Prominent British evangelical leader Steve Chalke has urged the Christian Churches to rethink inherited attitudes to same-sex relationships.
"Mr Chalke, who a few weeks ago conducted his first gay blessing service in his church in Waterloo, says that the Bible paints a far more inclusive picture than many acknowledge," writes Times newspaper religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill in an article entitled 'Evangelicals’ leader backs gay marriage'.
Chalke confirmed his pro-gay stance later in the evening in a lengthy theological paper, and in conversation with US evangelical leader Tony Campolo (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17797).
An ordained Baptist minister, Steve Chalke is a social activist, entrepreneur, preacher, author, campaigner and United Nations' GIFT special adviser on community action against human trafficking.
In 2001 he founded Faithworks, a movement for evangelical Christian social engagement and service. Then in 2004 Chalke set up Oasis Community Learning as part of the Oasis Group of charities in order to deliver secondary education through the UK Government’s Academies programme.
Several years ago he sparked controversy by questioning the biblical and moral roots of violent, retributive understandings of atonement popular in many evangelical circles.
Chalke's latest comments on the sexuality issue, which has continued to provide fuel for bitter disputes in the churches in recent years, came initially in an article for Christianity magazine.
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.
This evening (14 January 2013) Paul Vallely, associate editor of the Independent newspaper, and a columnist for the Christian social comment magazine Third Way tweeted that Steve Chalke was "to publish a special liturgy for gay partnerships on his Oasis charity website tomorrow with full evangelical pro-gay exegesis." This appeared a little after midnight.
Provost Kelvin Holdsworth of St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, a leading supporter of equal marriage, was among many reacting positively to the news this evening. "Really important news," he declared on the popular social networking site.
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.
Others include Peggy Campolo, Brian McLaren, Jay Bakker, Jeremy Marks, Noel Moules and Benny Hazelhurst - the latter an evangelical Anglican priest and co-founder of the fast-growing group 'Accepting Evangelicals', which Chalke has now joined.
"Born-again Christianity has become synonymous with social conservatism. But a growing number of adherents don’t see it that way," concluded Jerome Taylor in a recent article on evangelicals changing their mind about 'the gay issue' for the Independent newspaper.
* 'Evangelical leader sets out strong biblical stall to support gay relationships': http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17797
* Chalke article in Christianity magazine: http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/sexuality/stevechalke.aspx
* Ruth Gledhill, 'Evangelicals’ leader backs gay marriage': http://thetim.es/Ulrugt
* Accepting Evangelicals: http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/
* Chalke biography: http://www.oasisuk.org/about/story/People/stevechalke
More about Steve Chalke on Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/tags/2438
* 'Evangelicals who love their gay neighbours', by Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow, writing for the Guardian newspaper in 2009: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/feb/25/religion-gay-...
* Jerome Taylor, 'Happy, clappy, and out of the closet: Evangelicals who say being gay is OK', The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/happy-clappy-and-out-of-t...
* Roy Clements audio (http://www.gaychristian.net/audio/clements.php) and archive (http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/articles.asp?CID=4).
* Christianity magazine: http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/
* Ekklesia’s approach to the sexuality row in the churches: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/about/faqs/25