The Evangelical Alliance rejects Oasis, and me?

I was sad to read this today:

the Evangelical Alliance have discontinued the membership of Oasis Trust.

The stated reason for this refers to “what has been perceived by some as a campaign to change the Church’s historic view on human sexuality”. Oasis UK, which was founded by Steve Chalke, has responded to this; see also Adrian Warnock’s blog post.

This parting of ways brings back memories for me from many years ago. In 1986 I attended the Spring Harvest Christian conference for the first time, at Prestatyn in North Wales. Graham Kendrick led the worship, highlighting his “Make Way” Carnival of Praise (“Shine, Jesus, Shine!” was the theme song the next year). Among the Christian leaders prominent at the event were Clive Calver, then General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, and a young Baptist pastor Steve Chalke.

Clive Calver enthused the crowds that week with his vision for evangelical Christians putting aside differences over secondary matters to work together for the Gospel. He approached me personally, while I was browsing the book sale area, and signed me up as a personal member of the Alliance. I was happy to accept its vision, and its Basis of Faith. After 28 years, I am still a member and still happy to accept the (slightly revised) Basis of Faith. I note some things which are omitted from this document: any statement that the Bible is inerrant, and any mention of sexuality or sexual ethics.

Steve ChalkeOver the next few years Steve Chalke became a prominent figure in the British church, as he built up his now global Oasis network of community based projects. Among other projects, Oasis UK runs a number of Oasis Academies, Christian primary and secondary schools working within the state education system.

Meanwhile Chalke has become a controversial figure among evangelicals. As I reported here in 2007, his infamous words about “cosmic child abuse”, taken out of context by his critics, led to a split in the Spring Harvest movement. In the last few months he has caused renewed controversy with an article Restoring Confidence in the Bible, in which he questions, but does not reject, the historical accuracy of parts of the Old Testament, for example writing concerning Numbers 15:32-36:

Did God order this death or did Moses mishear him?

The Evangelical Alliance raised concerns about the “cosmic child abuse” controversy, but allowed Chalke and Oasis to remain Alliance members. However, they seem to have taken more serious issue with his 2013 paper A MATTER OF INTEGRITY: The Church, sexuality, inclusion and an open conversation, in which he takes on the thorny issue of the church accepting people in homosexual relationships. He writes:

Too often, those who seek to enter an exclusive, same-sex relationship have found themselves stigmatised and excluded by the Church. I have come to believe this is an injustice and out of step with God’s character as seen through Christ.

He seeks to justify his position with a detailed study of the relevant Bible passages – not by rejecting them as no longer applicable, as a non-evangelical would. His exegesis is of course controversial and not convincing to all. Nevertheless, the article is an attempt from within the evangelical tradition to apply biblical principles to a pressing pastoral issue.

As reported by Oasis, this article led to

an on-going conversation with the Evangelical Alliance.  At their request, we have made several changes to our online content and believed that we had reached a point where both parties could be satisfied that our relationship would continue.  We are, therefore, disappointed  by their announcement…

However, it seems that the Evangelical Alliance Council has chosen this issue, and not the one of biblical authority or of the Atonement, as the grounds for declaring Oasis UK to be outside the evangelical family. It is extremely disappointing that this matter of sexual ethics has again been seen as more significant than central matters of the Christian faith.

The Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith says nothing about human sexuality, but it does include this, paragraph 4:

WE BELIEVE IN… The dignity of all people, made male and female in God’s image to love, be holy and care for creation, yet corrupted by sin, which incurs divine wrath and judgement.

Now I am sure that the drafters of this paragraph, with its very odd grammar, did not intend “to love”, with no explicit object, to include same sex relationships. But by expelling Oasis and rejecting Chalke’s call for “an open and generous acceptance of people with sexualities other than heterosexual”, the Alliance seems to be aligning itself with those in the church who stigmatise and exclude these people. Yet they too are among the “all people” whose dignity the Alliance professes to believe in – and all of us, not just them, are “yet corrupted by sin”.

In writing this, I don’t want to reject those who sincerely interpret Scripture as prohibiting same sex relationships, as long as they avoid judgmental or hate-filled expressions of those beliefs. But I do not consider it appropriate for the Evangelical Alliance, as an umbrella body, to take a definite position on this matter.

The Alliance also seems to be extending its belief in

The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God—fully trustworthy for faith and conduct

to require its members to uphold a specific interpretation of those Scriptures, beyond what is specified elsewhere in the Basis of Faith.

In its action today the Evangelical Alliance seems to have turned its back on Clive Calver’s vision of evangelical Christians putting aside differences over secondary matters to work together. Instead it has elevated one particular secondary matter to be a touchstone of evangelicalism. And it has done so in a way which plays into the hands of the popular press, with its anti-Christian agenda of portraying the church as obsessed with sexuality and intolerably homophobic. This is most unfortunate.

Personally, I would not want to accept all of the positions that Steve Chalke has taken. But I would affirm his pastoral care for gay and lesbian people and his rejection of how the church has often stigmatised and excluded them. I would also affirm his right to explore, within the evangelical tradition, ways in which their full inclusion can be found compatible with biblical teaching. I would call on the Evangelical Alliance to reverse its decision and declare that acceptance of same sex relationships can be compatible with evangelicalism.

Since moving to the USA nearly two years ago, I have become more and more uneasy with the label “evangelical”. In North America this has become too much identified with positions on biblical inerrancy which I have never accepted, as well as with certain intolerant positions on “culture wars”, among which strong opposition to same sex marriage is currently prominent. I thought I was happy being an evangelical as defined in the UK, by the Evangelical Alliance among others. But if that definition is now shifting towards the American one, if specific positions on moral issues are becoming a touchstone, if “evangelical” is coming to mean much the same as “fundamentalist”, then is there any room left for people like me within the evangelical fold?

So, has the time come for me to join Oasis in parting company with the Evangelical Alliance? I hope not, but if things continue in the current direction this may be coming soon.

The Evangelical Alliance concludes its statement as follows:

The Evangelical Alliance council remain deeply respectful of the work and achievements of the Oasis Trust and have a strong desire to avoid any unseemly dispute and to speak well of each other.

This at least is good. Let us indeed agree “to avoid any unseemly dispute and to speak well of each other”.

35 thoughts on “The Evangelical Alliance rejects Oasis, and me?

  1. A fantastic piece, thank you. I whole heartedly share your position. It would seem to be an unfortunate president the EA has made, if I am to share Steve’s commitment to gracious and open minded discussion on the subject, must I renounce my identity as an “evangelical”?

  2. As you’ll have no doubt realised, I’ve long since given up thinking of myself as an evangelical; even so, I have many friends who are evangelicals and owe a debt of gratitude to the movement for so much that I’ve gained from my evangelical upbringing; but this is a sad day for the EA, a development which — if it wins — seems to turn Christ’s church into something more akin to a shibboleth-gated community than to the Kingdom of God … and within that community, it seems that marriage is the new Corban…

  3. I know I’m always commenting, but I thought I should again (!) as your email alert arrived at the same time I was sending to Mathew Vines, the eloquent young man who is challenging the traditional interpretation of scripture on this matter.
    I think like others he strains too hard. The Levitical prohibitions aren’t binding and Paul doesn’t repeat them in the New Testament, he says. I think he’s wrong but here’s the rub. The Levitical prohibitions single out lying with a man “as with a woman”. When it condemns lying with a beast it doesn’t say “as with a woman” so that phrase is not just to clarify that sex is in view. Therefore it limits the scope of the prohibition. It doesn’t include egalitarian relationships of the David Jonathan type. Paul’s use of words meaning (roughly) strong and weak, underscores the Levitical objection. Against the patriarchal background the woman’s role is an inferior one.
    Then there’s Romans 1 where the Evangelical just misses the punch line due to chapter division. It’s at the start of chapter 2 “you then are without excuse!” chapter 1 is just the set up in which Paul paints a deliberately lurid and inaccurate portrait of pagan norms. Almost no one “abandoned” heterosexual relations, though bisexuality was common. That’s a problem for inspiration only if you see Romans 1 as didactic, rather than setting up the reader for the punchline. If however he is deliberately caricaturing then it’s irrelevant also if the reference to nature points to Genesis, or to Plato’s erroneous view that there are no gay animals. If painting an inaccurate (hyperbolic) portrait is Paul’s intent then it’s no scandal if he succeeds.
    And then, as I think you say elsewhere, why not take a stand on the remarriage of the divorced? If that’s left to conscience, why not this?

  4. To clarify, the fall guy in Paul’s joke is the Judaizing reader. It’s their fantasies of pagan norms that Paul plays up to in Romans 1 to set up the punchline that they (the Judaizers) are no better and should therefore refrain from judging.

  5. Thank you for the comments. A sad day indeed.

    Giles, I think I agree with you. As I have indeed suggested before, it seems hypocritical to reject same sex relationships while accepting divorce and remarriage – and eating shellfish!

  6. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for blogging about this.

    “In writing this, I don’t want to reject those who sincerely interpret Scripture as prohibiting same sex relationships, as long as they avoid judgmental or hate-filled expressions of those beliefs. But I do not consider it appropriate for the Evangelical Alliance, as an umbrella body, to take a definite position on this matter.”

    I think this is the heart of the issue. I don’t see how same sex relationships can be seen as adiaphora. To my mind it is of a different order to something like baptism or church polity.

    I would say the only option for those who want to believe in the “divine inspiration and supreme authority…” as you quote, is to also say the same. Although the presenting issue may be sexuality, the issue at the heart is the doctrine of Scripture.

    Steve Chalke hasn’t just started a conversation about same-sex relationships, as far as I can tell, he has come out in support pretty much unequivocally. As we see from his methodology in the paper published earlier this year, it is moving further and further away from anything I would recognise as evangelical.

    At the end of the day, I think the EA made the right decision.

  7. Phill, thank you for saying explicitly what others imply by their actions, that same sex relationships are not adiaphora but “of a different order to something like baptism or church polity”. But what is the basis for this opinion? And would you say the same about remarriage after divorce, and take the same strong line against it that I would expect you to take if you are asked to celebrate a same sex marriage? (Don’t just rely on the Church of England’s policy against the latter, as that may change any day!)

    I agree with you that the real issue is the doctrine of Scripture. The question there is, who has moved, Chalke or the EA? The Basis of Faith never required a belief in inerrancy. But if it is true, as Adrian Warnock claims, that Chalke “said he did not believe God ever strikes people dead and that where the Bible said he does it was wrong”, then I would say that he has gone too far. However, I note that the EA did not base their actions on the doctrine of Scripture.

  8. Hi Peter,

    Remarriage after divorce is indeed a contentious issue; however I believe it is significantly different to that of same-sex relationships. In particular, there is Jesus’ well-known exception clause in Matt 5:32 and 19:9 for sexual immorality; and in 1 Cor. 7 I believe Paul allows someone to remarry following abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. There is also the regulation of divorce in Deut 24:1-4, which Jesus refers to.

    I think this is fairly uncontroversial in evangelical circles, it’s the line Stott takes in “Issues Facing Christians Today” amongst other well-known evangelical scholars.

    In contrast to this, I can find nowhere in the Bible at all where same-sex relationships are commended, the only time it speaks of them it speaks negatively. Sex is only commended in terms of a heterosexual, lifelong relationship. As well as that there are a host of other reasons such as the constant New Testament refrain of desires which wage war against our flesh, sexual immorality, taking up our cross and so on. I also feel like many Christians buy into the assumption that one has to be in a romantic relationship to be a fulfilled human being (and therefore sexual self-expression is imperative in terms of individual identity), which I think is cultural rather than Biblical.

    I don’t want to get into a discussion on the specifics here because you could write a book on the topic, and many indeed have. Suffice it to say I do not find the case for changing the unbroken teaching of the church for 2000 years persuasive.

    Steve Chalke did say what Adrian Warnock said he did in his debate with Andrew Wilson over at Christianity Magazine. I don’t know if he has said the same elsewhere.

    As you say, the EA did not base their actions on Chalke’s understanding of Scripture, however I do believe the EA’s understanding of Scripture by good and necessary consequence entails a prohibition on same-sex relationships, consequently I think the EA were right to make this decision.

    Sorry if this isn’t very coherent, it’s getting late!

  9. Phill, I also don’t want to get into discussion of the exegetical issues. I agree with you that a biblical case can be made for divorce and remarriage under some circumstances, but I would see the same principles as allowing same sex relationships. See what I have written before about this, for example Hypocrisy and Gay Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, and the older posts I linked to there.

    In my opinion, we should at least allow that Scripture can legitimately be interpreted in different ways on this matter, just as we do on baptism and church government as well as on remarriage after divorce.

    Thank you for the link to the debate. I don’t have time to listen to this now, but I will accept that Chalke said what you and Adrian say that he said.

  10. Pingback: We mustn’t let this fallout between the Evangelical Alliance and Steve Chalke cause more harm « God and Politics in the UK

  11. Seems to me that the EA could learn much from the following approach by the Dean of Durham, the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove; but are the EA open to learning or simply battening down the hatches?

    … 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

  12. Hi Peter,

    Ultimately the issue does come down to whether the Biblical case for the church’s traditional teaching on this is watertight or not. I would say that it is.

    There is also a problem with allowing a variety of views, in that this would not be helpful to pastoral practice: it would be immensely confusing to someone with same-sex attraction if on the one hand they are being told it’s fine, and on the other hand being told it’s not, by churches apparently both committed to the authority of Scripture.

    Anyway, what’s done is done. Hopefully the resulting conversation will be a positive thing.

  13. Phil G, thank you for the Michael Sadgrove quote. I agree.

    Phill, I think we should always be very careful about saying that any specific teaching is watertight. There are so many approaches to biblical interpretation that it is almost impossible to say that any one result is definitely right or definitely wrong. The EA recognises this in its own Evangelical Relationships Commitment, appended to the Basis of Faith, when it writes:

    We call on each other, when speaking or writing of those issues of faith or practice that divide us, to acknowledge our own failings and the possibility that we ourselves may be mistaken, avoiding personal hostility and abuse, and speaking the truth in love and gentleness.

    There are of course certain issues on which we need to take a stand, even where they go beyond what can be definitively proved from the Bible, for example the doctrine of the Trinity. The EA has defined these central issues, for itself and its members, in its Basis of Faith, while also committing itself to “avoiding personal hostility and abuse, and speaking the truth in love and gentleness” with those who differ on them. But, as I pointed out before, there is no mention of sexual ethics in the Basis of Faith and no suggestion that a specific position on these matters is required of EA members.

    I understand the pastoral difficulties of allowing different positions in different churches. But surely this applies equally to matters like baptism on which EA members agree to differ. Anyway, whether the EA likes it or not, there will increasingly be churches in the UK which accept same sex relationships and marriage as well as those who continue to reject them. The EA cannot impose uniformity even if this is desirable. They can draw a line in the sand, but they can’t stop the tide coming in and washing the line away.

    Indeed they need to be careful not to be washed away themselves. I would predict that within 10-20 years the majority of churches, even of those now calling themselves evangelical, will be at least offering some kind of blessing to same sex married couples. It is not too late for the EA to change its position and accept this as an option for its members. But if it does not, it will soon become the preserve of a dwindling band of fundamentalist culture warriors – and God will raise up others to take the lead in his church.

  14. Hi Peter,

    I was wondering whether ‘watertight’ was the correct word, but on reflection I still think it is. I have yet to see a pro-gay Biblical interpretation which does justice to the Biblical data. Most pro-gay Christians I have seen recently tend to make the argument that the Bible does condemn same-sex relationships, but that the Biblical writers were wrong.

    One of the points Andrew Wilson makes in the debate I linked to is that there is really no debate in academic circles. The “debate” on whether the Bible condemns homosexuality is happening in Christian popular culture, not in scholarly circles. I think this is because the debate is pretty much settled.

    Just because something is not in the basis of faith doesn’t mean an organisation can’t / shouldn’t have a position on it – the FIEC, for example, has a basis of faith with three additional statements clarifying their position on other issues such as women in ministry and sexuality. That seems to be a reasonable approach – I wouldn’t want to put sexuality in a basis of faith, in the same way that I wouldn’t want to include everything I thought was a sin in it.

    I would argue that sexual ethics is a different order of magnitude from baptism – I hope that my brothers and sisters who do not believe in infant baptism do not think I am leading people into sin when I baptise their children. Sexual ethics, however, are a much more serious business. I can’t think of any equivalent example where an umbrella organisation allows its members to make up their own consciences about particular sins (I guess the closest example would be divorce and remarriage, although we’ve talked about that already).

    “But if it does not, it will soon become the preserve of a dwindling band of fundamentalist culture warriors – and God will raise up others to take the lead in his church”

    We’ll see. It seems to me the ‘fundamentalist’ churches are doing pretty well at the moment. In my limited experience, churches which accept same-sex relationships change on other things too. Time will tell.

  15. I do understand where Phil is coming from. As I said I think pro gay exegesis strains too hard. But here’s where I pitch my tent and it’s based entirely on respect for the text. That phrase “as with a woman” or “on the couches of a woman” must mean something. And not just that sex is in view as it is absent from “thou shalt not lie with a beast.” Must it not therefore limit the scope of these passages and thus Paul if he is restating them.
    Then there’s David and Jonathan, a story I read assuming it was non sexual, as that was what I was told. But what do we make of “you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and the shame of your mother’s nakedness”. Isn’t it redolent of sexual shame? Ok it’s not clear, but neither are the other texts. I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m not gay. Just trying to read the text. Tradition is largely against me but it’s not univocal. From the early mediaeval to the early modern period there were ceremonies of male life partnership performed in the church. That these were de facto marriages is shown by the fact that when they were outlawed in the C17th those who had been so joined were killed.
    But it’s done now. I am afraid you (Peter) no longer fit as a UK evangelical, and you already had problems with the US sort. But then you don’t need a party, you already have your identification at the top of this page. You are a follower of Jesus, not Paul or Apollos or the EA.

  16. Phill, like you I have yet to see a fully convincing “pro-gay Biblical interpretation”, and for that reason I am holding back from fully accepting Chalke’s position.

    But you are wrong to suggest that there is no scholarly debate here. I know many interpreters understand Romans 1 as a homophobic rant, the evangelicals among them using this to justify homophobia and the liberals using it as an argument to reject the Bible. But probably today’s greatest Bible scholar, N.T. Wright, in this article, clearly rejects the homophobic interpretation, while also rejecting some of the popular Christian understandings you refer to.

    I’m sure many Baptists would consider it a sin for a believer not to be baptised; many conservative evangelicals would consider it a sin for a woman to lead a church; and some would consider it a sin to drink alcohol. That doesn’t stop the Evangelical Alliance from including within its ranks people with different understandings of exactly what is a sin.

    Giles, thank you for bringing up David and Jonathan. We might also consider the centurion’s “boy”, pais (Matthew 8:6), who was “dear to him”, auto entimos (Luke 7:2). This sounds to me like a homosexual relationship. What did Jesus do? Did he order the boy to be stoned to death? No, he healed him.

    Indeed I am happy to be a non-party Christian. I just don’t want to be thrown out of a party for all the wrong reasons.

  17. Phill — Peter has beaten me to it but I’d echo his response to your observation that ‘The “debate” on whether the Bible condemns homosexuality is happening in Christian popular culture, not in scholarly circles.’ — there’s plenty of informed and scholarly debate and discussion: witness the analysis on Leviticus I pointed you towards earlier; then there’s the work of Linda Woodhead and the ongoing discussion by Bishop Alan Wilson. You’d also do well to visit the resources section of Accepting Evangelicals: Accepting Evangelicals: Resources.

    The debate is far from settled; and whilst there’s no denying that there are some who do simply say that the biblical writers got it wrong, you’re seriously mistaken if you think that’s the prevalent attitude amongst those of us who do believe that same sex relationships are acceptable. Scripture is not to be dismissed but it must be read both in its historical-sociological context and in the light of what we see God doing — and what I see God doing is blessing LGBTI people in exactly the same ways as straight people, which leaves me in much the same place as St Peter when he was praying on that rooftop many years ago: who am I to withhold blessing or acceptance from those whom God is blessing and accepting?

  18. Hi Giles, Peter and Phil G,

    This is turning into a debate, and it’s three against one which is a bit unfair! 🙂 I do not have the time to respond to all your points, much as I would love to.

    Peter, I am a little disturbed by your use of the language of ‘homophobia’. Perhaps I am over sensitive on this, but too many times recently those who hold to a traditional ethic on sexuality have been labelled homophobic. I think you are referring to people who prooftext, and on that I am with you – prooftexting is a bad way of reading the Bible.

    The article you linked to by N.T. Wright doesn’t indicate there is a scholarly debate on this – he seems to go along with the views of Gagnon (who I would agree with).

    Giles and Peter, the examples you cite (David and Jonathan; centurion’s boy) are disputable at the very best.

    Phil G – I was particularly meaning in evangelical academic circles. If you can point me to a peer-reviewed evangelical journal which has embraced same-sex relationships I will concede this. Linda Woodhead is hardly an example of an evangelical – does she even call herself Christian these days?

    I am aware of Accepting Evangelicals, as well as a few other groups; I don’t know whether they have really made inroads into academic circles though. The resources section of that website just seems to bear up my statement that these things are being done at a popular level – there are no links to journal articles or the like.

    I’d be careful about making comparisons with Acts 10. What are your criteria for God’s blessing? The prosperity gospel is going down a storm in Uganda, to the point where it’s incredibly difficult to lead a church which preaches anything different. The atheist and secularist movement seems to be growing in the UK at the moment, is that God’s blessing?

    Once again, I’m sorry for not being able to respond fully. 🙂

  19. If it’s openly pro-LGBTI discussion in evangelical academic circles you’re looking for, Phill, then you’re not going to find it for the simple reason that anyone who is so minded won’t dare speak out for fear of receiving a similar response to that given to Steve Chalke. It’s the big taboo: the moment anyone speaks out for same-sex relationships, they’re excoriated and branded a heretic or worse.

  20. Either that, or people know that a plausible case for same-sex relationships cannot be made from the Bible.

    The problem with the “fear of speaking out” argument is that it works with virtually anything. e.g.: you don’t find arguments against the divinity of the Son in evangelical academic circles. Clearly that’s because they’re afraid of speaking out and being branded a heretic.

  21. Phil and Phill, thank you for today’s comments. Sadly I don’t have time to get further into these issues today.

    Phil, thank you for the link to Accepting Evangelicals site, showing that there is indeed real debate going on. As Phill says, it would be good to see articles in recognised scholarly journals.

    Phill, your definition of scholarly debate as what can be found in peer-reviewed evangelical journals simply demonstrates the narrow-mindedness and isolationist tendency of so many evangelicals. There is a whole world out there, including a world of scholarly debate, which is for Christians to enter and shine the light of the gospel in. Instead you hide yourselves away in your bunkers, under your bushels, and won’t even read what anyone else writes unless it is in a journal with the label “evangelical”.

    I didn’t mean to use the word “homophobic” as a description of those who have a genuine conviction that homosexual relationships are wrong, while also showing genuine love and acceptance towards people in such relationships. Indeed in the past I have objected to this usage. I used the word as a description of how Paul’s words in Romans 1 are sometimes presented, both by anti-Christians in the LGBT community and by Christians seeking to justify hate speech and hateful attitudes towards gay and lesbian people. I would not call you homophobic, but there certainly are Christian homophobes out there.

  22. I can add the following to the previous comment: among the articles listed by Accepting Evangelicals, linked to by Phil G, is an article by Benny Hazlehurst, a founder of Accepting Evangelicals, which appeared in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal ANVIL. In this article the author discusses interpretations of the biblical passages supposedly relating to same sex relationships, and comes to a non-“traditional” conclusion. This appears alongside an article from another apparently evangelical author, Sean Doherty, presenting a different viewpoint. (I have not read these articles in detail.) So this is evidence that there is proper scholarly debate concerning this interpretation, to which evangelicals are contributing. But for one reason or another journals with the label “evangelical” are not the place to look for this debate.

  23. Hi Peter

    I certainly don’t hide myself away and refuse to read what anyone reads unless it is in an academic journal. However, I do think it is significant that there is no real scholarly debate about this. As Andrew Wilson commented in that debate, get the top 50 commentaries on 1 Corinthians and see what they say about what Paul meant about sexuality. Go to the Society of New Testament Studies and ask people whether they think Paul condoned same-sex sex.

    Thank you for the link to the Hazlehurst article on Anvil. At the least this does suggest Phil G was wrong on this, i.e. people are willing to speak out and it’s not just fear of being branded a heretic. The article itself seems to contribute nothing new to the debate, i.e. all the arguments are the same which the affirming camp have been making for many years.

    Anyway, I think my point has been made in this discussion, it’s time for me to draw stumps on my participation. Thank you everyone for being charitable in disagreement.

  24. Phill, don’t misrepresent Phil G. His comment that people “won’t dare speak out” applied only to “in evangelical academic circles”. ANVIL is not one of those circles. But it gives the lie to your claim that “there is no real scholarly debate about this”, unless you define “real” as “in evangelical journals”.

    Meanwhile I don’t have “the top 50 commentaries on 1 Corinthians”, but I do have one of them, by Fee, in which he refers to and footnotes various scholarly opinions on 6:9-10. Here he refers to the “male prostitute” understanding of malakoi as “the best guess” and that “one cannot be certain” about the meaning of arsenokoitai. Hardly the unambiguous endorsement of the traditional view from an evangelical scholar which might justify the EA’s action against Oasis.

  25. I do think it’s important for all to respect the strength of conviction on both sides. For some on “my” side it’s a simple matter of equality. They see no problem in forcing religious cake makers to bake cakes for gay weddings, or B and B owners to accommodate gay couples or insisting that NGOs commit to LGBT equality before getting funds.
    The typical African Christian by contrasts sees the West as having overturned scripture and 2,000 years of tradition and now demanding that they compromise their faith or starve.
    It’s an interesting exercise to make a scriptural case against slavery. I can do it now we all know it’s wrong. For example in Philemon Paul writes to the master of the escaped slave “if he has done you any wrong”. Which suggests he did no wrong in running away. But you can be sure Paul’s return of a runaway slave was cited as clear proof of the sin of those whose “underground railway” helped slaves escape Christian masters in the deep South.
    I guess I am saying we all stand where we have to and we must all seek to see the other side.

  26. The Evangelical Alliance has issued a new “Press Release: Members’ briefing” (Which is it? Is it for general publication, or for members?) Steve Clifford on Oasis’ discontinued membership of the Evangelical Alliance.

    This clarifies what the issue was. The Alliance Council tried to insist that Oasis make specific changes to its website. Oasis declined to make these changes. The Council

    concluded that a relationship between an organisation and one of its members in which the member was unwilling to comply with a reasonable request from the council, was untenable.

    The question that arises here is, was the Alliance’s request “reasonable”, or was it an attempt to censor member organisations’ websites? Can censorship ever be “reasonable”?

    Now I might consider such a request “reasonable” if the member was found to be publicly denying or rejecting the Alliance’s Basis of Faith. But no such charge has been made against Oasis or is suggested in this members’ briefing. Instead the Council has chosen to throw its weight around to impose uniformity on what should be considered a secondary matter.

  27. Interesting; and far from reasonable — unless, of course, the EA was offering to do the same in return and impartially host both sides of the debate on its website? Unlikely, methinks: this looks to be very much about control.

  28. Thank you, Phil.

    Meanwhile Ian Paul speaks some sense on this issue, although he comes to a different conclusion from mine. I agree with him especially on this:

    Thirdly, although the question of sexuality was the presenting issue, it is clear that the root cause lies somewhere else. As Gillan Scott notes, this does not look like good PR for evangelicals, and in fact Chalke’s subsequent comments on the nature of the Bible might have been a better ‘fight’ to pick.

    But I think Ian Paul, like others, is too quick to reject as not even worthy of consideration the interpretations of the relevant New Testament passages favoured by Steve Chalke and others. The inspiration and authority of Scripture do not imply the infallibility of a particular interpretation of it.

  29. Sad, but I think you’ve made the right decision: echoing Chalke, it’s a matter of integrity; and I don’t think the EA is showing integrity either with respect to its own basis of faith or to the true breadth of evangelicalism. Peter, I salute you.

  30. Pingback: Commonplace Holiness Blog

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