Steve Chalke and the artful Evangelical Alliance defiance
A lot of words have been (and are still being) poured out on the 'schism' in Evangelicalism following the expulsion of the Oasis Trust from the Evangelical Alliance over Oasis founder Steve Chalke's stance on same-sex relationships, which the EA deem to be inconsistent with the 'traditional' Evangelical view. It seems that Evangelicals are only 'Better Together' (their mission slogan) when there is compliance and uniformity on the zeitgeist obsession of homosexuality. The EA do not expel members who support abortion; nor do they sever links with those who marry divorcees or accept pre-marital sexual relations as a forerunner of marriage. They do not even expel a member for repudiation of the foundational Evangelical doctrine of substitutionary atonement, which the Rev'd Steve Chalke terms "cosmic child abuse", as though God casually murdered His Son for the salvation of the world, and penal substitution is barbaric and utterly morally indefensible.
No, the Evangelical Alliance has excommunicated the Oasis Trust simply because its founder has stated (time and again) his support for committed monogamous same-sex relationships. He says that he has arrived at his 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".
The thing is, the Director of the Evangelical Alliance Steve Clifford has also arrived at his view out of regard for the Bible's authority, after many years of grappling with it, and through an awful lot of prayerful reflection, not to say 2000 years of biblical interpretation. And he warns: "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 mind-sets."
And so the Evangelical Alliance has excommunicated the Oasis Trust "with sadness".
And the Oasis Trust responded in equal sorrow.
Reminding us that Copernicus and Galileo were similarly accused of a secularist, European mind-set, Steve Chalke explained: "My whole argument is based around dealing with the Bible, and the issue of exegesis and hermeneutics. We now have a much deeper understanding of the Bible itself, and of the cultural issues into which Paul and other New Testament writers were writing."
And he implores that his views on homosexuality should not put him beyond the pale of Evangelicalism, reasoning: "My point of view is that the law provides for civil partnership... For a couple who seek to live together in a lifelong committed relationship, I want to add my support and my blessing to that; and I believe that God adds his blessing."
And so we now have (another) schism - Conservative (or 'Traditional') Evangelicals, who welcome fornicators, adulterers and abortionists, and Liberal (or 'Accepting') Evangelicals, who welcome all of the above plus gays and lesbians.
It is important to observe that the Oasis Trust does not itself take a corporate position on the issue of homosexual relationships (or on any matter of human sexuality): the EA is responding to the words and actions of its founder and director, and was seemingly desirous that the Trust 'beef up' its website with a traditional Evangelical diet of sexual moral orthodoxy.
It is also important to observe that the Oasis Trust works on five continents and in 11 countries around the world, delivering housing, education, training, youthwork and healthcare. They are a very significant voluntary-sector provider in the UK, supplying crucial services for local authorities, as well as self-funded initiatives aimed at providing opportunities for the most underprivileged and dispossessed, of all faiths and none. The Trust employs in excess of 5,000 staff in dozens of schools, hospitals and homeless shelters. Children in these schools are not only Christian, but Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and those utterly indifferent to religion (not to mention homosexuality).
Steve Chalke was awarded the MBE in 2004 for his manifest good works, which bear witness to the whole world of the Good News of Jesus Christ. He is also the founder and Chairman of Stop the Traffik, and a special adviser to the United Nations on human trafficking. All of his immense entrepreneurial efforts are founded upon Christian values. Except that, for him, the barrier-breaking and humanity-levelling gospel of inclusion extends to an acceptance of homosexual monogamy as a form of covenant. And that is clearly not a traditional Evangelical value.
The thing is..
The Evangelical Alliance has a Council of Reference made up of more than 80 church leaders and people of influence from around the country. They meet twice a year. They include Labour's Gavin Shuker, MP for Luton South.
Mr Shuker has voted in favour of equal gay rights and even for allowing marriage between two people of same sex. Most recently, he followed the Labour whip in the following divisions:
|Commons||5 Mar 2014||Make Same Sex Marriage Available to Armed Forces Personnel Outside the United Kingdom||Majority||aye||Loyal|
|Commons||5 Mar 2014||Amendments to Acts of Parliament in Light of the Introduction of Same Sex Marriage in Parts of the UK||Majority||aye||Loyal|
|Commons||5 Mar 2014||Changes to Laws on Consular Marriage Following Introduction of Same Sex Marriages in Parts of the UK||Majority||aye||Loyal|
|Commons||5 Mar 2014||Registration of Armed Forces Chapels for Same Sex Marriages||Majority||aye||Loyal|
|Commons||5 Mar 2014||Proceedures for Consenting to Registration of Shared Places of Worship for Same Sex Marriage||Majority||aye||Loyal|
|Commons||5 Mar 2014||Same Sex Marriage — Enabling Courts to Deal with Divorce or Annulment Proceedings||Majority||aye||Loyal|
No doubt a deeper analysis could be carried out to establish precisely where Mr Shuker deviates from 'traditional' Evangelical views on human sexuality. Certainly, he is manifestly not as traditional in those views as fellow Council member Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, who has consistently voted to uphold the traditional Evangelical view of human sexuality and heterosexual marriage.
Surely, if Steve Chalke's beliefs on homosexual relationships are so beyond the pale as to justify the severing of relationship and the termination of fruitful association, the EA ought not to tolerate a member on its guiding Council of Reference who causes the weak to stumble and leads them into sin?