This is a big deal: UK evangelical leader Steve Chalke endorses same-sex marriage

This is a big deal: UK evangelical leader Steve Chalke endorses same-sex marriage January 15, 2013

Steve Chalke, a Baptist minister and popular evangelical leader/author/speaker in the UK, has endorsed same-sex marriage, making his case in an article for Christianity magazine — a mainstream evangelical publication that’s kind of the UK version of Christianity Today.

Chalke writes:

I feel both compelled and afraid to write this article. Compelled because, in my understanding, the principles of justice, reconciliation and inclusion sit at the very heart of Jesus’ message. Afraid because I recognize the Bible is understood by many to teach that the practice of homosexuality, in any circumstance, is “a grotesque and sinful subversion,” an “objective disorder” or, perhaps slightly more liberally, “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. My prayer, in writing, is therefore to encourage a gracious and mature conversation around an extremely important pastoral and theological issue that impacts the lives of so many people.

… Some argue that any talk of rethinking our response to homosexuality is to compromise with the secular preoccupations of the West. In my view, however, it is the task of all those worldwide who take the Bible’s text seriously and authoritatively to grapple constantly with what it means to recognize our neighbor and to love them as we love ourselves.

… Christ-like love calls us to go beyond tolerance to want for the other the same respect, freedom, and equality one wants for oneself. We should find ways to formally support and encourage those who are in, or wish to enter into, faithful same-sex partnerships, as well as in their wider role as members of Christ’s body.

He includes a meaty discussion of the clobber verses and of what he sees as his pastoral imperative. This is not an article or an argument that Chalke’s peers in the evangelical leadership — in the UK or here in the US — can easily dodge or dismiss.

This is a big deal.

Brian McLaren notes that Chalke has been called “the Billy Graham of the UK.” A bit hyperbolic, perhaps, but it gets at his status as an esteemed figure in the evangelical establishment there. Chalke is sometimes described as “controversial” due to his critical views of violent theories of atonement, but his evangelical bona fides are not disputed.

Tony Campolo describes this as a bombshell that will:

… cause reverberations far and wide. His statement represents the first time that a major evangelist and leader in the evangelical community has come out in support of same-sex relationships. Discussions about what he has done will reverberate from churches, youth groups, seminaries, Bible schools and denominations. Both those who support same-sex partnerships and gay marriage as well as those who oppose such developments will look upon Steve’s declaration as a watershed. It is one more evidence that a major shift is taking place on this controversial subject, not only within mainline Christianity, but among evangelicals.

In light of the recent hubbub over Louie Giglio, it’s noteworthy that Chalke is, like Giglio, active in the movement against human trafficking. And if you go back to the 1990s, I’m sure you could find Chalke making statements similar to those Giglio made back then. But the difference is that Chalke has been thinking, engaging and growing since then.

Ekklesia describes how Chalke’s views came to change:

He has been reflecting on the issue for some years, it seems. Back in 2001, Chalke wrote an article for the same magazine (then called Christianity and Renewal) entitled “What might Jesus say to Roy Clements about the Church and the Homosexual debate?”

The Rev. Roy Clements was a major leader who resigned his pastoral role and was ejected from the Evangelical Alliance, following two decades of high profile ministry, when he revealed that he was gay, left his wife and began a relationship with another man.

Clements continues to practice “solidly Bible-based expository preaching,” and he and Chalke, whose views then echoed the majority evangelical position against gay relationships, engaged in a correspondence.

Yesterday I described the frustration of dealing with those who never see reaching out as a waste of time. I imagine that the Rev. Clements was at times frustrated, too, during his 12 years of correspondence with his friend Steve Chalke. But sometimes such patience and faithfulness is rewarded. (And for those of us who spend much of our time writing or reading or commenting on blogs, it’s heartening to be reminded that sometimes this is how the world is changed — by “engaging in a correspondence.”)

Ekklesia also says:

With his latest comments, Chalke will now be numbered among a growing number of significant evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic who are arguing that commitment to the Bible and traditional Christian belief is not incompatible with recognising faithful gay relationships.

“Numbered among a growing number” is a bit awkward, but it conveys the momentum that the good guys have in this struggle — and the momentum we just gained from Chalke’s public support.

This is a big deal.

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  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Well, it all comes down to this: if Paul was wrong, should we still follow him?

    Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    (this is the paragraph where I nerd out about Islam)

    Mate, you nerd out about Islam right from your user name, which gives me twinges of envy for not having come up with anything as clever ;)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Given all three of those countries (especially the UK) have much more ‘socialistic’ health services than the USA, that seems a rather strange thing to do, assuming the point was to avoid ‘socialistic’ health care.

    Competetive against the UK mode

    Does the UK have a atheist, childless, unmarried, female PM living in sin with her hairdresser partner? Or a left wing Asian lesbian Christian as Finance Minister? No way is the UK more objectionable to the Tea Party than Australia!

    Close competetive against the UK mode

  • EllieMurasaki

    You have yet to show how it’s relevant.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You say that as though those are mutually exclusive things.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Old Russian being how old?

    Pointing out that the common translation in another language matches the common translation in English doesn’t actually do anything to show that either common translation is correct. Just that they match, which, if they’re wrong, means both original translators made the same mistake.

  • It isn’t something that secular people do. Rather, the effect is from the cognitive dissonance that the religious experience between religious bigotry and  Enlightenment values

  • Hope

    If this truly be the case, the kingdom of God is going to have few members….how many are there among us that have not been one of these at some time, to some degree?  Was it not for these that Christ died?

  • arcseconds

     You’re just sore because you lost the Ashes :]

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That’s right. Our arms got sore from carrying them around for si long.

  • arcseconds

    Well, the fact that direct translation from this word to old Russian
    meant “homosexual” for quite a long time makes me dubious that people of
    the time would not have connected it with homosexuality in general.

     EllieMurasaki has already made a good point about this, but I have some further questions.

    How do we know it meant ‘homosexual’?   Is it cognate with the modern Russian word for homosexual?

    Not that it being cognate proves anything, as the meaning may have shifted over time.

    Frankly, I don’t see how it can mean ‘homosexual’ in anything like the modern sense (i.e. related to a deep-seated sexual attraction to the same sex, in this case someone who has such an attraction) because that sense is quite modern – only been around for a 150 years or so.  

  • arcseconds

    What you call ‘virtue ethics’ sounds more like egoism to me.

    There seems to be something pretty warped in creating situations to practice one’s virtue (“I know! I’ll create a race of violent, man-eating land sharks so I can  employ my bravery!”).  I’m not sure how, say, Aristotle would respond to this, but I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t agree with it :]

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’d say Madhabmatics provided an inaccurate (and loaded) description of virtue ethics.

  • Religious faggots….