UPDATE: My recent interview with Sam Allberry, a conservative minister who also experiences same-sex attraction is worth a watch on this subject. I am increasingly convinced that how we choose to respond to this issue is the biggest challenge we will face in the next few years as churches in the West.
I thought I would simply today catalogue some recent statements from various Christians about homosexuality. You will see that there is quite a spectrum of opinion represented here, as I have explained previously. I have no intention of getting into this debate myself, but I think that it is important for all of us to understand just how broad the range of opinion is within the Church today on this subject. As an example of this range of views, Timothy Dalrymple, editor of Patheos Evangelical has argued Christians should treat gay marriage like say divorce rules, an issue they may disagree on but don’t campaign for the rest of society to have laws matching their perspective.
The past 50 years have been a time of incredible social change. In the UK 50 years ago homosexual activity was illegal. I know of nobody today who would suggest that should still be the case. But it is a measure of how quickly things have changed that in the USA, Louie Giglio a leading pastor can now be disinvited from doing an act of national prayer because he once taught that the Bible disagrees with homosexual activity.
Society as a whole is definitely changing it’s opinion on homosexuality. A recent survey by Lifeway revealed that in the USA there has been a big reduction in the numbers of people who believe homosexual activity is a sin. Rev. Cindy Andrews-Looper is an example of a minister who does not hold a conservative view on homosexuality she commented on this survey, “Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn anyone. To use the gospel to condemn anyone is missing the point.” 37% of American’s do still hold the view that homosexual activity is a sin, however.
Sadly, overt hostility and at times violence towards homosexuals is far from over. We must unequivocally condemn such behavior, and vocally express our disagreement with attempts by some African countries to create new laws which in some cases would make homosexual activity a capital offense. Whatever our views on homosexual activity, I hope all Christians will agree that we must be known for being truly loving towards our homosexual friends, family, and work colleagues.
As a friend of mine pointed out to me recently in a private conversation, at his workplace he is the only person who holds to a traditional view of marriage and sexuality. He is also the only friend of the one homosexual who works there. Imagine the impact of millions of Christians befriending homosexuals who are still ostracized by many in Society. Jesus was known as a friend of those that others did not want to associate with.
In the Church there is now a debate about how Christian’s should respond to this change in society. All over the secular and Christian news today is a statement by Steve Chalke on his position on homosexuality which is now very different from most Evangelicals. Here is a video of him speaking about this:
His current position is summarized in the following extract form an online paper he has published:
“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. Only a permanent and stable relationship, in which respect and faithfulness are given and received, can offer the security in which well-being and love can thrive.That’s the point. One tragic outworking of the Church’s historical rejection of faithful gay relationships is our failure to provide homosexual people with any model of how to cope with their sexuality, except for those who have the gift of, or capacity for, celibacy. In this way we have left people vulnerable and isolated. When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneliness, secrecy, fear and even of deceit. It’s one thing to be critical of a promiscuous lifestyle – but shouldn’t the Church consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships?” READ MORE
Tony Campallo, a friend of Chalkes has written an article explaining his own perspective on this.
Steve Clifford, the general director of the Evangelical Alliance said,
“While I understand and respect Steve’s pastoral motivations, I believe the conclusions he has come to on same-sex relationships are wrong.
It is with both sadness and disappointment that I reflect on how Steve has not only distanced himself from the vast majority of the evangelical community here in the UK, but indeed from the Church across the world and 2,000 years of biblical interpretation . . .
Generations of Christians have faced the challenge of making the gospel relevant within their cultural settings. 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 mindsets.” READ MORE
Chalke’s new opinion is very different from that published by the UK’s Evangelical Alliance and summarized in the form of 10 affirmations. Steve Chalke is no stranger to having views out of step with many evangelicals having previously rejected penal substitution as “Cosmic Child Abuse.”But don’t think for a moment that Chalke is alone in his opinions. Peter Saunders has written about a pressure group called “Accepting Evangelicals” that Steve Chalke is a member of. We are sure to hear more of this group in the future. Arguments on their site and in Chalke’s interestingly mirror that Wayne Grudem’s prediction that moves to have women church leaders would lead to changing attitudes to homosexuality. It will be interesting to see how views in the Evangelical movement develop.
Chalke’s article was also published in a shorter form alongside another traditional viewpoint in Christianity Magazine.
In this context, and to little comment, earlier this month the UK Church of England has announced celibate homosexual clergy may now become Bishops (some of whom are actively in civil partnerships). This is a move that few predicted happening, especially after the recent vote not to allow women bishops.
Sam Allberry is a very good friend of mine who is a minister in the Church of England who recently “came out” as someone who has experienced homosexual attraction all his life. In a highly personal statement he is very clear about his own decision to live celibate,
“It is simply not possible to argue for gay relationships from the Bible. Attempts by some church leaders to do so inevitably involve twisting some texts and ignoring others. God’s Word is, in fact, clear. The Bible consistently prohibits any sexual activity outside of marriage.
As someone who experiences homosexual feelings this is not always an easy word to hear. It has sometimes been very painful to come to terms with what the Bible says. There have been times of acute temptation and longing—times when I have been “in love.” And yet Scripture shows that these longings distort what God has created me for.
However much we have to leave behind we are never left out of pocket. Whatever we give up Jesus replaces, in godly kind and greater measure. No one who leaves will fail to receive, and the returns are extraordinary—a hundredfold. What we give up for Jesus does not compare to what he gives back. If the costs are great, the rewards are even greater, even in this life. For me these include a wonderful depth of friendship God has given me with many brothers and sisters; the opportunities of singleness; the privilege of a wide-ranging ministry; and the community of a wonderful church family. But greater than any of these things is the opportunity that any complex and difficult situation presents us with: to learn the all-sufficiency of Christ—learning that fullness of life and joy is in him and his service, and nowhere else.” READ MORE
CNN recently published an article by dissident catholic Daniel A. Helminiak explaining why he believes the Bible does not prohibit homosexual activity, Kevin DeYoung wrote on the Gospel Coalition blog about why he disagreed with that article.
No Pastor today can escape thinking this issue through. Actually no Christian can afford not to consider it carefully either. Sometimes the easiest bit is working out your own opinion. The harder bit is thinking about how to explain that opinion to others in both society and the Church.
Today Steve Chalke will no doubt alienate many Evangelicals by what he has said. But, I would not be surprised if he also alienates some homosexuals by not going far enough in their opinion. In recent months there have been a string of prominent pastors asked by Piers Morgan in interviews what they think on this matter. Here are some links to some of their answers:
- Mark Driscoll “I believe that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage [is a sin] . . . So, me as a teenager having sex before marriage, that was wrong. People looking at pornography is wrong. Single people having sex is wrong. Homosexuality is wrong”
- Rick Warren was challenged by Piers Morgan, “”Both the Bible and the Constitution were well intentioned but they are basically, inherently flawed. Hence, the need to amend it . . .My point to you about gay rights, for example, it’s time for an amendment to the Bible.” Warren replied, “No, not a chance. What I believe is flawed is human opinion, because it constantly changes. What is new is not true. If it was here 1,000 years ago, it will be true 1,000 years from today. Opinion changes, truth doesn’t.”
- Joel Osteen was asked if his view on homosexuality had changed and replied, “You know, Piers, it really never changes because mine’s based out of the scripture. That’s what I believe that the scripture says — that homosexuality is a sin. I believed it before and I still believe it now…. I’m not mad at anybody, I don’t dislike anybody. Respecting my faith and believing in what the scripture says, that’s the best way I can interpret it.”