A few days ago I tweeted that I was sad about the Evangelical Alliance’s decision to disassociate itself from Rev Steve Chalke and his organisation Oasis. That decision was based on EA’s unhappiness with his vocal support for same sex marriage.
I chose my words very carefully. You have to when you are limited to 140 characters. But I also wanted to make it clear that this was a genuine sadness and not an expression of anger; even though I profoundly disagree with the decision. The sadness is more about what this decision says about the EA leadership and the message to those evangelicals who see things differently.
If there is one thing on which most people agree it is that there is disagreement on the subject of inclusive marriage. I have made my own position clear in an earlier blog and am quite happy to say that I am very strongly in favour. I don’t propose to repeat that argument here –
But there are those who I know and respect, who take a different view. They are neither homophobic nor intolerant of all same sex relationships. They just see marriage differently than I do. In all other areas we can work well together. They affirm God’s bias for the poor. They will come alongside the marginalised and oppose discrimination, including homophobia. I wish that I could persuade them to agree with me but that does not mean that I refuse to have anything to do with them.
In his most recent book the American writer and activist Jim Wallis says –
‘It is time to reclaim the common good and learn how faith might help, instead of hurt, in that important task’. *
Why should a person’s views on a particular issue define the value of everything that they do? And how is that reclaiming the common good?
When Jesus prayed in the Garden before his arrest and execution he prayed that his disciples would be ‘one’. He never prayed that they would be ‘right’. The decision of EA suggests that they see things the other way round. Because they see their view as ‘right’, they exclude those of a different viewpoint. It is not limited to Steve Chalke or Oasis. I would at one time have comfortably called myself an evangelical. But that is now in question. On their website they describe themselves thus –
‘We are the largest and oldest body representing the
million evangelical Christians.’
But they have publicly stated that they no longer represent me or many others who have a different opinion. So I am alienated by them. I am no longer welcome because I agree with Steve Chalke and others.
And that is a reason to be sad.
*Jim Wallis - On God's Side; BrazosPress