One of Britain’s most high-profile evangelicals has called for the Church to rethink its attitudes to homosexuality.
The Rev Steve Chalke, known to millions from his appearances on TV, said that current attitudes in the churches made gay people doubt that they were ‘children of God, made in his image’.
The Baptist minister, who runs the Oasis charity, issued his call in the latest edition of Christianity magazine, where he has a regular column.
His call will add to the heightened divisions within the churches as many are currently campaigning against government proposals to legalise gay marriage.
In his article he writes: “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”
He says that evangelicals should enter into compassionate, respectful, honest conversations, and calls on churches to “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.”
The Church of England Newspaper has learned that last summer Mr Chalke conducted a blessing service for a gay Christian couple at his church, Oasis Waterloo.
He now wants others to take the same approach.
To coincide with the article, Oasis Waterloo has launched a new section on their church website, with a teaching video, helpline and signposting to other resources, as a way of encouraging people to join the conversation. http://www.oasisuk.org/inclusionresources
Accepting Evangelicals spokesperson, Rev Benny Hazlehurst told us: “Steve’s courage and honesty will be an inspiration to the growing numbers of evangelicals who are increasingly uncomfortable with traditional evangelical teaching on sexuality. It will also act as a beacon of hope to LGB&T evangelicals who long to be fully accepted in their churches.”
However, the Rev Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, said he was “saddened and disappointed” by Mr Chalke’s comments.
“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,” he said.