Tony Campolo to Shutter Ministry He Started 40 Years Ago
Tony Campolo, a progressive evangelical leader who counseled President Bill Clinton through the Monica Lewinsky scandal, announced Tuesday (Jan. 14) that the organization he founded nearly 40 years ago will close on June 30.
Campolo, 78, plans to retire with the closure of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, but he will continue to write and speak, with nearly 200 engagements scheduled for 2014. He said his health is fine and he wants to write one more book on how Christianity fits with the social sciences.
He still maintains his counselor relationship to Clinton, speaking with the former president about prayer and Bible study every couple of months. He said he is not in touch with the current Obama administration, despite being invited to an initial gathering of clergy. “To pastor one great leader in America at a time is enough for any person,” he said.
Campolo said he expects to partner more with Shane Claiborne, a Campolo acolyte at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., who is an activist advocating for nonviolence, serving the poor and living simply.
“Too often, we old guys hang on too long and steal the spotlight from the new, bright, shining stars emerging as speakers and leaders,” Campolo said. “We keep occupying leadership without stepping aside and getting behind these speakers.”
Campolo and other progressive evangelicals like Ron Sider and Jim Wallis have taught evangelicals how to speak the language of social justice, said David Swartz, a history professor at Asbury University and author of the book “Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.”
Campolo believes evangelicals have woken up to issues related to social justice. He said the last time he checked, the number of children who die each day due to malnutrition has gone down to 19,000. And more people have access to clean water due to well digging, thanks in part to the work churches have done.
[TBC: While Campolo claims to have “taught evangelicals how to speak the language of social justice,” he has contributed to the denial of the biblical gospel, which he to a certain degree admits: In his book, A Reasonable Faith he writes: “There are some warnings that I wish to issue to anyone reading this book. The first is to be aware that the theology expressed in this short volume represents a personal attempt to state my Christian faith in a way that might prove meaningful for my secularist friends. I am sensitive to the fact that any attempt to state the Gospel in the dominant categories of a culture inevitably leads to a distortion of the Gospel. Consequently, anyone who accuses me of violating the biblical message is correct” (p. 190).]