Has Sojourners Really Changed its Policy on
Gay Ads?

Readers of Sojourners Magazine will soon encounter something the magazine has rejected before — advertising that addresses gay and lesbian issues.

Sojourners recently rejected an ad from the group Believe Out Loud, which wanted to place a video on their web site encouraging churches to open their doors, hearts, and minds to LGBT people. The ad that the magazine has accepted is a full page ad for the print magazine, and the only difference is the focus — but it is a difference that, well, makes a really big difference.

 

The ad, sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Ali Forney Center focuses on the problem of homelessness within the LGBT community. It depicts a child sitting on a railroad track, teddy-bear in hand and a suitcase beside him. In the background is a man — presumably his father — walking away — rejecting him for who he is. The ad gives stark statistics, including the fact that 40 percent of homeless youth in the U.S. are LGBT. The difference in the ads is significant. The Believe Out Loud ad was rejected specifically because it did not meet Sojourners’ stated mission to focus on “matters of poverty, racial justice, stewardship of the creation, and the defense of life and peace.” Instead, it focused on accepting LGBT people into the church — which is something leading evangelical leader Shane Claiborne has said isn’t an issue his fellows are willing to “die on the hill for.”

As Jamie Manson speculated here at RD, the reason that “hill” isn’t worth dying on has a lot to do with money.

Much as I would like to believe that their desire is to unite Christians with differing opinions on sexuality in the work of social justice, I cannot help but think that this ultimately comes down to a fear of losing financial and communal support. Wallis himself admitted in his statement that, “Like the larger church, Sojourners’ constituency, board, and staff are not of one mind on all of these issues.” So, if Sojourners were to make a definitive statement about something as innocuous as welcoming gay and lesbians into church pews (not even the “full monty” of supporting gay ordination and marriage), they would risk losing a crucial segment of their funding.

GLAAD called the acceptance of the ad “wonderful steps forward for Sojourners Magazine.”

GLAAD is proud to have played a role in helping Sojourners understand the intersection between LGBT people and poverty, war/peace, and environment. Additionally, GLAAD is delighted that an important organization like the Ali Forney Center will be lifted up to a new audience and given the opportunity to speak prophetic words concerning our young people. At the same time, GLAAD is aware that there is much more that Sojourners could do.

However, the folks behind the original Believe Out Loud ads are less than thrilled, pointing out the important difference between the two ads — one targets homelessness, which, sadly, is a “safe” topic for Sojourners, while the other depicted the explosive issue of actually opening the church to LGBT people and providing them a spiritual home no matter what their station in life.

Joseph Ward, communications director for Intersections International, which runs Believe Out Loud, wrote on his blog: “While this appears to be a positive direction for the publication’s advertising policy around LGBT issues, which has been less than inclusive in the past, it is unclear whether it signals a real shift in Sojourners’ stated desire to avoid the issue via paid advertising. It is increasingly important that progressive Christians take a firm unambiguous stand and decide they want fellow Christians to welcome the LGBT community in the church.” It is that “firm and unambiguous stand” that Sojourners continues to resist taking — simply because they can’t understand that the spiritual homelessness LGBT people face is just as important as their physical homelessness.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)