I grew up in the very Evangelical culture of East Belfast, where my school's Bible Union was greatly influenced by the Evangelical youth magazine Buzz. One of the main people who impressed me from its pages was Tony Campolo, a United States Baptist pastor and sociology professor. It says something of the Evangelical sub-culture of the early 80s that he was considered a breath of fresh air for suggesting that young Christians not reject secular youth culture. Now that Campolo is in his early 80s he is again making radical waves by issuing a statement that many outside conservative Evangelicalism have been making for years: that gay couples should be accepted within churches.
While in many sectors of Christianity that statement would appear uncontroversial, it has led to public denunciations of Campolo for deserting Biblical Christianity. Yet Campolo's coming out as gay affirming held little surprise for those who attended the Open Church 2015 conference in London, where Campolo was a speaker via video link from the United States. While Campolo was billed as a conservative voice who disagreed on gay affirmation with the conference leader, it was clear that he was having his doubts. One of the other speakers was Vicky Beeching, the former star of the Evangelical music scene, who came out as lesbian in August 2014. On her Twitter feed she welcomed Campolo's coming out as an ally, but stated that she was not surprised given the tone of his comments at the conference. She went on to state that she hoped that he was a sign of many other Evangelicals becoming gay affirming. I hope so. There is certainly a buzz in the air.
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