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Tony Campolo's Gay Marriage Support Highlights Divide


Christian minister Tony Campolo's recent announcement that the church should accept gay couples is highlighting the growing division between Christians over the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage.

In a statement issued this week, Campolo said he's tried to approach people on both sides of the issue with grace and understanding while struggling with his own beliefs.

Finally, he said, it was his own relationship with his wife and the many same-sex couples they know and spend time with that persuaded him that the primary purpose of marriage is about spiritual growth.

He also wrote that homosexuality is "almost never a choice" and the church should offer love and acceptance to those who have same-sex attraction.

"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," he said in a statement posted online.

Conservative evangelicals criticized Campolo's stand, while self-professed progressives applauded the move.

His announcement comes as new research from the Pew Research Center shows the divide between evangelicals and mainline Protestants over gay marriage is getting wider.

The survey found that 70 percent of white Evangelicals and 57 percent of black Protestants don't support making same-sex marriage legal. However, 62 percent of white mainline Protestants and 56 percent of Catholics are in favor of same-sex marriage.

The implications of wide-spread acceptance of gay marriage for pastors, churches, and faith-based ministries have challenged leaders on how to respond while holding true to their convictions.

The nation's largest Protestant denomination is taking steps to help its churches deal with the legal ramifications of gay couples seeking ministry jobs or marriage services.

The Southern Baptist Convention partnered with the Alliance Defending Freedom to provide guidance for churches and other faith-based institutions by publishing a booklet called, Protecting Your Ministry: A Legal Manual for Southern Baptist Churches, Schools, and Ministries.

The 44-page manual gives churches and ministries the tools to help prevent lawsuits over sexual orientation and gender identity. It includes checklists and sample documents to help churches make policies and official statements about its biblically based beliefs.

Dr. Russell Moore,with the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press the manual is a resource "to help equip churches on how to remain faithful in our mission in a culture that often disagrees with our message."

Moore spoke with CBN's Heather Sells about the resource and the importance of churches taking steps to protect themselves. Click play to watch the interview.

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