He opened the evening with an impassioned plea for a change in our theology of sexuality. Setting out his stall, he painted a picture of dire pastoral care for gay people in evangelical churches. He went on to say that it was not enough for evangelicals to say that our theology is right but our pastoral care needs to improve. “God is love – He is the great Pastor” he declared, “We can’t out-pastor God. We can’t draw a line between the pastoral and the theological – they are one and the same thing…. It’s our theology which needs to change.”
Talking about the burdens which the church has placed on LGBT people, and the terrible pastoral consequences which have often followed, he said “The real scandal is that we have not faced up to this issue.”
Also speaking during the evening was a gay man who told of his sense of call to be a Pastor – a call which started is search for God, and ultimately his Christian commitment. “God called me” he said, but he knew that would never be recognised by the church in which he came to faith because he was gay. He also talked movingly about a young man of 16 who was thrown out of his church after admitting that he was gay, and subsequently threw himself under a train.
During the question and answer session, Steve was asked how he could overturn 2000 years of Bible teaching. In reply he affirmed that he takes the Bible very seriously but that taking individual verses out of context was not the way to discern God’s will. “God is still unfolding his truth to us” he said, citing examples of ways in which our understanding of the Bible on slavery, the role and women, and even the flatness (or not) of the earth have changed after hundreds of years of ‘good Biblical teaching’ had been overturned. “We need to see things through the lens of Jesus” if we are to continue to grow in our understanding of God’s will.
His talk finished by quoting Acts 10 and the story of Peter going to the home of the gentile Cornelius. Until then the early church thought that only Jews could be the people of God despite Jesus commanding them to go into all the world. It took a work of the Holy Spirit to open Peter’s eyes to the fact that God’s grace extends to everyone. We need the same work of the Holy Spirit now to open our eyes to God’s grace at work in gay, bisexual and transgender people.
At the end of the evening Oasis launched a DVD resource for small groups to continue the conversation. The DVD is available from Oasis online and costs £5.
It includes sections on the authority of Scripture, what the Bible says about same-sex relationships, and questions for discussion.
We were also encouraged to continue the conversation via Twitter using the hash tags #MOI and #inclusion.
It was certainly a memorable evening and signalled Steve Chalke’s and Oasis’s continuing determination to engage in this issue. Well done Steve!