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claim to represent “the UK’s two million evangelical Christians” as there are clearly many evangelicals who they no longer represent, or who they are unwilling to represent.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