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.
This article, extracted from the U.K. web-site ‘Ekklesia’ demonstrates how Evangleical thinking in the U.K. can be seen to change – from an outright banning of homosexual relationship, based on a presumption of biblical evidence supporting such beliefs – to the beginnings of an openness to alternative ideas about the specific nature of homosexual tendencies, and an appropriately pastoral response on questions related to treatment of the minority of people making up the LGBT community.
Despite strident opposition to any reformed understanding of gender and sexuality, there are leading Evangelical voices urging the Church to overhaul the discipline of biblical hermeneutics, and to initiate an open-mindedness to the possibility of a more up-to-date understanding of human sexual difference – in the light of modern scientific research into the aetiology of the biological origins of human sexuality.
One can only commend the growing openness on the part of conservative Christians to reject out-dated and inhumane systems that perpetuate discrimination against people on the basis of their innate sexual-orientation – a matter which they can do nothing about, and which has been the source of centuries of unjust treatment by conservative religious and political institutions.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand