Tony Campolo is an ordained Baptist
minister. He is the founder and president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education
. He preaches an evangelical
message, while also paying equal attention to social issues.
His stand on various social issues, including women in ministry
, and the Israel/Palestine problem, is often controversial - not in the last place because of the way he sometimes presents his ideas (see Articles
However, countless Christians
appreciate the fact the Campolo practices his faith instead of just talk about it...
The Rev. Tony Campolo is
a religious leader who defies religious stereotypes.
An educator, evangelist, author, and high-profile counselor
to President Clinton, Dr. Campolo is part fire-and-brimstone preacher, part cerebral social activist.
"What creates a certain anomaly for me is that I am thoroughly evangelical and preach a Billy Graham message of being converted, which is often ignored in mainstream churches," said Dr. Campolo, who will speak at St. Markís Lutheran Church in Toledo Aug. 9.
"Mainline churches have done a good job of articulating social justice issues, but have not done as effective a job in bringing individuals to know Jesus Christ
as Savior and Lord," he said in a recent interview.
Dr. Campolo, an ordained Baptist
minister with a doctorate in sociology from Temple University, is working hard to build bridges over any gulfs that may exist between the two branches of Christianity
While his blend of fundamentalism and intellectualism may seem unwieldy to some, Dr. Campoloís ministries are based on the simple premise that religious conversion leads a person to seek social justice.
"Conversion is not basically so that you can go to heaven when you die," he said. "The purpose of conversion is so that you can go through the kind of personal transformation that will enable you to be a different kind of a person here on Earth and to become an instrument of God for changing the world."
EAPE, which he founded more than 30 years ago, exemplifies Dr. Campoloís dualistic approach. The organization has established programs in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Africa, Canada, and the United States, where it teaches reading, writing, and arithmetic to children and helps poverty-stricken adults open and operate small businesses.
"We believe that the programs we sponsor and the education that we do in economic development only works because it is faith-based," he said. "Any economic development program that does not facilitate a change of consciousness, which I believe is what spiritual conversion is really all about, is going to fail."
Despite his lack of interest in the governmentís faith-based initiative grants, Dr. Campolo believes there are cases where separation of church and state is necessary.
He said, for example, that the Ten Commandments should not be displayed in public courtrooms.
"I believe that when the Ten Commandments were written, there is a specific reference to the God of the Jews and Christians, and, perhaps depending on whether they want it to be this way, also the God of the Muslims. At any rate, itís a specific God weíre talking about.
"In a pluralistic society, you cannot say to people who worship another God, letís say people who are Hindu, or letís say people who are Buddhist, that you have to put our God above your God when you come into the courtroom, which is what the first of the Ten Commandments says [ĎYou shall have no other gods before me.í]
"I think that is religious oppression," Dr. Campolo said.
Some commandments dealing with morality, such as those that forbid lying and stealing, apply to all humanity, but the ones that speak of covetousness treat women "more like property than persons," he said, which he personally finds unacceptable. (In the New Testament, he added, Jesus and Apostle Paul show that men and women should be treated as equals.)
On the subject of homosexual
marriages, Dr. Campolo said he believes gays and lesbians should be guaranteed the same civil rights as any citizen.
"I donít think that binding commitments that gay people make to each other should be called marriages, because that distorts historically what marriage meant," he said. "But I think gay people should be entitled to the same legal rights and the same opportunities that people in all American society are entitled to."
As long as homosexuals pay taxes, he said, they should receive the same employment, educational, and legal rights as heterosexuals.
"Basically I would argue that in the United States, we have to be careful that the church upholds its traditional biblical values, but at the same time guarantees the rights of people who differ from the church. A democracy is not a society where the majority rules; a democracy is a society in which it is safe to be in the minority."
Dr. Campolo said his views have not been well-received in many church circles.
"Iím under a great deal of fire," he said.
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