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Steve Chalke backs gay relationships

18 January 2013

OASIS

Scathing: the Revd Steve Chalke, who has criticised his fellow Evangelicals for using New Testament passages to “destroy” LGBT people

Scathing: the Revd Steve Chalke, who has criticised his fellow Evangelicals for using New Testament passages to “destroy” LGBT people

THE founder of the Oasis Trust and Faithworks, the Revd Steve Chalke, defended his Evangelical credentials this week after stating his support for committed same-sex relationships.

In an article published in the magazine Christianity, Mr Chalke said that the Church should "consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships". He also said that he had "conducted a dedication and blessing service following the civil partnership of two wonderful gay Christians", at Oasis Church Waterloo, in London, where he is minister.

Mr Chalke said that he had arrived at his view "not out of any disregard for the Bible's authority, but by way of grappling with it, and, through prayerful reflection, seeking to take it seriously".

The director of the Evangelical Alliance (EA), Steve Clifford, said on Tuesday that Mr Chalke had "distanced himself from the vast majority of the Evangelical community here in the UK . . . [and] from the Church across the world and 2000 years of biblical interpretation. . .

"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 mind-sets."

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Chalke said that he disagreed with Mr Clifford. "Copernicus and Galileo were accused of exactly that: a secularist, European mind-set," he said.

"My whole argument is based around dealing with the Bible, and the issue of exegesis and hermeneutics. We now have a much deeper understanding of the Bible itself, and of the cultural issues into which Paul and other New Testament writers were writing." His views should not put him beyond the pale of Evangelicalism, he said. "I cling to the term Evangelical; I don't see why I should give it up."

On same-sex marriage, Mr Chalke said: "My point of view is that the law provides for civil partnership . . . For a couple who seek to live together in a lifelong committed relationship, I want to add my support and my blessing to that; and I believe that God adds his blessing."

Mr Chalke said that the Baptist Union of Great Britain had "imposed a ban on Baptist ministers' blessing civil partnerships", but that he had "never signed anything".

He said: "A question for us as Baptists to debate is surely that something passed centrally, which says 'you cannot do this,' isn't very Baptist. The whole thing about being a Baptist is that the local congregation governs itself."

The Revd Benny Hazlehurst, a spokesman for Accepting Evangelicals, of which Mr Chalke is a member, said: "Steve's courage and honesty will be an inspiration to the growing numbers of Evangelicals who are increasingly uncomfortable with traditional Evangelical teaching on sexuality. It will also act as a beacon of hope to LGBT Evangelicals who long to be fully accepted in their churches."

It is not the first time that Mr Chalke's views have provoked criticism from other Evangelicals. In 2004, he faced hostile questioning at a meeting organised by the EA after the publication of his book The Lost Message of Jesus (Zondervan), which questioned the theology of penal substitution ( News, 15 October 2004).

An extended version of Mr Chalke's article can be read here. The EA has also published this article by Dr Steve Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at St Andrew's University. Fulcrum has published a response by the Revd Martin Kuhrt, Vicar of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Bedgrove, Aylesbury.  

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