By Peter Mann
Prominent UK Baptist minister, Steve Chalke, has declared his support for committed and devoted same-sex partnerships, according to The Guardian. This is adversely the belief to predominantly conservative evangelicals.
Chalke, who founded the Christian charity, Oasis, says it is time that the church displays its compassion in terms of inclusivity. According to The Independent, Chalke addressed his support in a heartfelt plea to the church in his theological reasoning for letting go of opposition to homosexual relationships on his charity’s website.
“When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneliness, secrecy and fear,” Chalke writes. “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 his declaration, Chalke draws from his own ministry to demonstrate on how he has become increasingly aware of the suffering of homosexuals within the church.
“Rather than condemn and exclude," he says, "can we dare to create an environment for homosexual people where issues of self-esteem and wellbeing can be talked about; where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported?"
Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia, is hopeful that Chalke’s declaration will facilitate a space for dialouge between liberal and conservative theologians.
"No doubt there will be anger and anguish from some of Steve Chalke's evangelical friends in the short term," says Barrow. "But in the longer run, his decision to speak out positively about committed same-sex relationships, along with the shift of hearts and minds that is being seen in other sections of the evangelical constituency, could be a game-changer in protracted and often bitter church arguments about sexuality, scripture and authority."
American evangelical pastor Tony Campolo conceded that he is willing to have dialogue with those who have a more open mind to loving those in same-sex relationships.
“Steve’s public declaration in support of Civil Partnerships 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,” Compolo said.