Dr. Lee Camp Misquoted by the Tennessean

Nashville, Tennessee, Dec 6 — Nashville, Tennessee, Dec 6 — On Wednesday, November 29, The Tennessean, a Nashville-based newspaper, quoted Dr. Lee Camp of Lipscomb University as saying that Christians should abandon their belief in the “Lordship” of Jesus at an interfaith gathering at Lipscomb Univesity on Tuesday, November 28. Shortly after The Tennessean’s report, responses began surfacing from some in attendance at the event who said that Dr. Camp was misquoted by The Tennessean.

Lipscomb University released the following statement concerning the alleged quote by Dr. Camp:

Lipscomb professor responds to Tennessean article

On November 28, 2006, Lipscomb University held a historic meeting for the city of Nashville and the surrounding community. The Institute for Conflict Management invited individuals with differing religious beliefs to come to campus and participate in a dialogue. That purpose is consistent with one mission of this institution: to proclaim our faith and values to a broader community. For those engaged in the day long endeavor, the program was enthusiastically endorsed.

As is often the case in dealing with difficult questions, misunderstandings or misinterpretations can occur. By now many of you have read the Tennessean article or heard various news reports purporting to summarize comments by Dr. Lee Camp. Having been a participant in that seminar and heard Professor Camp’s statements, I can assure you the article printed in the Tennessean did not accurately reflect the substance of Dr. Camp’s presentation or his personal beliefs.

As a point of clarification, Dr. Camp has provided the following summary statement of his presentation and beliefs.

“On Tuesday, Lipscomb University’s Institute for Conflict Management hosted an “Invitation to Dialogue: Conversations on Religious Conflict.” The full-day program included a variety of speakers, and from a broad range of backgrounds: Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist, as well as Catholic and Protestant. My assignment for the day was to articulate the “Theological Ground for Peaceful Co-Existence.” Due to a front-page story in The Tennessean that mis-characterized my lecture and beliefs, numerous questions have been raised regarding what I believe, and what I said. Many have expressed feelings of dismay in response to the story, feelings I also shared when I read the report. Brief news stories can seldom do justice to substantive conversations.

“The dialogue prior to my lecture had been most encouraging and refreshing: numerous speakers had insisted that Jews, Muslims, and Christians must not pretend that our differences are insignificant. Moreover, we can acknowledge the seriousness of the differences, while honoring one another. Such conversation encouraged me, precisely because I have long disagreed with those who say that Jews, Muslims, and Christians are all “saying the same thing.” Serious adherents of their respective faiths know this is not the case.

“In my lecture, I too insisted that we must not discard what is most important to us. I am a Christian who holds, without apology, to the Lordship of Jesus. I cannot accept any strategy of “conflict resolution” that asks me to set aside that particular claim. I believe and teach that Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

“This exclusive claim of the authority of Christ thus presents a problem for “conflict management.” I went on to ask these questions: How can the Jew or Muslim trust us Christians if we hold onto the exclusive Lordship of Jesus? Given that I refuse to deny the Lordship of Jesus, what can I or other Christians possibly contribute to peace-making, whether global or local?

“Here is my answer: Because I profess that Jesus is Lord of Lords, I have committed myself to loving both neighbor and enemy. Because I profess that Jesus is King of Kings, I have committed myself to serving and honoring all people. Because I profess that Jesus is the ultimate authority to which all other authorities must submit, that authority requires of me to extend gracious, generous hospitality to the stranger, the pilgrim, and those who do not see the world as I see it.

“This, of course, is not how the authority of Christ has always been practiced. In serious dialog with Jews and Muslims, we American Christians, who tend to have very short historical attention spans, must acknowledge the sins of Christian history. The claim of the Lordship of Jesus has often been divorced from Jesus’ call to be merciful to those with whom we differ. In fact, the claim has often served as a battle-cry, an imperialistic profession used to destroy Jews and Muslims. In view of this history, Jews and Muslims have good reasons for not trusting those who wear the name Christian.

“Because I profess Jesus as Lord, I must let go of any strategy that seeks to violently impose “Jesus is Lord” upon another. I believe and profess “Jesus is Lord,” and am compelled by Jesus’ Lordship to share this Good News world-wide. But if such sharing treats others in a way contrary to the teachings of Jesus, I have thereby denied my profession. I choose not only to proclaim that “Jesus is Lord,” but to live Jesus as Lord, among all—believer or unbeliever, Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew.”

Lee C. Camp
Assoc. Professor of Theology & Ethics
Lipscomb University
29 November 2006

 Upon learning of the article in the Tennessean, we reviewed Dr. Camp’s actual comments and sought perspectives from conference attendees. This e-mail from Charles McGowan, a prominent religious leader, was consistent with other comments we received:

“The Tennessean did Lipscomb and Dr. Lee Camp a great disservice in how they reported his remarks. He absolutely did not say what the paper reported him to have said. … I commend Lipscomb University for this bold step and for creating a table to which we would invite Muslims and Jews. It is, however, a risky place and one that requires much grace and wisdom which I believe God will give us if we humbly seek His face.”

 As an administration, we believe that continuing this dialogue is essential to fulfilling the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called and for which Christ died. The ministry of reconciliation is not without risk and is sometimes difficult. As we participate in this dialogue, I encourage each of us to practice the principles of Matthew 18 as we engage in community with each other.

L. Randolph Lowry III
President, Lipscomb University

 –end quote–

Sources close to the University claim that the reporter who authored the story for The Tennessean was not in attendance at the event.

Links to Sources and Reports

Original Tennessean article about Camp’s quote.

The Tennessean reported the claim of the misquote.

Thread on our message forum that serves as a timeline.

Lipscomb University press release.