January 20, 2014

​Tony Campolo to Shutter the Evangelical Ministry He Started

 ©2014 Religion News Service

Tony Campolo, a progressive evangelical leader
who counseled President Bill Clinton through the Monica Lewinsky scandal,
announced January 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.

By June, Campolo said he anticipates there will
be about $300,000 left to distribute to the offshoot ministries started by the
larger EAPE. The 22 ministries that were started under EAPE now operate
independently and will continue, including Red Letter Christians, where Campolo
plans to spend most of his time.

Campolo, who ran for Congress in 1976 as a
Democrat, considers himself to be theologically conservative but socially
progressive. He is against legalized abortion and gay marriage while being
progressive on issues related to poverty, race and American diplomacy.

While not embracing same-sex marriage, Campolo
has said the two sides could find a detente if the government would “get out of
the business of marrying people and, instead, only give legal status to civil

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

Several evangelical leaders have passed their
ministries on to their children, including Billy Graham, Oral Roberts and Jerry
Falwell. But Campolo said that wasn’t the case with his son, Bart, who left
EAPE in 2011 to start his own urban ministry in Cincinnati.

“My son made it clear to me that he didn’t want
to be responsible to carry on the old man’s work. I think I can understand
that,” Campolo said. “My son’s theology has drifted to the left when EAPE is
definitely evangelical.”

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

“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.”