When one of the most prominent evangelical Christian leaders steps out in support of same-sex relationships, heads naturally turn. This is exactly what has unfolded in the United Kingdom after Steve Chalke, the senior minister at Oasis Church who is widely regarded as one of the region’s key faith leaders, came out in support of homosexuality. He announced his change-of-heart — one that is sending shock-waves throughout the international evangelical community — in the most recent issue of Christianity magazine.
In his startling proclamation, Chalke admitted being nervous about how the news will be received. He noted that some will accuse him of drifting away from the Christian scriptures, while others will claim he’s no longer an evangelical. However, he noted that his ideological transition comes after “prayerful reflection.”
“I feel both compelled and afraid to write this article. Compelled because, in my understanding, the principles of justice, reconciliation and inclusion sit at the very heart of Jesus’ message,” the pastor wrote. “Afraid because I recognise the Bible is understood by many to teach that the practice of homosexuality, in any circumstance, is a sin or ‘less than God’s best.’”
For those wondering how Chalke rectifies the traditional Christian view on gay marriage with new new-found beliefs, consider some portions of his article, which highlight his primary arguments on the matter:
One tragic outworking of the Church’s historical rejection of faithful gay relationships is our failure to provide homosexual people with any model of how to cope with their sexuality, except for those who have the gift of, or capacity for, celibacy. In this way we have left people vulnerable and isolated. When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneliness, secrecy and fear. It’s one thing to be critical of a promiscuous lifestyle – but shouldn’t the Church consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships? [...]
Christianity is not about a book, but about a person who is the word of God made flesh. On the issue of women or slavery, as just two examples, the New Testament closes some distance from where even the most conservative Christian now is in their understanding. The process of understanding the character and will of Yahweh as revealed through Jesus is an ongoing task for every generation.
Here is my question: shouldn’t we take the same principle that we readily apply to the role of women, slavery, and numerous other issues, and apply it to our understanding of permanent, faithful, homosexual relationships? Wouldn’t it be inconsistent not to?
Chalke notes that he is finally making his views public, because he believes that peoples’ lives are at stake. He describes how homosexuals feel when they are cut out and treated negatively by believers — something he decries in the article. He notes that “tolerance is not the same as Christ-like love” and he petitions that Christians go beyond the former to properly show the latter.
The pastor believes that it is essential for believers to find ways to “formerly support and encourage” those engaged in same-sex partnerships, so that they, too, can become an active part of “Christ’s body.”
Throughout the article, Chalke also takes the opportunity to address portions of the Bible that purportedly condemn homosexuality, calling them into question and attempting as they are traditionally understood to also add context to the discussion. On his web site, in a separate article entitled, “A Matter of Integrity,” he clarified his stance in an abridged discussion on the issue of homosexuality.
“Rather than condemn and exclude, can we dare to create an environment for homosexual people where issues of self-esteem and wellbeing can be talked about,” he writes. “Where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported?”
Not everyone is responding favorably to his change of heart, but some are disagreeing with calmness and rational rebuttal. Take, for instance, Steve Clifford, the director of the U.K.’s Evangelical Alliance, who penned an open letter (read it here) in which he called Chalke a friend who has contributed greatly to the Christian cause. However, he expressed intense disagreement with the preacher’s newfound views on homosexuality.
“While I understand and respect Steve’s pastoral motivations, I believe the conclusions he has come to on same-sex relationships are wrong,” he said. “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.”
You can read all of Chalke’s arguments in support of same-sex relationships here.
(H/T: Christianity Today)