The following letter addresses issues that have recently arisen around the BPC topic, particularly about the participation of Tony Campolo, who was initially one of our keynote speakers. Tony’s original topic was “When Christians Disagree, How Do They Then Get Along?” It became challenging for some, given his recent statement on same gender marriage. What follows is the sixth draft of a letter from the Board, which all Board Members have agreed can be released under their name, with one exception.
The letter itself is self-explanatory.
I am away on holidays and attending the Baptist World Alliance in the next few weeks, however some of you may have thoughts you want to share. I would ask that you send your thoughts to myself and Laura Nelson (CBWC Board President) for reflection. Upon my return, both Laura and I can reflect on these together and at that time, we can continue the dialogue with anyone who wishes.
Dear CBWC Churches,
This letter addresses some concerns that have been raised (both pro and con) regarding the roster of speakers at the Banff Pastors & Spouses Conference in November 2015. The original invited participants included:
- Sam Chaise leading worship.
- Markku and Leah Kostamo speaking of a biblical, theological and story-telling narrative on Creation care (Leah and Markku attend one of our churches).
- Greg Anderson leading a Bible study.
- Tony Campolo, a Baptist sociologist, ambassador for World Vision, and well-known evangelist and activist.
All was set until June 5th when Campolo issued a statement in support of same-sex marriages and embracing those that were same-sex attracted and in committed relationships into the life of the church. Rather like Stan Grenz’s book Welcoming But Not Affirming, the majority of our churches would welcome folk from a variety of persuasions but would not affirm same-gender relationships nor same-sex marriage.
The CBWC position on same-sex attraction, same gender marriage, and clergy participation in the same, has been a process which has involved a considerable amount of reflection, thought, and discussion beginning 11 years ago. To refresh our memories, here below are the pertinent documents from the CBWC: the CBWC Statement on Marriage; the Resolution on Same-Sex Marriage; and the Terms of Reference for the SSA Resource Group. By the grace and strength of God there has been good work done in this area. Please review these documents to contribute to your own clarity on the topic. The vote clarifying that clergy could not perform same-sex marriages was over 90% in favour. We at the CBWC are clear on our position. It should be noted that there are now, and have always existed within the denomination, a wide diversity of theology and practice. Campolo’s recent statement, however, has become publicly controversial, creating a lightning rod kind of effect.
There is a strong group that is of the opinion that Campolo should not come and an equally strong group that believes he should. The middle ground in the constituency would be ambivalent. Either option, however, whether an explanation of his presence or absence, would be unsatisfactory to many. Campolo was asked to come to Banff because he is both an evangelist and a proponent of societal concerns, and holds both the conversion and justice narratives in tension. While Campolo has many strengths, his unambiguous position on same-gender marriage, and the fact that Assembly voted overwhelmingly against clergy participation in same-sex marriage, made necessary a discussion with Campolo on what topic he would address at Banff.
Campolo was recently invited by the Salvation Army in Western Canada to speak. They came to an agreement with Campolo that SSA unions would not be addressed in any of his talks to them. Like ourselves, they had begun to deal with this topic and wanted to continue on that trajectory.
In light of contrasting desires to remove Campolo on the one hand and retain him on the other, the Board has decided, with one exception, on the following: that Tony Campolo should be invited to speak on a topic other than the original one; and that two other speakers, Gordon T. Smith and Leonard Sweet, come and share as speakers for the Banff Conference in 2015. Gordon T. Smith is president of the Alliance-based Ambrose University and will speak on “When Christian disagree then how do they get along?” Leonard Sweet is E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew Theological School and is a Visiting Distinguished Professor at George Fox University. He will speak using Scripture and culture to reach those born after the boomer generation. Tony Campolo will speak on the topic of deepening the prayer and spiritual life of the pastor.
The schedule will look something like this:
Concert with Ordinary Time
First session: Markku & Leah Kostamo (The Church at Southpoint, Surrey) – The care of God’s creation from scripture and story.
Second session: Tony Campolo – Deepening the prayer and spiritual life of the Pastor (Part I)
Gordon Smith – When Christians disagree how do they then get along?
First session: Leonard Sweet – The church, scripture, culture, and the pre-boomer (Part I)
Second session: Tony Campolo – Deepening the prayer and spiritual life of the Pastor (Part II)
Leonard Sweet – The church, scripture, culture, and the pre-boomer (Part II)
Communion with Leonard Sweet
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we have tried to discern what is the best way to proceed.
Jeremy Bell, Executive Minister
Laura Nelson, CBWC President