In the recent release of Christianity, Steve Chalke affirms same-sex marriage. This is the same Steve Chalke who wrongly claimed the penal substitutionary view of the atonement was “cosmic child abuse” (The Lost Message of Jesus [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003], 182). Though there is much to be said about both of these issues, and there is a relation between them found in biblical interpretation, my focus in this post is on the former.
The theme of this fascicle is “The Church and Homosexuality.” I briefly highlight the content in the links below to give you a brief summary of what each author writes. My intent is to state the main argument of each article as objectively as possible so you can “hear” the essence of each author’s own “voice.”
Lest one conclude that I am open on this issue, or I equivocate, it is important to state that I affirm the following definition of marriage which is for our good, and I also affirm that anything outside of God’s divine design for marriage is not only sinful but results in brokenness:
We believe that God first created man and then created woman, from the man, as a complement to the man. God established marriage as a one-flesh union between the man and the woman. This covenantal relationship is the union of a man and woman that is life-long (permanent, i.e. until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children together, i.e., be fruitful and multiply), and it is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage is the original and most important institution of human society, and the one on which all other human institutions have their foundation. Because God is good and His design for marriage is good, and because this is the foundation of human and societal flourishing, we strongly affirm the one-flesh union of man and woman which glorifies God, serves the good of spouses, the good of children, and the common good of society.
Here, after this lengthy yet important excursus, is an overview of the articles.
- Dickinson, who serves as the editor of the magazine, begins this issue by focusing on evangelical views on the subject of homosexuality and the Church.
- Chalke, founder of Oasis Global and Faithworks and Stop the Traffik coalition and sr. pastor of Oasis Church, London, affirms same-sex marriage, specifically “permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships.” Late last year he “conducted a dedication and blessing service . . . of two wonderfully gay Christians,” and wrote a liturgy for this kind of service. Chalke engages in (re)interpretation of a few key texts based on a trajectory hermeneutic (think of William Webb’s “‘redemptive movement’ hermeneutic” or “‘trajectory’ hermeneutic”) rooted in Jesus’ teaching and practice of “inclusion.” He acknowledges, rightly, that his view “is a departure from what has traditionally been regarded as an orthodox understanding of Scripture.”
- Downes, Christianity’s theologian in residence and director of the Center for Missional Leadership, affirms and “unpacks the traditional evangelical understanding of homosexuality.” He does so following the structure of the “Wesleyan quadrilateral,” which consists of Scripture, the foundational, tradition, reason and experience.
- Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, responds to Chalke in two articles. He claims Chalke’s reinterpretation of the Bible is based on “a god in the likeness of 21st century Western-European mindsets,” and that his inclusive ethic is not radical enough.
- Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at St. Andrews and chair of Evangelical Alliance’s Theology and Public Policy Advisory Committee, affirms that Chalke has identified the right problem but his recommended “changes fail to be radical enough, biblical enough, or inclusive enough.”
- Weber, writer for Christianity Today, reports Chalke’s disclosure/announcement, gives some history of Chalke’s previous controversial statements among Evangelicals in England on the atonement, and provides a few responses from others, both those who agree and disagree with Chalke.
Ruth Dickinson, “The Church and Homosexuality,” Christianity (February 2013)
Steve Chalke, “The Bible and Homosexuality: Part One,” Christianity (February 2013)
Greg Downs, “The Bible and Homosexuality: Part Two,” Christianity (January 2013)
Steve Clifford, “Not Radical Enough”
Jeremy Weber, “Steve Chalke Stuns British Evangelicals By Coming Out in Support of Same-Sex Relationships,” Christianity Today Gleanings