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Posts for January, 2013

British Evangelical Pastor Endorses Same-Sex Marriage

Jim Burroway

January 16th, 2013

I’m not familiar with Rev. Steve Chalke, pastor of Waterloo’s Oasis Church, but The Independent describes him as “a prominent evangelical pastor.” Chalke has posted a lengthy explanation (one that he calls “abridged”) on his web site which discusses the UK government’s plan to extend marriage to same-sex couple. Saying that he feels “both compelled and afraid to write this article,” and after laying out a few caveats (“Promiscuity is always damaging and dehumanising,” for example), he then jumps into the heart of his message:

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 loneness, secrecy and fear. 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?

In autumn 2012 I conducted a dedication and blessing service following the Civil Partnership of two wonderful gay Christians. Why? Not to challenge the traditional understanding of marriage – far from it – but to extend to these people what I would do to others – the love and support of our local Church.

Chalke spends the bulk of his essay exploring many of the Biblical passages which have been used to justify rejection of gay people. He also explores the Bible’s treatment of women’s roles and slavery and wonders why the church today applies a different standard to those passages from the one they apply to others. Then he gets to why he believes its important for the church to get its act together and understand the damages that its inconsistent readings have caused:

Why am I so passionate about this issue? Because people’s lives are at stake. Numerous studies show that suicide rates among gay people, especially young people, are comparatively high. Church leaders sometimes use this data to argue that homosexuality is unhealthy when tragically it’s anti-gay stigma, propped up by Church attitudes, which, all too often, drives these statistics.

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.

So, I face a hard choice; a choice between the current dominant view of what scripture tells us about this issue and the one I honestly think it points us to. This is why I seek to speak and write openly and, I hope, graciously, to encourage a compassionate, respectful and honest conversation that might lead to our churches becoming beacons of inclusion.