Inclusive Christian group calls for debate over same-sex relationships, Rev. Steve Chalke challenges Christian Church to ‘rethink’ attitudes to homosexuality and launches new Online Support Service.

Be it during a chat at the pub, a discussion around the dinner table, or a time of national debate, it is widely assumed that an evangelical Christian will never have anything positive to say about same-sex relationships. However, thanks to new comments from a well-known Christian leader, this assumption can no longer be taken for granted.

In a ground-breaking article in this month’s Christianity Magazine, Baptist minister Rev. Steve Chalke – best known as the founder of Christian Charity Oasis – calls on the entire Church to re-examine its attitude toward homosexual people, arguing that the Bible paints a far more inclusive picture than many acknowledge. An extended version of the article has also been published on the Oasis website as part of a new online resource centre designed to facilitate and encourage an open debate on these issues and offer support to people who are struggling.

“I feel both compelled and afraid to write this article” writes Chalke, “Compelled because, in my understanding, the principles of justice, reconciliation and inclusion sit at the very heart of Jesus’ message. 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’.”

A Matter of Integrity

In the article – entitled ‘A Matter of Integrity’ – Steve uses examples from his personal ministry to illustrate how he has become increasingly aware of the suffering of homosexual people within the Church and alludes to cases where long-term exposure to such negative attitudes have impacted people’s mental and physical health. He also stresses, however, that he has arrived at this view not just through personal opinion and experience, but as part of his growing understanding of the Christian Bible.

“Some will think that I have strayed from scripture – that I am no longer an evangelical” he writes. “However, I have formed my 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.”

“Promiscuity is always damaging and dehumanising. Casual and self-centred expressions of sexuality – homosexual or heterosexual – never reflect God’s faithfulness, grace and self-giving love” says Rev. Chalke. But he argues, “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; where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported?”

Steve goes on to question why so many Christians are prepared to dismiss biblical prohibitions regarding women in leadership or scriptural endorsements of the slave trade as ‘cultural’ but regard negative reference to same-sex acts as being of transcultural significance.

“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?”

A Commitment to Inclusion

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As well as the senior minister of Oasis Church Waterloo in central London, Steve is the founder of Oasis, a charity committed to inclusion, communities and social transformation. As part of its work in the UK today, Oasis runs 26 academies (a mixture of primary and secondary) across the country as well as various other local community social provision, employing some 3,500 staff and working with thousands more volunteers.

“It is my duty to ensure that everyone – gay or straight – knows that I believe God is for them,” Steve comments. “If the Church in this country wants to be at the forefront of delivering social provisions, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone knows the services we provide are for them. However, this commitment to inclusion is not just necessary in order to play a role in today’s society; it is, in my view, the most biblical way of mirroring the life of Jesus Christ.”

A new support service

As well as publishing the article, Steve has also launched an online resource centre designed to offer support to gay people who have been hurt by the practises and teachings of parts of the Church. The online resource centre contains:

· An extended version of the Christianity Magazine article

· Videos that discuss the issue

· Case studies of people who have been affected by the issues

· Signposting information to other resources that can help

The online resource centre can be accessed from www.oasisuk.org