For my non-british readers, Steve Chalke is a well-known Christian. He is founder of the Oasis Trust (http://www.oasisuk.org/) and is generally well respected. I heard him speak on various occsions during my Christian years and my memory is that he was engaging and humorous and his attitude one of compassion.
Last year Steve Chalke made a public declaration of his support for gay marriage (http://www.oasisuk.org/article.aspx?menuid=31887). I think Steve makes it clear that his motive is compassion in the style of Jesus and not legalistic application of religious attitudes. I think he should be applauded for this because he shows where the anti-gay stance is painful and destructive and for Christians to continue to be so vocal about that is to continue to cause deep hurt.
When I look back at my own Christian journey I, I do wonder how I would have fallen on this issue. I wonder about it often and I still struggle to decide. I certainly was anti-gay for a long time and I certainly struggled with the balance of behaving towards a gay person as though they were just any other person. Most of the time I think I managed okay but the cognitive dissonance was a challenge at time. I did soften over time so I do wonder if I would have supported Steve if I’d remained a Christian.
After Steve came public on his stance, my wife and I discussed the matter. She is, and always was, more liberal in her Christianity than I, so when I said that I couldn’t see any moral reason for objecting to gay marriage, she agreed. Our own sexual preferences don’t come into it here. Neither of us harbours any same sex attraction and we accept that we don’t get to dictate to others what their sexual attractions should be.
Evangelicals don’t do Gay
Well, Steve’s decision has now resulted in his organisation being kicked from the UK Evangelical Alliance (http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/Browse%20By%20Category/features/Evangelicals%20divided%20over%20EA%20split%20from%20Steve%20Chalke.aspx). As I type this, I am unable to link directly to the EAUK website, the page is perpetually loading so they clearly have a technical issue.
When I was first aware of the EA and involved in Evangelical churches my view was that they were forward thinking and relevant churches, not at all like the unmoving and staid Anglican church I was attending at the time. Evangelical churches welcomed healing and praying in tongues, I knew a gay Christian who attended one with his boyfriend and they were more than keen to rip out pews and put in comfortable seating and use the sanctuary space for other events not immediately associated with worship.
It was evangelical churches that were attracting new Christians, because they met the needs of the people and they engaged the issues of the day.
I can’t help but wonder what went wrong.
These days the evangelical churches are the ones associated with legalistic old ideas and it’s the liberal Anglican churches which are seen as accepting of people of all types and being more concerned with their needs. It’s the evangelical church that is now the staid bunch, adhering to an old idea that the church has the authority to tell every how they should live their lives. Ouch, that was a hard sentence to write, because there was a time when I certainly would have defended that attitude and said that yes, the church absolutely should tell people how to live their lives.
Times have changed.
I think there are parts of the church that will become irrelevant and ignored if they continue on this road. Either that or they’ll become little more that much maligned cult sects.