Jim Wallis Replaced at Sojourners Mag After Debacle Over Catholic Racism Article August 15, 2020

Jim Wallis Replaced at Sojourners Mag After Debacle Over Catholic Racism Article

The Christian magazine Sojourners has replaced its founder Jim Wallis after shit hit the fan regarding his handling of an article criticizing the Catholic Church’s racism.

As I posted a few days ago, the controversy involved an article first published on the magazine’s website in late June (and in the print magazine later), all about how some Catholics had openly embraced White Nationalism without facing any sort of real rebuke from the Church itself. For example, while priests will deny communion to pro-choice politicians, there’s no word of the Church symbolically rejecting members like Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, who have promoted Donald Trump‘s repeated acts of bigotry.

Wallis didn’t read that article before it went up, but he quickly took it down, saying the piece “was offensive and should not have been published.” It turned out Catholic organizations complained about the piece to him personally and Wallis wilted under the pressure. He later clarified in a series of updates that the piece “would jeopardize relationships” between his organization and Church leaders — in other words, an essay that fairly criticized another religion could get in the way of his non-profit’s work. As far as journalism goes, those are two worlds that should never interfere with each other.

Two staffers of color quit the magazine in protest, as did three columnists. Several reliable freelancers said they would stop submitting pieces.

And now Wallis will no longer be running the magazine he’s been in charge of since 1971, though he will still be president of the Sojourners organization.

Religion News Service’s Aysha Khan writes:

Sandi Villarreal, who had been the executive editor at Sojourners, has accepted the role of editor in chief. According to the statement, she has been promised editorial independence in overseeing Sojourner’s web and print publications.

The article has now been restored to the site with a correction about the bishop’s letter appended above it. The publication has also committed not to remove published articles from its site.

It’s a start. It’s hard to judge how seriously they take any of this until we see it in action. Judge them by what they do, not what they say.

It’s not the first time the ostensibly progressive Christian group has screwed up because it’s too scared of offending anybody, even when it comes to simple moral claims. It shouldn’t be complicated to say abortion is a right. It shouldn’t be complicated to say LGBTQ people deserve respect, love, and anti-discrimination protection under the law. It shouldn’t be complicated to call out racism and hypocrisy wherever you see it, even if it means upsetting people you consider allies.

One of the editors who resigned in protest said on Twitter that while the magazine is finally implementing some of the changes they were pushing for, no apologies have been offered.

Wallis may no longer be the editor of the publication, but some of the problems that led to his resignation still need to be addressed.

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