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Jim Wallis steps aside as head of Sojourners, to take on full-time role at Georgetown

Jim Wallis steps aside as head of Sojourners, to take on full-time role at Georgetown

Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, holding up a "Poverty and Justice Bible" at the "Faithful Filibuster" protest, Washington, D.C., Oct. 10, 2013. | (Photo: Sojourners/Brandon Hook)

Longtime progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis has been succeeded as the head of Sojourners, the magazine and organization he helped found in the 1970s, and will become a full-time faculty member at Georgetown University next year.

Wallis, 72, announced the transition in a blog entry posted to the Sojourners website on Wednesday, explaining that he wanted “Sojourners to go on long beyond the founder.”

“This moment also offers me space to move on to a new perch, to do the things I most love and do best: write more books and regular columns, speak and preach, teach and mentor a new generation, convene faith and political leaders, advocate for justice-oriented public policy, and continue to offer my public voice on the intersection of faith and public life at a critical time,” Wallis wrote.

The organization explained in a statement that Rev. Adam Russell Taylor will serve as president in the completion of a "multiyear succession planning process" spearheaded by the organization's board and Wallis. 

Wallis will continue to work with Sojourners through June 2021 and has been appointed by the board as "founder and ambassador." In July 2021, Wallis will join Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in establishing a new center dedicated to the "intersection of faith, public life, and the common good."

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The transition is timed to coincide with Sojourners entering its 50th year.

"That vision of a multiracial, multigenerational 'beloved community' — as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Congressman John Lewis called for — has always been at my and Sojourners' core, something for which we have always engaged, worked, and fought," he explained. "And when I began to think about a successor, one name kept coming to my mind: Adam Russell Taylor."

Taylor is Wallis's former student at Harvard Kennedy School who first joined Sojourners in 2001 as a board member. In 2004, he became the organization's senior political director. Taylor has served as the organization's executive director and also oversaw the launch of the SojoAction. 

“I believe that Adam Taylor’s personal story, scholarship, breadth of experience, vision, sense of vocation, and ordination in the Black church all uniquely prepare him to lead Sojourners as its first African American president,” continued Wallis.

“During my 50 years with Sojourners, Adam has been involved in some way for the past 20. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m extremely grateful to Adam, completely committed to his success, and look forward to our continuing collaboration in the years ahead.”

Wallis said becoming a full-time faculty member at Georgetown will allow him to expand on his "writing and speaking," "convening" of leaders and justice advocacy while allowing him to keep "an ongoing relationship with my beloved Sojourners."

In a statement, Taylor said he was “excited to work alongside such a talented and dedicated staff." He said they will "work together to tell important stories and offer thought leadership" in the magazine and online. 

“As sojourners, we are called to be both creatively maladjusted to the brokenness and injustice of what is, and committed to be what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described as ‘transformed nonconformists’ — to close the gap between what is and what ought to be,” stated Taylor.

“As I sojourn with you, I’m anxious to listen and learn from you as we work tirelessly to inspire a greater commitment to social justice across the church, in our nation, and throughout the world.”

An author and activist, Wallis has been a voice for progressive Christian views and public policy views for decades, as well as a staunch critic of President Donald Trump.

In August, Wallis stepped down as editor-in-chief of Sojourners Magazine following the resignation of staff members when he removed a controversial opinion column claiming the Catholic Church had a “white-power faction.” 

Wallis had justified deleting the article from the website because he believed it needed to be fixed in such a way that required more than "a simple factual correction or two.”

“I made the very difficult decision to pull the article because I agreed with much of their critique and had my own deep concerns about the article, which I did not think could be rectified with a simple factual correction or two,” explained Wallis at the time.

“Many Catholic friends and allies who have been in the forefront of efforts to advance a pro-justice and anti-racist agenda, in partnership with Sojourners, were hurt and felt betrayed.”

The article was eventually republished with a correction. The magazine also vowed to never again remove a published article from the website. 

After resigning as editor-in-chief, Wallis initially kept his role as head of the evangelical organization. 

In his statement, Wallis explained that the power transition has been in the works since 2016 when Taylor was selected as Wallis's successor. 

Sojourners reportedly reaches an annual audience of about 5 million readers, including 2.6 million sojo.net users, 206,000 email newsletter subscribers and 62,000 magazine readers.

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In addition to being a reporter, Michael Gryboski has also had a novel released titled Memories of Lasting Shadows. For more information, click here.

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