WASHINGTON (BP) -- Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, now says he supports gay marriage.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Wallis spoke of the need to renew and reestablish the importance of marriage in society.
"I think we should include same-sex couples in that renewal of marriage, I want to talk marriage first," he said in the April 5 interview. "Marriage needs some strengthening. Let's start with marriage, and then I think we have to talk about, now, how to include same-sex couples in that deeper understanding of marriage. I want a deeper commitment to marriage that is more and more inclusive, and that's where I think the country is going."
Asked specifically whether he supports gay marriage, Wallis said, "yes."
In a 2008 interview with Christianity Today, Wallis made mostly a traditional case for marriage.
"I don't think the sacrament of marriage should be changed," he said then. "Some people say that Jesus didn't talk about homosexuality, and that's technically true. But marriage is all through the Bible, and it's not gender-neutral. I have never done a blessing for a same-sex couple. I've never been asked to do one. I'm not sure that I would."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press Wallis should have stuck to his former position.
"I am profoundly disappointed that Jim Wallis would take a position on same-sex marriage that is so utterly contradictory to what the Bible tells us God has declared marriage to be," Land said.
Although Wallis had not previously stated his support for gay marriage publicly, Sojourners itself came close in 2012, after President Obama declared he backed gay marriage. That May 2012 statement said, "Sojourners supports equal protection under the law and full legal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation." The statement, though, did not mention marriage and could have been interpreted several different ways.
Wallis' change of position is but the latest instance where a religious figure or body has made news on the issue. In March, the District of Columbia Baptist Convention released a statement taking a neutral position on gay marriage.
"Our Convention consists of a diverse body of believers who hold strong opinions on both sides of this issue," the statement read, in part. "DCBC member churches, leaders and staff have determined for themselves what their conviction is regarding same-sex marriage and we respect their right to do so. Therefore, we gather on the values and principles for which we do agree, most especially the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and lovingly and respectfully disagree on issues like same-sex marriage."
The churches of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention participate with several national Baptist bodies including the American Baptist Churches USA, the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. According to the 2011 SBC annual church profile, the most recent year of record, four churches listed on the DCBC web site contributed through the convention to SBC causes, while one other contributed directly through the SBC executive committee for Southern Baptist work.
"When faced with the opportunity to articulate a strong, biblical position on a moral matter of this magnitude, it is disappointing that the District of Columbia Baptist Convention leadership chose to take a pass," Roger S. Oldham, SBC executive committee vice president for convention communications and relations, said. "While the SBC fully affirms the right of each local church to govern itself in all matters, including matters of doctrine, morality and polity, it also affirms the responsibility of any Baptist body to establish for itself the parameters for participation in that body. It is regrettable that the DCBC has apparently chosen to embrace churches, leaders and staff that convictionally affirm, approve or endorse same-sex marriage."
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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