The City Paper: The Rev. Will D. Campbell Dead at 88

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The City Paper reports that the Rev. Will D. Campbell, a renowned Nashville clergyman, author and civil rights activist, died yesterday at 88 from complications following a stroke he suffered in 2011.

Though he was an ordained Baptist minister, Campbell was socially progressive, and had no use for the hypocrisy and politics of the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, he wasn't afraid to tell SBC leaders exactly what he thought of them. In a 2005 Scene profile of Campbell, Joseph Sweat captured his fascinating life, in particular his rift with the SBC:

Writer and renegade preacher Will D. Campbell is probably the only ordained Baptist minister dead or alive ever to call one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s highest ranking officials a “hypocrite and a jackass.” To his face, no less.

There’s been a heap of bad blood between Campbell and the honchos of that Nashville-based religious convention juggernaut that characterizes itself as “America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more then 16.3 million members in 43,024 churches nationwide.” That’s because, in books, speeches and interviews, Campbell keeps poking the brethren in the butt with his theological pitchfork. And he’s about to get it out again with a new book in the works and reissues of two of his most anti-institutional novels.

“Soul molesters, that’s what I call these television evangelists,” Campbell says during an interview at his log cabin writing retreat just across the Davidson County line in Wilson County. “Soul molesters. That bunch that call themselves Christian. They are not Christian, but a very powerful political group…. Groups like those with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, those people that run the [Southern Baptist Convention] Lifeway show. They don’t show me much about the Christian faith. They hate, hate everybody except themselves and their power. Falwell stood down there at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Nashville recently and said, ‘We won this election.’ And he spoke the truth. They did elect George W. Bush.”

As Campbell sees it, the well-heeled, Bible-thumping folks at the SBC have abandoned Christ in favor of Caesar, turned their dark suits and ties toward the Golden Calf of politics and away from the strict separation of church and state tradition of the Baptist church. He characterizes as un-Christian the SBC’s support for the death penalty, the war in Iraq, the bashing of gays and lesbians, and sexist prohibitions against women in the ministry.

Read the whole story here.

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