Back in 2003 at the Witness Our Welcome LGBTQ-affirming Christian conference in Philadelphia, PA, I met Peggy Campolo, the wife of famous American Evangelical speaker and writer, Tony Campolo. My parents and I heard Tony speak once at the church I was required to attend as part of the Love in Action conversion therapy program I endured in Memphis, TN. Tony’s humour, especially about his Italian-American family background, was especially comforting to my parents who were suffering under the weight of the guilt and shame Love in Action heaped on them as “parents of homosexuals.”
Still through the years I had issues with Tony Campolo. Although he took a kinder and gentler approach towards the gays compared to his more condemning Christian brothers, it wasn’t until 2015 that he finally announced that being gay was not a choice and the church needs to accept gays and lesbians.
As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church. When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am”, I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.
But Peggy! Ah, Peggy, she has been speaking out on behalf of LGBTQ+ people since the 1980s! She also publicly discussed her stance over a hundred times in moderate and conservative Christian spaces through the famous dialogues she had with Tony. Peggy is a national treasure and someone who was way out ahead of others.
If you spend two minutes or more with me, you know I am passionate (obsessed?) with climate change. When I learned that Tony Campolo back in 1992 wrote a book about how Christians need to rescue creation and that he spoke out strongly about the need to address climate change, I had to get my hands on the book. How to Rescue the Earth Without Worshipping Nature–A Christian’s Call to Save Creation, packs a punch and calls out church leader on their greed and lazy theology that make them part of the problem.
Since I produce podcasts, I thought, “I should interview Tony about the book and his thoughts today. While I am at it I can also interview Peggy about her own origin story that led her into her pro-LGBTQ+ work.”
I met up with Peggy and Tony in their home outside of Philadelphia, and recorded excellent interviews. I have since produced the podcasts, and I encourage you to have a listen.