Tony Campolo is a sociologist, Baptist, internationally-known speaker, theologian, and a bona-fide evangelical. He has all the credentials to qualify as a “born-again Bible-believing orthodox” Christian believer. Christianity Today dubs him “the Grand Old Man of evangelical activism.”

But, on 8 June 2015 Tony Campolo issued a statement that, in the eyes of some will banish him from the sanctified community of faithful evangelical believers.

Tony has changed his mind. He has changed his mind, not on the nature of God, or the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. He has not given up his conviction of the Incarnation and salvation through Christ. He has not forsaken his faith in the power of the Cross and the resurrection of Jesus or in the Bible as God’s revealed word.

But, so nefarious is Campolo’s abandonment of the “truth” that, in response to Campolo’s change of mind, Ken Pierpoint has tweeted:

The pace of apostasy in America is heartbreaking.

The thing that has caused Tony to “send shockwaves around the Christian world” and will cause him to be dropped from the evangelical in-group is that, after years arguing for the traditional reading of Scripture on same-sex relationships, Tony Campolo has changed his mind.

Campolo writes,

It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.

Christianity Today calls this “defection”

the heaviest blow so far to the conservative cause, because of his personal standing and because he has publicly held a traditionalist line for so many years.

Contributing editor Mark Woods asks anxiously,

So is the evangelical consensus finally cracking?

If this is the first time Mr. Woods has noticed that “the evangelical consensus” on same-sex relationships is “cracking” he may need to consider paying closer attention to a few voices outside his immediate circle of friends.

So why has Campolo suddenly abandoned the true faith?

He gives four reasons for his change of heart

1. The nature of marriage –

God intends married partners to help actualize in each other the “fruits of the spirit,” which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, often citing the Apostle Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ’s sanctifying relationship with the Church.

Gay people fulfill this aim in faithful monogamous lifelong loving relationship every bit as much as heterosexuals.

2. Real People –

One reason I am changing my position on this issue is that, through Peggy (his wife), I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own. Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end.

When the “issue” of homosexuality becomes a face to face encounter with real living human beings who are functioning in healthy, open, respectful, nurturing relationships, it is more difficult to be quite so categorical about “the truth” of God’s view on their lives.

3. Choice –

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.

Love and acceptance are a good place to start. In the absence of any obvious demonstrable harm being done, why would anything other than loving acceptance be called for?

It is difficult to see who is being harmed when a couple commit themselves to live together in faithful, monogamous, loving relationship for life, regardless of their gender. It is an odd “sin” that lacks an obvious victim. If no one is being hurt, what is to condemn? Why would God outlaw two people committing themselves to each other to live together in loving monogamous faithful intimacy for life, simply because they share the same gender?

4. Biblical Interpretation –

Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage…Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

This is so self-evidently true that it hardly needs comment. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. He had strong words to say about the remarriage of persons who have been divorced. How do we swallow multiple marriage of heterosexuals while choking on lifelong loving commitment for homosexuals?

The Bible is a complex document. Nothing is settled by simply throwing the Bible on the table and declaring in a loud voice, “the Bible is perfectly clear.”

Anyone who reads the Bible in English is reading a translation. All translation involves interpretation and all interpretation carries some bias. Disagreement over the meaning of a difficult biblical text, is no indication of disrespect for the Scriptures on either side of the disagreement.

If the Bible is clear about anything, it is clear that the fundamental challenge of the Christian life is to love all people and meet them with openness and respect. If his encounter with gay people has brought Tony Campolo to a place of deeper love for human beings who are created in the image of God, why would anyone do anything other than rejoice?