A word of thanks…and next steps

Since I published my article – ‘A Matter of Integrity’ – on Tuesday 15th January, I have been really encouraged to see that so many people are already engaging in the open, honest and gracious conversation around the issues that were raised, about the wider nature of inclusion and the central issue, for all Christians, of Biblical interpretation.

I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in this discussion.  Be it in published articles, statements to the press, interaction through our blog and social media, or in direct communication with me personally, the vast majority of comments – whether of agreement or disagreement – have been respectful and dignified.  It is, in my view, essential that our conversation is conducted graciously, regardless of view point. Thank you for helping that to happen.

During the early stages of the conversation a number of important and interesting questions and comments have been put to me, via various published responses to my articles. Before responding to these themes, I will ensure that I fully digest the arguments and discussion points.  Having done this, I will post a full response…

God bless you all,

Steve Chalke

P.s.  There now are downloadable pdf files of both the abridged and full length versions of my article available on the Oasis UK website. Also visit the site to watch my video statement, access a range of resources including a helpline, and sign up to be part of the discussion and debate evening on 6th March at Oasis Church Waterloo. www.oasisuk.org/InclusionResources

Advertisements

51 thoughts on “A word of thanks…and next steps

    1. Kathy

      hi Steve and other debaters- New to blogs so hope this is posted in the right place.

      Thank you!

      I read your abridged article, ‘A matter of integrity’ and feel as if a cloud has been lifted- you have put in the public domain some very relevant points concerning the inclusion or otherwise of homosexuals. My husband and I started attending a church that is very active in the community – wonderful!! However as time went on, we realised that the some of the messages came over as condemning rather than inclusive. Whereas we had hoped to bring friends to church to find God, we began to feel increasingly uncomfortable at times, and would not want to share this non-believers. A lesbian Christian friend has stayed away knowing that she is disapproved of – another rejection after a lifetime of rejections. Where is the love?

      We will pray for guidance as to how to move forward with this debate, at least now we are far from alone in trying to address homophobia within the church.

      Reply
      1. Jane

        I would like to add my voice of thanks to Steve Chalke for his words of wisdom. I too was bought up with the belief that homosexuality was sinful and the leader of my present church echoes that belief, although does, thankfully, speak of mercy and compassion. It all changed for me several years ago when my son, whom I love deeply, told me he was gay. This caused such conflict in my thinking as I loved him (and continue to love him), yet also loved God and was desperate to live God’s way and for my children to do the same (as I thought I understood it). I have been wrestling with this matter for many years. I am so glad and thankful to hear something that, for me, makes sense of my understanding of who God is and what He is saying and also brings freedom to love my son and whatever the future brings. I have quickly looked at some of the blogs. I would just like to add that for some people it is an ‘interesting debate’, or a chance to flex theological arguments, but I have to say when it is a matter of the heart, about someone YOU love, I would suggest that it has a completely different impact. God’s love and mercy is so much more complete and powerful than ours. Who can cast the first stone?

  1. Daisy Field

    Steve, thank you.
    I read the abridged then the longer version of your article before realising the fuss now surrounding it.
    Am in prayer for you as the storm around this continues.
    Would just like to say, thank you for your thoughts, careful consideration and very respectfully written article. I’m not sure where i stand on the subject entirely, but yes, none of us are in a place to judge anyone and yes, what would Jesus have done? Welcomed or refused?
    May God continue to bless you.

    Reply
  2. Pete

    Steve, you are a brave man to raise this, but absolutely right to do so imho. One thought, as conservative evangelicals are now largely eclipsed by charismatic evangelicals in the UK church, is it worth looking at this from a more charismatic hermeneutic? I’m thinking along the lines of the apostolic church’s inclusion of Gentiles on the basis of their reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts 10 etc

    Reply
  3. Esther

    Steven,

    A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook. And I don’t know how I would have seen it or heard about you or what your church is doing, if he hadn’t. I have to say that you had me in tears within the first two minutes. You see, I am someone who was raised in a Christian home, in the Church, and like most children that grow up that way, there are pretenses–Certain taboos, things you are taught that are not options, from the beginning. And as I grew up I learned what those were and I adjusted accordingly. It wasn’t until a few years ago, that I was faced with an identity crossroads. Upon a lot of reflection, battling doubt, guilt and most of all fear, I chose to be honest. I am now a 25 year old young lady, living in New York City, I still love Jesus and I am a lesbian. The road I took to getting here was a struggle. It still is. There truly is not a plan or a structure as to how to go about my life. I’m living on the fringe of what it feels like to be a part of the body of Jesus, looking in at the Church as an openly honest and gay individual, not knowing whether or not I can go back in.

    What you said in this article is just a piece of what I hope begins a movement full of people who choose to ask Jesus first. To contemplate, wrestle and truly LOVE themselves, as well as others in the process. I know I’m not the only one who needs this and I know that I’m not the only with the courage to do so. Thank you for choosing to be a part of something a lot bigger. Thank you for your compassion.

    Always eagerly waiting to see more of what Jesus is showing people, everywhere.

    Esther

    Reply
    1. David S

      Esther –
      I know I’m late to this conversation – I just stumbled on this blog, so I hope you get this. I am a Christian who is gay living in NYC. My church, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian, is welcoming and affirming. We’re at the corner of 55th and 5th – I encourage you to stop by for a visit. You might also check out Presbyterian Welcome, a LGBT ministry specific to the city.
      My best to you

      Reply
  4. Angela

    Perhaps, Steve, you could tell me where in God’s word is approval for homosexuality, or for marriage between a man and another man, or a woman and another woman? ALL scripture is God-breathed, not just the bits that suit you, or those that fit with current social mores. God’s Word is unchanging. It is plain from both the Old and New Testaments that homsexuality is a sin, as are many other things including those in which, no doubt, most of us indulge at some point, none of us being perfect, and homosexuals and lesbians should certainly not be demonised – in my own view, there are worse things. Where, however, is your scriptural authority for blessing or condoning same-sex marriages? Perhaps you need to spend less time writing books, and more time reading THE Book.

    Reply
    1. Pete

      Angela, with respect, I think you’re missing the point Steve is making. He is not advocating a liberal acceptance of current social ethics to reinterpret the Bible, but rather is advocating a Christ-centred hermeneutic, fully in line with evangelical interpretations of the Bible throughout history. I’m sure many may have challenged Wilberforce in the same manner, ie “Where is your scriptural authority for blessing or condoning the abolition of slavery?”

      Reply
  5. Pingback: I Applaud Steve Chalke. « Criminal Church

  6. Sally

    Hi Steve,
    I have got out of bed to write this, having listened to you on Radio 4. I am so impressed with your stand on this matter, and the measured way in which you express your belief. I am now an Anglican of the liberal catholic variety but spent most of my early Christian life in a fundamentalist evangelical charismatic church…I partly left due to my inability to reconcile my faith with attitudes to sexuality. I just want to say THANK YOU for your integrity, your ability to reflect and change, and your courage. I will pray for you and your church community as no doubt you will get a great deal of ‘stick’ as a result of your views….Although my home is now within the Anglican church, I still value my evangelical/charismatic roots very much, and feel that your recent statement makes me value them even more.
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    Reply
  7. Susan Hammond

    Hello Steve

    I just want to say thank you so much for publishing this article. I think it is long overdue. It is something I have been grappling with myself ever since I was saved and I change my mind about where I stand frequently. I like to think that Jesus would indeed be inclusive of homosexual people and relationships but sometimes wonder whether this is just the today’s cultural influences and me wanting to be ‘nice’ to everyone. However, often when I read scripture I find it hard to see how homosexual relationships could be blessed by God. So I will be looking at more of your resources and going back to scripture myself in light of what you have been saying. Perhaps one day I might be able to get off the fence.

    Any way, God bless you and thank you so much.

    Susan.

    Reply
  8. Carole challis

    I am so grateful to Steve. I know so many people in evangelical quarters for whom he gives a voice. Surely lifelong loving relationships are to be celebrated. Thank you .

    Reply
  9. Justin V

    I am really grateful to you Steve for speaking out in such a positive and coherent way.

    My partner and I have found a welcome space in your congregation and I am really grateful that my partner, who had to leave his previous church because of homophobia and discrimination, has once again found a space to celebrate his faith and belief with people who respect him and us.

    What worries me is that none of those who have spoken against you deny the logic of your arguments and the parallels you draw with the position of women and slaves in the Bible, and that suggests an ingrained position of hypocrisy which has undermined the Church and keeps many of us at a distance from religion and faith.

    Reply
    1. Andrew M

      The bible *does not* support slavery. It merely tells those who own slaves to treat them fairly. Slaves in bible times were equivalent to employees. There was no state support then – no income, you die …. or become a slave. Would you have preferred if the bible said to slave owners – ‘set them free’ in which case they would be homeless and penniless, facing a certain death. No dole in those days!!!

      As for women – the bible merely asks that they do not preach to men – some of us still support that as a good principle, as shocking as it may appear to you.

      Reply
      1. Phil Groom

        Er, right: “The bible *does not* support slavery” … I take it that you haven’t read Exodus 21.1-11, Lev 25.39-55 or Deut 15.12-18? All quite explicit…

      2. David Shepherd

        As with divorce, slavery was also permitted as a Mosaic concession for the hardness of Israelite hearts. God also permitted Israel to replace the priest-prophet theocracy with a monarchic dynasties.

        Christ, the mediator of the New Covenant, fulfilled the law and established a new set of divinely empowered expectations of those belonging to the Kingdom of God. These expectations surpassed the Old Covenant concessions. The apostles established the pattern of married leaders: ‘the husband of one wife’, permanent opposite-sex union.

        The difference is that, in the Genesis account of man’s origin, the pattern of sexual union, reiterated by Christ, is predicated upon sexual differentiation. Slavery has no scriptural basis in human origin, heterosexuality does, unless you ditch that part of the Genesis archetype.

        On one hand, opponents of this view believe that there are no scriptural parallels with modern expressions of homosexuality. On the other, David and Johnathan, the Centurion and his servant and others are presented as examples of tolerated biblical homosexuality. What is not explored by them is why the Genesis archetype that Christ invoked is applicable as a basis for the binary and permanent nature of sexual union, but not the opposite gender nature of sexual union described in Genesis.

      3. Phil Groom

        “As with divorce, slavery was also permitted as a Mosaic concession for the hardness of Israelite hearts” — your basis for that assertion, please, David, or did you just make it up?

  10. william

    HI STEVE. I have been reading your article and the various replies from people this week. I have also listened to you on Radio 4. I am an Anglican clergyman, from an Evangelical/charismatic position. I am so encouraged from all that you have said. I am also very challenged that in my own christian walk I have not had the courage to stand up and be counted. Like you I know that to do so may end up losing friends I value. I am challenged to learn to speak up, and out of what I believe to be life and grace for the sake of others(in this case those who are gay), no matter what other,(usually conservative evangelical christians) may think.
    Thank you

    Reply
  11. Andrew M

    So Steve – Since the bible itself says it is God-breathed and further the evangelical tradition is to put the bible first, over culture, having read the scripture based arguments in the ‘conversation’ are you willing to back down from your culture and social pressure based position?

    Reply
    1. Pete

      Hi Andrew, the Bible doesnt actually say the Bible is God-breathed. 2Timothy 3:16 says that “all scripture is God-breathed”. At the time of writing 2Tim, the Bible hadnt been all written and certainly hadnt been collected together (not until a couple of centuries later), so this verse cannot be taken to refer to the Bible as we now have it.
      Actually I do believe in the inspiration of the Bible, but I’m making this slightly pedantic point to highlight that sometimes we regard things as 100% fact because we’ve been brought up to believe it without really thinking it through, that is we have been influenced by our “evangelical” Christian culture and society to believe a certain way.
      I understand how hard it is to entertain such ideas as monogamous gay relationships when it has been “certain” for so long that this is definitely wrong. But just because we always thought that it was wrong, does not mean it was wrong and therefore our belief should be dogmatically held to, it might be we simply didnt get it right in the first place.

      Reply
      1. Phil Groom

        It’s a far from pedantic point, Pete; for those who are prepared to dig a little deeper, the Greek text is somewhat ambiguous at 2 Tim 3.16, which might equally well be rendered, “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable, etc” (ASV and ERV). That little word “is” isn’t there: it’s inserted by the translators in order to make sense of the grammatical structure. Most have opted for the traditional rendering, “All scripture is inspired by God…” rather than “All scripture inspired by God is…” See the online interlinear: http://interlinearbible.org/2_timothy/3-16.htm

        Adds to the challenge somewhat, doesn’t it? God hasn’t given it to us on a plate: we have to use our brains…

  12. Iain Strachan

    Steve, I’m wondering if an argument may be made from 1 Cor 7 here? It is clear that there are many on these threads who still say that all homosexuality is sinful, or certainly “less than the best” & the discussion here is doing little to change that entrenched position.

    But it seems to me that in 1 Cor 7 Paul is arguing that remaining unmarried is the best policy (presumably because he believed the end of all things was about to happen). But it appears he allows marriage as a concession – for it is better to marry than burn with passion which you might not be able to control.

    Would there not be a viable position for those who find homosexual love to be “less than the best” to say similarly, something like “I’d much prefer you remain celibate, but if you cannot control this, then it is better to be in a long term faithful relationship than to burn with passion”?

    I think the latter (the burning with passion) is likely to be the case if we fail to provide an environment where long-term faithful relationships are encouraged. Is it not better for someone to be a gay Christian in a faithful relationship, rather than a gay atheist who is promiscuous? One might even allow that this is less than the ideal, but then how many marriages are less than the ideal? The number of non-Christians (even atheists) I’ve seen who have had a Church wedding … and on occasion lied to the vicar about being Christians …

    Reply
    1. Dave

      Hi Iain. I’m glad you brought up this passage. I believe that in today’s debate, were Paul a man of our times, he would have suggested exactly what you’re saying above. Celibacy is a gift that some have (including some gay people). However, it’s also a gift that some clearly don’t have.

      I don’t believe he would have said “better to marry and burn with passion, unless you’re gay, in which case, please keep on burning”. It shows us that the great teachers in the Bible had to wrestle with difficult principles and their application in today’s world, all for the glory of God. You will no doubt be slated by some for your view above (as I will, for my support of it!), but I for one agree with you. 🙂

      However (a general point, not about you specifically), I also believe that my view is not to be forced on others (as per Romans 14) and so I am willing to accept some disagree with me/us, as I have seen from your other postings that you also accept.
      I think one day we’re all going to be held accountable for how much time we’ve spent talking about rules when we should have been showing love. knowing that the end of all things is near…
      God bless
      Dave

      Reply
      1. Dave

        that should be better to marry “than” burn with passion! Otherwise I’ve introduced an intriguing bit of theology…

    2. David Shepherd

      Hi Iain,

      Can I clarify the 1 Cor 7 provision? While it’s true that Paul was confronted with a situation that was not specifically addressed by Christ: that of converted Gentiles married to unbelieving spouses. The main question was whether remaining in a prior marriage to a heathen was permitted. Most Judaizers would consider such a relationship as defiling.

      Paul, as an apostle, was granted a specific instruction direct from the Lord which he faithfully passes on: ‘To the married I give his command (not I, but The Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. and a husband must not divorce his wife’. As with scripture, the revelation itself is fairly terse. There is some room for accommodation, but it should be noted that the instruction to Gentiles is congruent with those given to Jews by Christ. There are no special pleadings for the novel situation.

      Although pastoral discretion must temper our approach, Paul sets the example that we should ensure that any accommodation is congruent with explicit New Testament revelation. Paul’s motive goes beyond extending compassion towards the actual parties involved. He knows that the behaviour of married Christians will also reflect on the credibility of the church and affect its mission to persuade men to reconcile with God through Him.

      You will also notice that Paul”s discretion in respect of Gentile marriage, only goes as far as permitting separation. ‘To the rest I say this, (I, not the Lord): He does not permit re-marriage.

      Extra-biblical pastoral accommodation can only be exercised in the absence of explicit censures or pronouncements from Christ and His apostles. When prohibitions are expressed in apostolic scripture, the accommodation can work around, but not subvert that instruction.

      Reply
  13. artscreativity

    Interesting.

    My understanding is that whatever God calls sin, is just that, regardless of what we think or feel about it.
    Is this not the offence of God?
    His will/Law and commands reflect His holiness and we all are unholy! So we are offended by it!
    When He tells us not to do this or that, or to be this way or that way we are offended….. Adam and Eve may not have fully grasped why He told them not to eat of the fruit of the tree but they were still expected to obey. We may not fully understand but we need to trust God.
    The Amazing issue here is that we are forgetting that God is offended by us, by our sin and by our rebellion! Which is why we needed Jesus Christ in the first place and if we come to Him thinking that we can hid some sins and expose others and think that we will enter into His Kingdom we are wrong – Not everyone who says LORD, LORD…. will enter.

    I wrestle with many of the issues that Steve mentions in his open letter, I have friends who are gay and friends who are women who preach and teach, but I keep coming back to the Holy Bible, and I cant go beyond what is written.

    Steve Chalk is right, we either have to say that women can’t become leaders in the Church and therefore neither can practising homosexuals and we either say that being gay is a sin or it is not… if it is not then we have to affirm all the rest because that is consistent exegesis and hermeneutics.

    Where will this debate end? It might end with a humanity without sin (obviously a humanity that has convinced itself that it is not sinful) and with no need for a saviour… will we start with the “lesser” sins next… perhaps we will soon be saying “greed is good” and take out the ten commandments while were at it… we’ll be a world with no need of a God who offers atonement, “we have worked it all out ourselves thanks very much” and start saying things like “Sin is its own punishment” as popularised by The Shack (… Has God said? No, surely not….) it will end with the God of this age blinding us all to the Holiness of God and replacing Him with a god made in our own image… and then Christ shall return for His Bride and find only half of it watching, waiting and dressed for the feast.

    The issue is Holiness, what has God called us to be, how do we reflect His nature and Character…. do we do it by ignoring what He says? Do we honour God by calling something holy that He says is not? When God says “this is good” do we glorify Him by saying “this is bad”? … No!

    May God have mercy on us as we seek to reflect Him in the Beauty of Holiness

    Amen

    Reply
  14. Tanya

    As a gay ‘evangelical’ Christian in a civil partnership, I have eagerly anticipated a leading evangelical ‘coming out’ in support of monogamous homosexual relationships, and finally here we are. Steve Chalke has articulated an understanding of scripture which is my experience of God; and so now, the debate!

    The debate scares me!

    It scares me because it’s more than a debate on a theological issue, it’s about my life, and more than that, it’s about my life with God.

    People who do not know me, argue with great passion that God is not the centre of my life, that I am not walking Him, that I am not listening to Him, and that I do not know Him. Because of what they perceive to be ‘my lifestyle’, they consider I am detached from hearing God and therefore cannot speak with any claim of God. They will not listen to my voice, as they consider me deceived and fear in accepting me they accept my deceit, and thus deceive themselves.

    But I will shout with the loudest voice I can muster, that God is central to my life and I claim Him as my God, and He claims me as His child. My testimony to this is as valid as any other child of God and is weighed by the fruit that it bears.

    This is more than a debate, it is a journey, a life journey; and I (along with many other gay Christians living God centred lives) ask that you travel with us a while; for you are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Reply
    1. Michael Seufer

      Thank you very much for your post! My wife and me also have a friend named Tanja :-). She is married to another woman, they are expecting their second baby. We are trying to support them in these times of pregnancies and in these first years of being a family of more than two. We ourselves have three grown up kids and I am a family counselor. Gay and lesbian Christian couples and families are a reality – we need you in our Churches. You can give us so much. We’re one in JESUS.

      Reply
  15. Michael Seufer

    Being 50 and working as a Christian counselor and systemic therapist for 25 years now, it is only four years ago now, that I realized the existence of gay and lesbian Christians. Not proud of my blindness … – Thanks to God’s grace my wife and me got a wake-up call when one of my best friends told me that he was gay. Hundreds (!) of talks with homosexual Christians later we fell soo blessed to be called ‘friends’ by some of them. Some of their stories, of course, made us cry.

    Steve, I so much thank you for your courage and for taking a clear stand. With all of my heart I am convinced, that there is a place for us all at the Lord’s table.

    Be assured of our blessings and prayers!
    Michael & Anja

    Zwischenraum Germany/Switzerland – a network of Christian GLBT groups: http://www.zwischenraum.net
    Our tiny little counseling network for LGBT Christians: http://oasenetzwerk.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  16. Ben Smith

    As I said before, I would like to see advocates of the acceptance of homosexuality go to places where Christians are persecuted and ask them what they think about the issue. We would probably be very ashamed when we see how clear they are about the Gospel message and about Biblical standards, and how different their lives are from the unbelieving world around them. We have fallen so far in the West that we don’t even notice how worldly we are. It’s sad when professing Christians are striving to become all the more like the world in order to win the world’s favour and approval, proclaiming a message that is all about social action and ‘this life’ rather than living a life in anticipation of the return of Christ.

    I am worried that Steve Chalke’s words (however well meaning) will embolden many other Christians to take a much more liberal approach to homosexuality. The Bible makes it very clear that those who cause others to sin will be in big trouble on judgment day. I am praying that Mr Chalke will repent.

    Reply
    1. Michael Seufer

      This is the worst case: imagine you’re living in a land where Christians are persecuted. Your son (or daughter) is a Christian and he/she is gay. Persecuted by society because of his/her faith. Thrown out of Church because of his/her identity. All alone and lonesome. Don’t you understand what these Brothers and Sisters are going through? Don’t you think that LOVE and CARE is the “Biblical Standard”? What a pain for these parents, too: either leave the Church (their home and hiding place) or push away their beloved child. WWJD?

      Reply
      1. Ben

        Hi Michael, it is one thing to struggle with homosexual tendencies (my best friend is a Christian and does) and quite another to normalise homosexuality as something acceptable. Christ makes it clear that our identity is to be found in him alone, not in our sexuality nor in anything else. To follow him means to be willing to surrender all that we are in response to his love and grace. If people are unwilling to abandon a sinful lifestyle or surrended any part of their identity which has become an idol to them, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, then surely they have never truly comprehended the amazing offfer of grace that God extends to people. To answer the question, “what would Jesus do” I would point to the example of the rich young ruler who was sent on his way (sadly) by Jesus because he simply could not bear to part with the thing that gave him his identity (wealth.) Jesus was sad to see him go, but didn’t run after him trying to be ‘inclusive.’ The message of the cross and the Gospel can be divisive as even a cursory reading of the New Testament will show. Jesus never condoned sin or ran after people who wanted him only on their own terms.

        I have lived in a former communist country where homosexuality isn’t an issue in society or the church. The problem in the West is that we have a huge amount of nominal Christians and professing believers who want Christ on their terms. They want Christ and the world too. The distinction between them and the unbelieving world doesn’t exist. They will never be persecuted because they make a huge effort to be accepted by the world and win its approval. Instead of calling men and women to repent they engage in social causes that any non-Christian would approve of. Their values are no different from any other self-righteous, non-Christian ‘do-gooders’ who are full of chariatble acts but who would baulk at the idea of human sinfulness and a God who judges. The distinction is very subtle because Christians are indeed called to help the poor and oppressed, but that in itself is not the Gospel that many Christians give their lives for. It is a false gospel that has no power to change lives and deal with the lostness of the human condition.

        The scenario you have given strikes me as highly unlikely. In times of persecution it usually becomes evident who the true believers are and who are just pretenders or self-deceived. I doubt very much that in a country like North Korea you would find a homosexual ‘Christian’ remaining in the church, persecuted by society and rejected by other Christians. In reality it would only be those true Christians who really belive and live by God’s Word that would risk their lives for the Gospel. I am sure that many professing Christians would fall away (Jesus describes this in the parable of the weeds) during times of persecution and only those who really knew the Lord would remain strong. In the West we don’t currently experience persecution so the ‘church’ is a bit of a mixed back containing true believers, false believers and deceivers. If persecution does come we will surely see a great many ‘Christians’ siding with the world in condemning the remnant who do take the Bible seriously and stand for its values. Those people will be branded ‘fascists’ and ‘bigots,’ ‘extremists’ and ‘unloving’ by politically-correct, ‘right-on’ Christians who are more concerned with winning the world’s approval than God’s. I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar that the vast majority of persecuted Christians in the world would utterly reject homosexuality and certainly the ones I met who had spent years in the Gulag would. Strange how some Christians get sent to Siberia and others win OBEs.

        Paul tells us that we ought to judge those inside the church and Jesus tells us to be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing. I realise that homosexuality is an enormous struggle for many people and I am not condoning being ‘unloving’ or rejecting anybody. What worries me is that people who think homosexuality is acceptable seem to have neither fear of God, nor love for him. If they truly love him, why wouldn’t they be willing to accept what his word says about sin and why wouldn’t they repent of it rather than performing theological gymnastics to try and justify it.

    2. James

      Gay people are gay people wether they live in Denmark or Nigeria!! I have lived in the Muslim world for quite a long time and have met gay Christians here. Imagine their battle with hard liners in the church who possibly reject them because of their sexuality and hard liners in their homes and work places who possibly reject them because of their faith AND their sexuality! This isn’t a ‘liberal Westen’ issue but a matter of Gay people wanting to be true and longing for inclusion wherever they live!! Pray for your gay brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world.

      Reply
  17. John Duncan

    I think this is a marvellously encouraging statement from Steve Chalke. I have felt for some time that there are lots of (mostly) younger evangelicals who live and work in communities and workplaces where acceptance of gay people and gay relationships is becoming a given, simply an accepted part of life, in a way that feels clearly morally right. And I think many have found themselves in practice holding to one set of beliefs ‘in church’, but effectively embracing a different set of beliefs in their daily life. This has, I think, caused a deep uneasiness among thoughtful evangelicals, who perceive this split and wish to affirm the authority of the bible consistently, but have lacked a visible evangelical constituency to relate to, and a safe space in which these issues can be thought through. Hopefully now this will start to form.

    Reply
  18. Ben

    “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

    Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

    (Jude 1:37)

    Not very ‘inclusive’ is it? I can only conclude that the god of Steve Chalke’s ‘gospel’ is not the holy God of the Bible.
    What does it mean to contend for the faith today?
    Who were these ‘ungodly people’ that Jude warns about and what were their characteristics?
    What does it mean to ‘pervert the grace of God into a licence for immorality?’
    What does it mean to deny Christ as the only Sovereign and Lord (bearing in mind that not everybody who claims the name of Jesus will enter the Kingdom of Heaven?)
    What is the peversion that Jude speaks of in Sodom and Gomorrah and how is it different from sexual immorality?
    What punishment does God promise to the ungodly?

    “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32)

    “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)

    “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
    That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17-24)

    “Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.” (Luke 17:1-3)

    “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:3-5)

    “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived…” (Colossians 3:5-7)

    Reply
  19. Iain Strachan

    Steve,

    I had some thoughts earlier today about the nature of inclusivity, that I thought were worthwhile throwing into the pot. They don’t relate to homosexuality per se, but they do relate directly to inclusivity.

    It was in the early 1990’s, and the following (as I recall) was based on some thoughts put out by our vicar at the time: Geoff Maughan. (Anyone who studied at Wycliffe Hall who is reading this might remember Geoff as he joined the staff there after leaving Christchurch).

    Geoff had taken a sabbatical break during which he studied postmodernism, and in particular how to present the Gospel in a postmodern culture. He suggested that the traditional model of how people became part of the Church, the body of Christ could be described in three “B”s:

    Behave
    Believe
    Belong

    The first of these is the step of repentance and turning away from your sins. The second was to accept Christ as your personal saviour. The third was where you now belong to the Body of Christ.

    As I recall, Geoff suggested that this made the Church look like an exclusive club which you could only join after jumping over these hurdles. He proposed that a better way of getting the message out to the unchurched was to reverse the order:

    Belong
    Believe
    Behave

    In other words, have a more inclusive church – a community where people are accepted for whoever they are. Through taking part in that community, hear the Gospel, start to believe. Later, the transformative nature of Christian belief would take care of the behaviour issue – and you would grow to be more like Christ.

    (I hope I’ve got this right, and am not terribly misquoting Geoff!)

    This seems to conform to the more inclusive model proposed by Steve. The upshot of Geoff’s thoughts was that we started doing “Seeker services” along the lines of the Willow Creek Church. Christchurch is an old tithe barn, where the seats can be re-arranged & the seeker services were cafe style, with nibbles and soft drinks. I was heavily involved in writing the drama sketches, which were an integral part of the service – not so much bible-based drama ( such as dramatisations of the parables, like with the Riding Lights Theatre Group – who performed at Christchurch on occasion), but more naturalistic dramas about life issues ( Work, Current Affairs, Death, Fidelity etc).

    Anyway, that’s a aside – but what do people think? “Belong” “Believe” “Behave” sounds like inclusivity to me.

    I suppose someone might say “how can you truly do the believing bit unless you do the repenting first?” I guess my answer would be that anyone who becomes a Christian almost certainly has some private sins that they are unwilling to let go of & yet they still make the commitment to Christ. It’s easy to say “I repent of my sins”, but how many of us privately say “but not that one”!

    Reply
    1. David Shepherd

      A few thoughts about Nicodemus (who attended the first evening ‘Seeker Service’ in John 3). He came from a form and ritual tradition, didn’t he? He flattered Christ with an acknowledgement of His power as divine, but the Pharisee’s esteem was expressed through his prior identity: ‘*we* understand that you’re a man come from God’.

      Christ amazed him with insistence on a new God-wrought identity: ‘You must be born again’. When we are captivated by a new idea, we begin to examine what it might mean for us. A new sense of identity arises through our thought-life, interactions with others and personal insights gained through scripture.

      The challenge is to provoke an abandonment of identity anchors. Often, the catalyst for this is when a completely unexpected insight or approach is followed. An atheist might be disarmed by a church that doesn’t jump to a defence of the creation story. Perhaps, a gay activist might become intrigued by a church, that may hold a traditional view of marriage, but that imposes a moratorium on initiating any discussion of his homosexuality.

      As hostility towards Christ escalated, Nicodemus pled for a fair hearing, but he was unable to thwart peer prejudice towards the Jesus movement. Only after the madness of the crucifixion, was he able to extend a personal family gesture of love towards Christ. As you know, he gained permission (with Joseph of Arimathea, who opposed the death penalty imposed by the Sanhedrin to which he belonged) to remove the body of Christ and bury it according to Jewish rites. This is the crisis point, loyalty in the face of polarised blind contempt and mischaracterisation of Christ’s dissent.

      That’s the last we hear of him, although we are told that some of the Pharisees believed.

      Even in the blameless presence of Christ, this informal process took over three years from his initial inquiry to an act of committed personal loyalty in the face of contempt for the faith. At that point, Nicodemus switched loyalty to Christ. In contrast, others who displayed an early commitment, eventually recognised the personal cost of obedience to Christ in a world that was hostile to His condemnation of man-made traditions and superficial assent to the scriptures.

      What was Nicodemus’ path? We know that, although he began as an occasional inquirer, he underwent an inscrutable process of alienation from his former life and affiliation to Christ.

      The reality of change is that a new and growing sense of loyalty begets an increasing feeling of alienation from past alliances. However subtle at first, there are key crisis points that express loyalty towards our new identity and disenchantment with the former life. Inclusion, as some present it, only affirms that which an enquirer self-identifies, rather than provoking a challenge to abandon any identity fixtures that contradicts the new identity in Christ. Without this challenge, we merely dress up the old identity ( old man, the flesh) in overt religiosity. We remain hinged to the morals of our former alliances.There is neither a crisis of loyalty, nor of alienation. There is no cross borne out of new convictions that offend former peer/reference groups.

      Belonging is not based a unilateral church expression of acceptance on the new adherent’s terms. The reciprocity of belonging demands, as with Nicodemus, that our prior touchstone of identity must be opposed with the new insights of divine revelation.

      This list might be:
      Bemused
      Belong
      Be light!

      Reply
  20. Karen

    Hi Steve, thanks so much for raising this. Bless you for taking the plunge into very troubled waters! My husband and I have been involved with ‘ministry to’ gays for sometime, mainly through Living Waters/Andy Cominskey/Lisa Guiness. We have sat in church and heard the homophobic comments, tried to challenge those and tried to help gays in church who struggle with their sexual identity with varying degrees of success and lots of heart break too at times. The inclusion issue is very important as you say and especially now. Marriage and support for monogamous gays is something I have struggled to come to terms with though although willing to have the conversation. My sticking point is the view in biblical cannon of marriage as a picture of Christ’s ultimate union with the Church, that of ‘transcendant otherness’ united with ‘mortal ordinariness made holy’. I.e. not the same, different, complimentary, etc. Can you help shed any light on this for us please?

    Reply
    1. D

      Hi Karen. Your “ministry” sounds really encouraging and I’m glad to hear you have felt called to outreach to people who are very often marginalised and subjected to some horrific behaviours and comments. Before I was a Christian, I was quite homophobic (in perhaps the pure sense of the word, that of fear – as a heterosexual male, it scared me to think that I might be the object of another man’s sexual attraction). When I became a Christian, I realised that this attitude was incompatible with the love of Christ. Unfortunately (I reflect now), I heard a “love the sinner, hate the sin” argument, which allowed me to hold on to my hatred of homosexuality, while easing myself of the guilt of not truly loving my neighbour. Only after years of prayer and personal experience of people I love “coming out of the closet” did I begin to read up different views and researched the scriptures with an open mind and heart. I came to a very similar conclusion to that put forward by Steve and others, many of whom are evangelical believers… which I would call “progressive evangelical”. When I see a marriage, I see it as complimentary, but not purely in sexual terms (which I find very limiting and reductionist). I see complementary experiences, personalities, hopes, dreams, difficulties and most importantly, love for another. I don’t think any two men are the same or two women are the same. I think we model faithfulness, commitment and loving and joyful self sacrifice in a marriage. So for me, the model of Christ’s ultimate union with the Church is in no way lessened by a same-sex marriage. In fact, heterosexual marriage is just as flawed as any relationship that exists. I don’t know if this helps at all?

      Reply
      1. Karen

        Hi Dave, I really do hate that term ‘ministry’ shall we call it helpful friendship instead?! Anyway I totally agree with you about complimentarily being more than in sexual terms, I just narrowed it to that in the context of the conversation. but as we were created ‘male and ‘female’ and therefore ‘different’ (and God felt it worth stating the obvious here!) there is a complementarity that two same sex people cannot complete totally. One obvious thing being having children naturally (not that I want to wander off course into that debate!) – but it is self evident that a same sex couple do not include the same mix of gifts, attitudes, skills or attributes that a mixed sex couple do. Of course they do have a different dynamic and I am not suggesting here better or worse, simply different. I agree that the ‘model of faithfulness, committment, loving and joyful self-sacrifice’ can, and is, often modelled well by both types of relationship, no argument there. And that heterosexual marriage can be as flawed as any relationship, she says ruefully!!
        My other ‘problem’ is that Christ’s relationship with the Church is unequivocally described in terms of heterosexual union in scripture too (The Bride-feminine noun; Song of Songs, etc). It is a procreative relationship too without the need for surrogates. How will inclusivity get around this? What about the argument above from Iain Strachan too? Is this not the inclusivity we need? Hetero sexual couples living together often successfully join church and find faith and then address their relationship when the Holy Spirit leads(if they aren’t pushed which they shouldn’t be!). Why not gay couples?
        More questions than answers!! But we will get there:)

      2. D

        Hi Karen, sorry for such a delay in replying. I like “helpful friendship” as a term!

        There was a statement you made that I think might be helpful to gently challenge, which is “but it is self evident that a same sex couple do not include the same mix of gifts, attitudes, skills or attributes that a mixed sex couple do”. Actually, I think that is changing and has changed quite a lot. There is some evidence now to show that the difference (variation) within a gender is greater than the difference between genders in many respects. It’s a bit like saying “men are tall and women are small”. We just need to walk around a city now to see that there are many, many small men and many many tall women. It is true that the average height of men is probably slightly higher than the average height of women, but it would be inaccurate to say “most men are tall and most women are small” if that makes sense?

        The complementary nature of a same sex couple could be much more diverse than many hetero-sex couples, as I think it’s much more to do with personality and upbringing than gender per se, at least in much of the Western world. I say this as a heterosexual married man.

        Regarding the image of Christ’s union with his bride, I would agree this is a strong image. However, I don’t think this image is necessarily a prescription for human marriage. There are also other images used for Christ’s relationship with people, for example the hen gathering her chicks (Matt 23) and a military one, with Jesus as a commanding officer (2 Tim 2). I think it is risky to use an analogy of God/Jesus and Man and use that as a template for human relationships.

        However, I am glad to read of someone wrestling with issues and having interesting questions and discussions, rather than the “flaming” I often get if I express a view on some other places, so thank you!
        🙂
        D

  21. Deanne

    Thank you for paving the way for christians to speak openly about homosexuality. I am not an educated theologian, so speak from the heart. If Christ was on earth today I wonder how He would teach us? Would He want each one of us to come to Him with the loving, simplicity, humility and trust of a child (Mark 10 vs 13-16, Mt 18:1-14) regardless of our sexual preferences? I understand that God gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life and I believe that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3 vs 16&17). I love what Paul writes in Romans 12 vs 1-21 and believe that God created each one of us uniquely and as we journey with Him, He speaks to each of us in a unique way. I can not begin to imagine that the God I love, worship and trust would accept and use me to bring others to Him, despite my lifestyle and shortcomings, and not accept and use my fellow homosexual christian to lead even more people to Him! I can’t help but feel “outdated religious beliefs” are stopping a major move of the Holy Spirit here in the UK.

    Reply
    1. jennymeehan

      Yes Deanne, I agree, and I personally am very glad indeed that the importance of inclusiveness has been raised. This matter needs a lot of prayer, a lot of thought, and a lot of love.

      Reply
  22. Gwilym Pryce

    Dear Steve Chalke,

     I want to thank you sincerely for your thought-provoking and timely paper. I thought you might be interested in the following Open Letter: How I Came to Believe in the Goodness of Gay Marriage:

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/988239/ECCLESIA/gpryce_goodness_of_gaymarriage.pdf

     which I posted on my Facebook account recently. It describes my own hermeneutical “journey” on the issue, which think is perhaps not dissimilar to your own. As for the reaction it has provoked among my limited Facebook sphere of evangelical friends and contacts, yes, many were incredulous (to say the least) but I have been surprised by the number of very positive and supportive responses, and some for whom the discussion has led them to reconsider their own views. So, while these responses are by no means a scientific random sample, I do sense the oil tanker is turning, albeit slowly!

    In addition to your well-articulated comparison with the changed of views many evangelicals have on the role of women, you might also consider the evangelical change of view on contraception which is perhaps even more pertinent to the homosexuality debate:

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/988239/Taking%20the%20Historical%20View%20v1a.pdf

    With good wishes, 

    Gwilym

    Reply
  23. Marianne

    Thank you Steve for opening up this whole issue. What you say makes sense to me. Several years ago i watched a programme on Channel 4 about a young man who had been in my church youth group in Suffolk, A number of years later he took his own life – he could not live with the anguish of being a homosexual young Christian man – the double life he had to lead – he could not see another way out. I knew him when I was a teenager and he genuinely loved his Lord. Since then I have been unhappy with the elephant in the room that has been the issue of sexuality and the church. I see a way forward in openness and hoonesty now for the church – and a way that we can be truly inclusive. Let the debate roll on, let us continue to grapple with the Bible.

    Reply

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s