Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Tony Campolo scoop

The announcement that Tony Campolo now calls for the full inclusion of Christian gay couples in the church did not surprise me in the least; I reported as much 24 years ago.

Campolo was a keynote speaker at a lecture series hosted by my alma mater, Spring Arbor College (now Spring Arbor University). Shortly before he arrived on campus, Cornerstone Magazine published an open letter to Campolo in response to comments in his book 20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch. Specifically, Cornerstone’s editors questioned his call that, “covenant relationships between two homosexuals should be accepted among the Christian community.” Campolo went on to say he defines that type of relationship a “homosexual covenant” instead of homosexual marriage because marriage, “implies a sexually consummated relationship. Covenant connotes a lifelong commitment of mutual obligation which does not necessitate sexual intercourse.” 
How the heck do I remember all that? Because that paragraph is almost exactly like one I wrote for the college newspaper the week Campolo came to speak.

Why did the paper even cover the topic? Because Spring Arbor required each student to sign a behavior contract that outlined what behavior was acceptable and what was not. What Campolo was advocating in his book was definitely not allowed under the student contract. And that’s what made it a story.

I was a senior. I’d written for the paper since my freshman year. I had done my due-diligence. I quoted Campolo extensively. I quoted faculty members and members of the administration with varying degrees of agreement. I did not stack the deck against Campolo, which would have been very, very easy to do. So when he showed up on campus, read the article and demanded a meeting with me, I figured it was to thank me for being even-handed.

Even I am amazed at my naiveté…

I was waiting with a college administrator to meet Dr. Campolo when he burst into the room. He did not greet me. He did not ask me anything about myself. He did not follow any customary conversational niceties. He barged in the room, said his daughter was a lawyer and he’d sue me if I printed anything else about him or his views on homosexuality. And out he flew.

I was stunned. And scared.

I honestly don't remember what happened after that. Now at 45 I so wish I'd written about the encounter. But I was only 21, and I was intimidated by the guy. He had quite the presence.

Anyway, his position then is not all that far from the position he announced this week. I’m just surprised it took him so long to make it official.

Any chance I can claim a scoop?