Tony Campolo describes Rev. Steve Chalke as “one of the most prominent preachers in the United Kingdom, and an icon among Evangelicals.” As the United Kingdom considers extending marriage to same-sex couples, Chalke has published a statement supporting committed, faithful, same gender relationships. According to Campolo, the statement has ramifications for Evangelicals around the world.
The Coalition for Equal Marriage, a UK campaign organization, released figures today demonstrating that “there is now a clear parliamentary majority for equal marriage.”
Rev. Chalke says that he published the declaration with some concern. “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’. Some will think that I have strayed from scripture – that I am no longer an evangelical. I have formed my view, however, 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.”
In autumn 2012 I conducted a dedication and blessing service following the Civil Partnership of two wonderful gay Christians. Why? Not to challenge the traditional understanding of marriage – far from it – but to extend to these people what I would do to others – the love and support of our local Church. Too often, those who seek to enter an exclusive, same-sex, relationship have found themselves stigmatised and excluded by the Church…
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 our understanding of permanent, faithful, homosexual relationships? Wouldn’t it be inconsistent not to? …
Why am I so passionate about this issue? Because people’s lives are at stake. Numerous studies show that suicide rates among gay people, especially young people, are comparatively high. Church leaders sometimes use this data to argue that homosexuality is unhealthy when tragically it’s anti-gay stigma, propped up by Church attitudes, which, all too often, drives these statistics.
I believe that when we treat homosexual people as pariahs and push them outside our communities and churches; when we blame them for what they are; when we deny them our blessing on their commitment to lifelong, faithful relationships, we make them doubt whether they are children of God, made in his image.
So, I face a hard choice; a choice between the current dominant view of what scripture tells us about this issue and the one I honestly think it points us to. This is why I seek to speak and write openly and, I hope, graciously, to encourage a compassionate, respectful and honest conversation that might lead to our churches becoming beacons of inclusion. None of this is to point the finger at others. I have remained silent, for fear of damaging important relationships. Even in this I realise my self-centredness, for no rejection I might suffer is anything compared to what so many homosexual people endure all their lives.
Read the full declaration at Oasis UK.