Steve Chalke, a UK Baptist, a pastor, evangelist and social advocate, has come out in support of gay marriage in a article in Christianity magazine, although few outside the UK know or care who Steve is, many will (and already ) used this as an opportunity to display their orthodox colours, lambast this heretic and show clearly to anyone who is watching that they do not approve of such behaviour. Steve ends his article saying "I am committed to listening and trying to understand the intricacies of the arguments on both sides." which suggests he is still open to be persuaded. This is nonsense, Steve has stuck his head above the parapet on this issue and there is no going back. he will pay a high price, probably much higher than he would anticipate for taking the stance he has taken, and in defending it and suffering for it he will only become more entrenched in it. The time for making your mind up was before you wrecked you career as an evangelical.
Although I did not agree with Steve's article or conclusions I do agree that he should have come out and said what he believed. Too many of our evangelical leaders say and believe what they need to in order to maintain their support bases not on the basis of their conscience. Steve has acted according to his conscience and it is a shame that this will almost certainly spell the end for what has been a very successful career of mobilising christians in evangelism and social advocacy. It pains me that we have no culture of mind changing and genuine discussion - just a slippery slope down which we push anyone who wont toe the party line.
The reality is that the evangelical church is really stuck in a mess on this issue. Most churches now contain one or more people struggling with their sexuality in some way. Some of them want to embrace current social paradigms of sexuality, some of them reject them and want liberation from their sexuality - they all live in fear of rejection by a church that doesn't understand them. By and large we are failing in our duty of pastoral care to a generation of young people that are more sexualised and confused about that sexuality that any generation before. And yet our own framework for understanding sexuality is locked in the idolatry of Victorian respectability. We gather on Sundays to worship the unmarried son of a adulterous polygamous king with a brothel owner for a grandma, we have a Bible that contains multiple stories of incest, gang rape and prostitution of relatives, and yet when someone who doesn't conform to our ideal middle class nuclear family walks into the church we freeze.
That hideous slogan, to love the sinner but hate the sin, leaves us completely helpless when the sinner tells us their sin is an essential part of their identity that cannot be changed. If you love me, says the person who identifies as gay, let me get married. I do love you, replies the evangelical, just don't ask me that. And the gay walks away hurt and rejected.
This issue is not going away. A certain Bible college had students study the parable of the Good Samaritan and then rewrite it for contemporary context. Without fail students recast the Samaritan as a homosexual - these are the people young Christian evangelical bible students most readily identify as the pariahs of their world, the ones in our context we least expect to find God at work in. Spending time in the gospels reduces the amount of time you can spend making strangers enemies and forces you to break down your misconceptions about the other and their place in God's love. Steve Chalke's trajectory hermeneutics are cobblers but his impulse to compassion and inclusion is spot on. The things is, although I don't agree with him, I don't have an adequate answer to the question he is courageously trying to answer. Maybe even a wrong answer is better than the the awkward hand wringing that characterises orthodox attempts to love homosexuals.
Let me know what you think