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Evangelical Alliance responds to Steve Chalke over Gay Marriage

Evangelical Alliance responds to Steve Chalke over Gay Marriage
The general director of the Evangelical Alliance, Steve Clifford, believes Steve Chalke is wrong to conclude that the Bible endorses same-sex relationships

January 15, 2013

Evangelical Alliance general director Steve Clifford

Steve Chalke is a friend of mine. We go back many years. I am convinced that when the history of the Church in the UK is written, Steve's contribution over the last 25 years will be recognised as profoundly significant. So with this as a backdrop I am writing my response to Steve's article in Christianity magazine. While I understand and respect Steve's pastoral motivations, I believe the conclusions he has come to on same-sex relationships are wrong.

It is with both sadness and disappointment that I reflect on how Steve has not only distanced himself from the vast majority of the evangelical community here in the UK, but indeed from the Church across the world and 2,000 years of biblical interpretation.

Steve has raised issues which touch on deep areas of human identity. At a Soul Survivor seminar last summer, a Baptist minister who lives with same-sex attraction introduced his talk to a marquee full of young people by indicating that he would love to find a theology in the Bible which would support a sexually-active gay life. But, he said: "I've come to the conclusion that it is not there and I don't want to live in rebellion to the one that I love."

This pastor is just one of tens of thousands of Christians who have come to the conclusion that sex was designed by God to be expressed within a committed relationship for life between a man and a woman - we call this marriage - and have chosen to live a celibate life.

Steve Chalke's challenge to historic biblical interpretation is in danger of undermining such courageous lifestyle decisions. Last year, the Evangelical Alliance produced a resource for leaders entitled Biblical and Pastoral Responses to Homosexuality - put together by a commission of eight and peer reviewed by 40. I trust this resource reflects a considered, gracious and mature response. It follows on from the highly respected Faith, Hope and Homosexuality book produced some 14 years ago, combining a clear and succinct statement of biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality. It expressed regret for the Church's past and present failure in relation to the lesbian and gay community. Realistically and honestly, it engages with real-life scenarios to help Christians, and especially pastors and others in Christian ministry, discern how we can speak and live the truth in love. It can be downloaded online www.eauk.org/current-affairs/publications/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=25152 and hard copies can be purchased for £7 via our website.

Generations of Christians have faced the challenge of making the gospel relevant within their cultural settings. The danger we all face, and I fear Steve has succumbed to, is that we produce 'a god' in our own likeness or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves.

Steve's approach to biblical interpretation allows for a god in the likeness of 21st century Western-European mindsets. His call for "Christ-like inclusion" is not radical enough in its inclusiveness. We all come to the gospel in our brokenness, with an attachment to things, self-centeredness, addictions, fears and pride. We all need a saviour in every area of our lives, including our sexuality. We all live with pain. The radical inclusiveness of the gospel means we are all welcomed. In a wonderful grace-filled process we find repentance and forgiveness and Christ commits himself through the work of the Holy Spirit to bring transformation to our lives - a life-long process.

This is the radical inclusiveness I believe the gospel offers to all of us. God doesn't leave us on our own, He promises to work in us, to bring us into our ultimate goal which is His likeness.

Inevitably Steve's article will open again the conversation on human sexuality. But as we have this discussion let's remember that Jesus requires us to disagree without being disagreeable. We must listen honestly and carefully to one another, being courteous and generous. In 1846, our Evangelical Relationships Commitment was created to guide us in our relationships with other Christians - especially those we disagree with.


Steve Chalke commends evangelical rethink on same-sex relations

By staff writers
Jan. 14, 2013

Prominent British evangelical leader Steve Chalke has reportedly commended the Christian Churches to rethink inherited attitudes to same-sex relationships.

"Mr Chalke, who a few weeks ago conducted his first gay blessing service in his church in Waterloo, says that the Bible paints a far more inclusive picture than many acknowledge," writes Times newspaper religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill in an article entitled 'Evangelicals' leader backs gay marriage'.

An ordained Baptist minister, Steve Chalke is a social activist, entrepreneur, preacher, author, campaigner and United Nations' GIFT special adviser on community action against human trafficking.

In 2001 he founded Faithworks, a movement for evangelical Christian social engagement and service. Then in 2004 Chalke set up Oasis Community Learning as part of the Oasis Group of charities in order to deliver secondary education through the UK Government's Academies programme.

Several years ago he sparked controversy by questioning the biblical and moral roots of violent, retributive understandings of atonement popular in many evangelical circles.

Chalke's latest comments on the sexuality issue, which has continued to provide fuel for bitter disputes in the churches in recent years, come in an interview with Christianity magazine.

He has been reflecting on the issue for some years, it seems. Back in 2001, Chalke wrote an article for the same magazine (then called Christianity and Renewal) entitled 'What might Jesus say to Roy Clements about the Church and the Homosexual debate?'

The Rev Roy Clements was a major leader who resigned his pastoral role and was ejected from the Evangelical Alliance, following two decades of high profile ministry, when he revealed that he was gay, left his wife and began a relationship with another man.

Clements continues to practice "solidly Bible-based expository preaching", and he and Chalke, whose views then echoed the majority evangelical position against gay relationships, engaged in a correspondence.

This evening (14 January 2013) Paul Vallely, associate editor of the Independent newspaper, and a columnist for the Christian social comment magazine Third Waytweeted that Steve Chalke is "to publish a special liturgy for gay partnerships on his Oasis charity website tomorrow with full evangelical pro-gay exegesis."

Provost Kelvin Holdsworth of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, a leading supporter of equal marriage, was among many reacting positively to the news this evening. "Really important news if true," he declared on the popular social networking site.

With his latest comments, Chalke will now be numbered among a growing number of significant evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic who are arguing that commitment to the Bible and traditional Christian belief is not incompatible with recognising faithful gay relationships.

Others include Peggy Campolo, Brian McClaren, Jay Bakker, Jeremy Marks and Benny Hazelhurst - the latter an evangelical Anglican priest and co-founder of the fast-growing group Accepting Evangelicals.

"Born-again Christianity has become synonymous with social conservatism. But a growing number of adherents don't see it that way," concluded Jerome Taylor in a recent article on evangelicals changing their mind about 'the gay issue' for the Independent newspaper.


Questions for Steve Chalke by Peter Ould

January 15th, 2013

Steve Chalke (he of Oasis, the ministry not the band) has a piece out today arguing in favour of blessing same-sex relationships. You can read it here.

After reading the piece my response is to ask Steve a number of questions.

If arsenokoites refers to prostitution, to support your case can you cite one contemporaneous Greek source (I'll take anything from 200BC to 200AD) which uses the word in that context?

If Romans 1 refers to Cybele temple prostitution, how does the mention of female homosexuality in that passage fit in with the fact that Cybele female prostitutes were never homosexual?

If "nature" in Romans 1 refers to one's individual nature rather than generic human nature (phusis), to support your case can you cite one contemporaneous Greek source which uses the word in that context?

If the correct pastoral response is to affirm homosexual behaviour within monogamous committed couples, what is your opinion of groups like True Freedom Trust who help gay Christians live a single chaste life or other pastoral support which helps men and women explore their past and sometimes establish new sexual identities?

There are plenty of other things I could write, but it strikes me that that's a good place to start. Steve's core argument is that the verses in the Bible that cover the issue don't engage with "Permanent, Stable, Faithful" relationships, but then is that really the case? What about permanent, stable, faithful incest?

"The arguments are nothing new. And SC no longer represents serious evangelical leadership following his disavowal and indeed strong critique of the substitutionary understanding of the atonement," concluded Anglican Mainstream leader Rev. Dr. Chris Sugden.

The Rev.Peter Ould is a non-stipendiary Church of England priest. He writes on issues around the Church, Christianity and Ethics at www.peter-ould.net and is also responsible for the Twurch of England project at www.twurchofengland.org.uk

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