Steve Chalke, a prominent evangelical pastor in the UK recently made an announcement endorsing committed monogamous same-sex relationships and marriage. The article discussing his perspective can be found here. After both reading this article and watching Steve’s video, here are my thoughts:
As a Christian, I too believe it is imperative that we live out the principles of justice, reconciliation and inclusion. The Church, which should be radically inclusive, has excluded LGBT people and left them vulnerable and isolated. It is good to remorsefully take responsibility for this and take steps to right our wrongs. I also agree that the Church should have addressed its attitude and actions toward the LGBT community a long time ago, and it is unfortunate that this important topic has been avoided up until now, when it is nearly impossible to separate what are already complex issues from the overlap with what is happening in the political arena.
There must be a place for LGBT people in the church. However, I believe that the “real question facing the Church” is not “the nature of inclusion” but rather “how can the Church best love the LGBT community?” In order for churches to decide how they will move forward, an atmosphere of “generous spaciousness” would be most helpful. Unfortunately, churches are usually denied the collective space in which it is safe to wrestle and ask questions. We must find a way to extend the same space we allow ourselves when grappling with difficult topics to the larger church community.
In direct response to the question regarding the application of the same principle to women, slavery, and committed gay relationships: the problem is that although these three categories seem to be analogous, there is very little evidence pointing to a scriptural trajectory for gay people that is similar to the trajectories scripture provides for slaves and women. This is explained well in the book Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals by William J. Webb.
I agree that God “beckons each one of us out of isolation into the joy of faithful relationship,” but these are not always romantic/sexual relationships. For example, the Church community acts as a source of platonic intimacy and connection for those with the gift of celibacy. It is not solely the church’s refusal to grant same-sex marriages that drives those in the LGBT community to loneliness, secrecy, fear and deceit but rather the historical hostility of the Church and the lack of a safe environment.
In the sentence including the phrase, “when we blame them for who they are…” there is an assumption that one’s sexual orientation equals one’s identity. While this is a reality within the LGBT community, as Christians we believe that our identity is in Christ and all other identifiers are secondary to that core identity. This distinction is key because it has significant implications as we continue to grow and revise our theology.
Even though we are far from a consensus, conversations like these give me hope that we are moving in the right direction. Progress, however one defines it, can only occur if churches are willing (or greatly pressured as the case may be) to engage in the discussion. I pray that the LGBT community will not be deterred from encountering the extravagant love of Christ.