The progressive Christian magazine that was vilified after it rejected a gay-themed advertisement is now accepting one with a different message. It might not be a full act of contrition, but the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which placed the ad says Sojourners has "opened their eyes."
On Mother's Day, Sojourners rejected a video ad from the Believe Out Loud campaign that was intended to run on its website and called on churches to welcome LGBT Christians. The publication's founder, Jim Wallis, defended the decision by saying the topic was a "political wedge issue" that isn't "at the core of our calling."
GLAAD tested that philosophy by paying for and successfully placing a full-page ad for the Ali Forney Center and its work fighting homelessness among gay youth. GLAAD says it was told the ad better lines up with Sojourners' self-professed focus on "matters of poverty, racial justice, stewardship of the creation, and the defense of life and peace."
But the group that was originally rejected doesn't see a real change in Sojourners' ways.
"While both our ad and the GLAAD ad dealt with the LGBT community, there is an important distinction to be made," wrote Joseph Ward, communications director for Intersections International, which runs Believe Out Loud. Ward points out that his ad "explicitly encouraged Christians to be welcoming of LGBT persons in their churches. The accepted homelessness ad is only tangentially related to the church."
From what Ward can tell, not much has changed.
"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," he wrote in a blog post reacting to the news. "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."
Rev. Robert Chase, director of Intersections International, said that although many progressives were disappointed by Sojourners, no one from his organization has asked them to make amends.
"While I am pleased to see an ad that touches such a critical issue run in Sojourners," Chase told The Advocate, "I do not think that, by running this ad, Sojourners signals a shift in policy since the ad does not address congregational welcome."
Still, GLAAD's director of religion, faith, and values touts what he sees as progress.
"What does such an ad do? Several things," wrote Ross Murray in his own blog post. "It tests the notion of whether Sojourners would really accept an ad placed by an LGBT-focused organization. It also demonstrates to the leadership and readership the overlap between the LGBT community and poverty, war/peace, and environment. It also continues the conversation about LGBT inclusion in the life of the church and the world."
Murray said Sojourners also intends to run a series of blog posts examining the problem of LGBT homelessness.
Watch the original ad below: