I mentioned Jim Wallis earlier this week.
I learned tonight that he has stepped down as editor of Sojourners. I believe he has edited the magazine since its founding in 1971. He will continue as president of the organization.
The story of his resignation is interesting, because it illustrates the tensions in progressive Christian organizations. Wallis resigned due to controversy with his editorial board over his removal of an article that described problems with “white supremacy” in the Catholic church.
The article was in response to a 2018 bishops’ letter, where the Catholic leaders criticized racism and called for racial healing in the USA. The author wrote in the article that the bishops voted against specifically condemning “swastikas, Confederate flags and nooses”, opting for more general wording, according to RNS.
(I have not read the original article.)
When Catholic leaders responded in anger, Wallis noted that the letter does in fact mention nooses and swastikas, calling them “tragic indicator of rising racial and ethnic animus.” (RNS) Wallis posted this correction / critique, and removed the article from Sojourners online publication.
Two of Sojourners’ editors resigned in protest. Wallis faced a backlash from within the organization, and resigned today after several weeks of conflict.
- This controversy is instructive, because it shows how difficult it is to lead a progressive multicultural advocacy organization in the age of intersectionality.
- My overall impression is that there isn’t much grace here. As I have said over and over, the more multicultural and pluralistic we are the more we need grace in our dealings with each other.
- The parties involved don’t seem to have done much to understand one another, correct misunderstandings, etc.
- On the other hand, one of the editors mentioned in her resignation letter a toxic environment on the editorial board of Sojourners. Again, I know nothing about that, all I really know is in the RNS article.
- What might Wallis have done differently?
- The original article had at least one significant error, re the mention of swastikas and nooses. Could the article have been better vetted?
- The editors had to know that the article would cause conflict with their Christian fellow-travelers. Could there have been dialogue before the article was published? The author could explain why he thought the bishops’ language was problematic, etc.
- Could the angry Catholics have sought understanding instead of responding in anger when attacked?
- Could Wallis have involved his editorial board in deciding what to do with the article? He appears to have deleted the article on his own initiative, in reactionary mode.