Better together – apparently not…

EA logo-largeEvangelical Alliance, whose tagline is “better together”, today announced that it had “discontinued the membership of  Oasis Trust.”.  This was, needless to say, following Oasis and Steve Chalke expressing supporting for same-sex relationships and calling for an open conversation in the wider church.

Evangelical Alliance’s press release can be found here and Oasis has responded here

This is not the first time, of course that Evangelical Alliance has taken action against one of its members.

In 1999, the organisation played its part in ‘outing’ Roy Clements – one of its own Council members – after they became aware of his sexuality, forcing his resignation and leaving him homeless and jobless.

Then in 2001, Jeremy Marks and Courage were forced to resign their membership of Evangelical Alliance after changing their ministry from one which sought to prevent gay Christians finding a same-sex partner to one which supported same-sex relationships.

This decision however, appears to have been much more difficult for the Alliance and 15 months of negotiation has been going on behind the scenes.

The reason for such a protracted deliberation is clearly the change which is occurring among  evangelicals.  Gone are the days when there was one evangelical view on sexuality, and yet organisations like EA try to continue as if this were true.

EA cite Oasis’s failure to “adjust the content of their website/resources and social media output to equally profile the traditional Christian view” as a reason for removing them, and yet EA’s own publications give no space to a more progressive evangelical theology of sexuality.

In actual fact, the loss of Oasis and Steve Chalke from the ranks of EA members will do more damage to Evangelical Alliance than to Oasis, and it seriously undermines their slogan and raison d’être, “Better Together”.

Their website proclaims that , “Unity is what drives us – but not just for unity’s sake. By bringing people together, we are following the John 17 mandate to show the immense love of God, who sent his Son for us” and yet their action today has shown that unity to be conditional on towing the conservative line on sexuality and has little to do with the ‘immense love of God’.

They can also no longer claim to represent “the UK’s two million evangelical Christians” as there are clearly many evangelicals who they no longer represent, or who they are unwilling to represent.

Perhaps the saddest thing comes from EA’s  description of themselves at the bottom of the Press Release.  It says,

“We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society.” 

The Oasis Trust is certainly a leader in Christian mission; Oasis celebrate the Bible and make a powerful difference in communities up and now the country; Oasis are actively engaged in lobbying the government for a better society – and yet because they are exploring a different way of responding to LGB&T people, all that counts for nothing.

Sadly, those of us who have followed Evangelical Alliance expected this to be the outcome, but we rejoice in the new openness that is God is bringing to many others in the evangelical world.   Isaiah 43:19 comes to mind:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

 

We pray that Evangelical Alliance will open its eyes and begin to perceive this new thing that God is doing.

 

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12 Comments

  1. An excellent comment, Benny. I find this decision so sad and, in common with their behaviour on the previous occasions you mention, so far removed from Kingdom values. I was also dismayed by their publication “Resources for church leaders:
    Biblical and pastoral responses to homosexuality” of 2012. It is so lacking in generosity of spirit.

  2. A sad day for evangelicalism – goodbye EA, hello FA: Fundamentalist Alliance. As you say, Benny, it does more damage to the EA than to Oasis.

    The EA could learn much from the approach taken by Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham; but I get the impression they’re more concerned with battening down the hatches than with learning…

    … I think we need to be more intelligent about thinking biblically in relation to equal marriage. It’s not enough to quote texts by themselves, as if they prove or disprove a particular position: what’s necessary is to understand the direction in which scripture is leading us in the way we reflect on human relationships. I was struck by a conversation the other day with a convinced evangelical who asked: why does the church come across as so hostile to equal marriage when it’s so clear from the Bible that covenanted monogamous lifelong commitment is always better than casual, promiscuous coupling? For the covenanted relationship is precisely how God marries himself to humanity. Shouldn’t the church positively welcome equal marriage as affirming this rich biblical insight into God’s nature and ours? And even if we aren’t sure, isn’t it better to risk a more generous way of reading biblical writings rather than a narrower, in the spirit of a text I come back to in so many controversial settings: ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3.28). This is the kind of hermeneutical risk I see Jesus taking with Torah texts in the gospels.

    From: Equal Marriage: crossing the threshold

  3. Indeed a very sad day. In the last edition of EA’s Idea magazine there was a very one-sided article on the issue of homosexuality, which just assumed that the only biblical position is the conservative one, and that made the ridiculous claim that only a very few dispute this. I have written to Idea urging that there should be a balancing article, perhaps from Aceepting Evangelicals. I wait to see whether or not my letter is published, but in the light of what has happened here I very much doubt whether any balancing article would be permitted.

    • I disagree with you George entirely. It is a great day that the E.A. are standing firm on Scripture regarding the biblical prohibition of same sex sexual relationships. I couldn’t care less what Steve Chalke has to say on the subject, Steve went off the biblical rails years ago on another subject so this latest outburst from him doesn’t surprise me. Not does the fact that homosexuality is being promoted by false teachers. We have been warned by scripture about the ravening wolves who will infiltrate the church to destroy everyone they can, now we see them in their real colours. sin is sin and covering it over with a blanket of gooey love doesn’t make it any less sinfull.

    • In his book ‘Evangelical Truth’ John Stott writes “This is the choice confronting all Christian communicators today. On the one hand we can flatter people and tell them what they want to hear, namely that they are fine people and can win salvation by their own effort. We could develop what could be called a pussy-cat ministry, for we stroke them till they purr with pleasure. Or, on the other hand, we tell them the truth which they don’t want to hear, about sin, guilt, judgement and the cross, and so arouse their hostility. In other words we are unfaithful in order to be popular. Or we are willing to be unpopular in order to be faithful. I doubt very much if it is possible to be both at the same time. I fear we have to choose.
      I’m with John Stott

  4. Unsurprising, I’m afraid. I was recently removed from Scripture Union’s Bible reading notes writing team after expressing support for Steve Chalke’s stance on gay monogamy. The graceless manner in which it was done did nothing to make me sympathetic…

    • Hi Roger, I am really sad to hear what happened to you re. Scripture Union. Sadly other people have also had similar experiences as a result of being honest and willing to speak out. One day this will all change, but for now we can support each other and stand together. Have you become a member of Accepting Evangelicals yet? Its free – just click on ‘Join Here’ and fill in the form. Every Blessing, Benny Hazlehurst (Director of AE)

  5. An appalling decision, but I can’t say I am surprised. It is exactly because of actions like this that I no longer label myself an evangelical. The term has lost its meaning and come to represent intolerance and bigotry as well as a literalism and fundamentalism that I can’t sign up to either.

  6. The message from EA is very loud and very clear; anybody except gays and their allies are welcome. And some Christians are still puzzled by why the prospect of going to church again makes me very very nervous

    • Yes the message of EA is loud and clear. And I am sure that they welcome anyone who is willing to live according to the Bible and take what it teaches seriously. That after all is part of what makes one an evangelical.

  7. Benny,
    Is Isaiah 43:9 really about God’s acceptance of same sex or as you would put it ‘equal marriage’? You know very well that you are operating with a bad hermanuetic as are most commentators in the gay christian camp when it comes to intrepreting the scriptures.I pray that God will open the eyes of AE that the Bible is clear about it’s condemnation of same sex relationships. Far from being accused of being unloving and judgemental, telling people the truth, however painful that may be, is an act of love. We are all sinners and most of us have to deal with different temptations. It might be battling an addiction or controlling a violent temper. Some, for various reasons, will spend their lives single when they long to be married. That may be difficult but that is no reason to ‘re-interpret’ the biblical view of marriage that the church has held to for 2000 years just so that members of the same sex can be married with God’s blessing which is no blessing at all.

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