with differing views lead Towson church discussion

October 18, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The headline on an article in Sunday's Maryland section about a conference on homosexuality misidentified the denomination of the Rev. Tony Campolo. He is a Baptist minister.

The Sun regrets the errors.

The Rev. Tony Campolo, president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education and spiritual adviser to President Clinton, and his wife, Peggy, a writer, stood together in the pulpit and preached tolerance yesterday at a Towson United Methodist Church discussion on homosexuality.

He is an evangelical, committed to social justice and to Scripture, which condemns homosexuality. She is a moderate who speaks about gay rights and "loving Christian homosexual partners."

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"Some televangelists said I should not be in the pulpit, because I don't have my wife in subjection," he said, drawing laughter from a crowd of several hundred. "Peggy and I represent a dichotomy in the church. Let us talk, make room for each other and let love grow between us."

The Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church sponsored the discussion, which is timely given the recent slaying of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, and a Supreme Court ruling allowing Cincinnati to keep anti-gay laws on its books. The slaying has put hate crime legislation atop of national and state political agendas and has drawn attention to prejudice against gays.

As Shepard was buried in Casper on Friday, dozens of protesters stood outside waving signs condemning homosexuality. The violence is escalating and the gay community has become a scapegoat for the ills of society, Tony Campolo said.

"Families are falling apart and divorces are in record numbers, but gays want to get married," Tony Campolo said. "Evil leaders always organize people around a devil. Over the last few years, many have made the gay community the devil."

Peggy Campolo said she condones same-sex unions. But her husband, while favoring tolerance of gays, opposes such marriages.

"I'm a traditionalist on this issue," he said. "But I worry about a church that says, 'You can't be part of our fellowship if you don't agree with us.' "

He chastised congregations that turn people away because of sexual orientation: "If we are not about loving people, we ought not call ourselves church. I disapprove of a church that has forgotten how to love the people Jesus loves."

Ralph Williams, a member of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, offered his congregation's gay and lesbian ministry as a model of reconciliation.

"I have come a long way from the Pentecostal boy hiding his deepest shame to proclaiming my homosexuality as a blessing from God," he said.

The Rev. Felton Edwin May, bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, said he hoped the Campolos' model of open dialogue would become the model for United Methodists. The denomination has condemned same-sex marriages.

Jane King, whose daughter is a lesbian, said the conference -- particularly the Campolos' dialogue -- gave her courage.

"My daughter has not felt at home in church, even though she was raised in one," said King. "Today showed us how we can be different but still have the love of Christ and acceptance."

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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