Monday 14 January 2013

Steve Chalke affirms same sex partnerships

Controversial Baptist Minister Steve Chalke, who recently joined the ‘Accepting Evangelicals’ Group, which endorses gay marriage, has now written an article for 'Christianity' magazine, in which he more publicly confirms his support for ‘exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships’.

The Times reports (£) that he ‘changed his own mind, not just through personal opinion and experience, but as part of his growing understanding of the Christian Bible’.

He says that he ‘has written a special liturgy for gay partnerships’ that he has published on his Oasis charity website along with ‘a full evangelical exegesis of his pro-gay stance’.

Chalke's arguments run along similar lines to those of ‘Accepting Evangelicals’ leader Benny Hazlehurst, which I reviewed last weekend in more detail.

Chalke is no stranger to controversy, having previously described the biblical doctrine of ‘penal substitution’, whereby Jesus takes the punishment for our sins, as a form of ‘cosmic child abuse’.

Many evangelicals would argue that he has been moving away from an evangelical position on key doctrines for some years and that this latest announcement is simply a further step down this path.

This latest move will no doubt endear him to gay rights activists, the liberal press and the Prime Minister and has clearly been planned to impact on the imminent government debate on the gay marriage bill.

It will not however be welcomed by the vast majority of the country’s two million evangelicals and I expect the Evangelical Alliance will quickly distance itself from Chalke’s position (They now have - see here)

Greg Downes has outlined the traditional evangelical position alongside Chalke's piece in 'Christianity'.

The arguments of the ‘Accepting Evangelicals group have been ably refuted in a variety of recent works, and most recently in the Evangelical Alliance’s excellent summer 2012 publication ‘Biblical and pastoral responses to homosexuality’ which is available on the EA website and summarised here.

CMF’s recent publication ‘Unwanted same sex attraction’ reviews pastoral approaches in helping Christians who experience same sex erotic attraction or recognise that they have a homosexual orientation and I have myself covered this issue before on this blog.

See Evangelical Alliance's response to Steve Chalke here

Other coverage and reaction

Not radical enough - Steve Clifford
Homosexuality and hermeneutics - Steve Holmes
The Bible and homosexuality - Greg Downes
Christianity Today
Huffington Post


  1. I think that an unstated aim of groups like "Accepting Evangelicals" is to rob the term "evangelical" of all meaningful content...

    This is an astonishing move on Chalke's part...a break with 2000 years of Christian teaching.
    It takes more than an article in "Christianity" and a few web articles to justify such a move.
    Anyway, Richard Swinburne (in "Was Jesus God?") has noted that the Christian Churches never needed a council on sexual ethics because they were never debated within the Church. Or at least, once the Tanakh was accepted as God-breathed, Christian sexual ethics followed on naturally.


  2. Hi Peter, just so you know we've got the original article and editorial on our website:

    1. Thanks Sean. I've now linked it in the article above along with Greg Downes' reply.

  3. I'm sorry but I was a bit hurt by this review. Your not doing yourself any favours. Before you read the article (I read your review before the article was public) you assume that it comes from a power-grabbing greedy and manipulative place? Seems rather ungenerous! Having now read the article I completely belive that this is his heart felt and considered opinion. Please have the common decency to engage with the debate rather then throw mud. I'm not saying he is right I am just saying I think a shameless attack on a mans character is a rather strange way to attempt to demonstrate your view on a loving God.

    1. I have no doubt that Steve Chalke's views are carefully considered and sincerely held and I, like many, have hugely appreciated his contributions to the church and to society in many of the causes which he has championed.

      However he has clearly chosen deliberately to take this controversial stand at this time and in this way in an attempt to influence the upcoming parliamentary debate on gay marriage.

      The arguments he uses are well-known and well-rehearsed and have been well-rebutted, most recently and notably in the EA publication linked above which I advise people to read and study.

      I strongly believe that he has badly misinterpreted Scripture on this matter and is now publicly teaching what is, in essence, heresy. That is a very serious matter indeed.

      No doubt people will want to respond in more detail to his views in the coming weeks and months.

      But the priority now is for the Evangelical Alliance and others to make it very clear that Steve does not speak for EA and that EA does not concur with his views. I have every confidence that the EA leadership will move swiftly to do just this.

    2. I see that EA has now issued a response - see

  4. I can only sadly conclude that Steve Chalkes "growing understanding of the Christian Bible" is actually a growing movement away from the truth and sufficiency of Gods word towards what seems reasonable and relevant to a man.

    To quote the author of all such travel in that direction, "Did God really say...?"

    Such are the days we live in, it is achingly sad.

  5. Thank you Peter for boldly standing for truth from God's holy word and highlighting false teaching

    Isaiah 5:20-21
    Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

  6. I have found this article to be hugely enlightening as a background to this debate...

  7. It's like a bereavement:those have been trusted leaders who have a voice, their walking away from The Truth, it hurts, crying.

  8. So saddened by this, as someone who had huge respect for Steve Chalk and all he did I feel very let down and disapointed on his new stance.

  9. Has not Steve Chalke's previous statements deprived him of the right to be considered a Christian?

    1. I don't think so...unless I've missed something. He's certainly "post-evangelical"; once we acknowledge that, and he acknowledges that, the controversy disappears. Fewer headlines, maybe, but probably more productive.

      This is a serious issue - salvation and holiness go hand in hand. To my mind, Peter is correct - Chalke's ethic verges on heresy. And there is something distasteful about a few celebrity preachers attempting to redefine evangelicalism. So we need a bit more heat than light to discuss the revisionist position. I'm not sure that the headlines are helping.

      But I'm sure Chalke's a nice chap; and I'm truly glad that he's done a lot of good work for his charity. I just want to be able to say "wow, that's a complete misunderstanding of Biblical ethics and Natural Law and the argument for traditional marriage".

    2. I suspect he's less concerned with what others consider him, and much more concerned with his practice of following Jesus. Dismissing him as a celebratory preacher (and apologies if I've misread that) missing a life dedicated to following the Jesus manifesto.

      Agree or disgree his paper and the way he raises the issue is a great model for debate.

  10. Let's get clear, there is actually nothing controversal about Chalke's position. His position is very much inline with mainstream culture. It is the traditional perspective that is controversial. Don't give him the credit for being a radical, he is actually a status quo man.

  11. That is the whole point. It is Christianity that is supposed to be counter-cultural - not letting the world define what it ought to believe. Throw out the authority of the eternal word of God and you are left with the 'authority' of the shifting cultural fashions of a world which the Bible declares is under the rule of the devil.

  12. "No stranger to controversy"? Really...of all the incredible things Steve has pioneered, the massive good he has done for the church and the thousands of people he has helped and supported , you quote the one time in the past he was apparently 'out of step' with evangelicals? This is fairly typical of the evangelical movement, however, knowing Mr. Chalk he has soul searched and struggled to come to the position he has written about..and I am sure he knows many many more than the 2 million evangelicals, have come to similar views through biblical exegesis and first hand pastoral care of many hurting and rejected men and women...Good on you Steve....many of us are with you
    Sammy Horner

  13. There is no surprise here, Mr Chalk has been a close friend of a very famous pop star who likes "going on a summer holiday" for some years now, so making a public statement was simply just a matter of time, we now await the public wedding...on a bus? While I am still forming my own opinion I do wonder how long it will be before the EA makes the shift as cultures shifting sands change long held mindsets.

  14. Yeah we'll see who's the last to cave in. I don't think it will be Steve Chalke (hopefully the EA will come to their senses one day)

    As Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote many years ago:

    ...It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given. I could not have fought against the discrimination of apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination that homosexuals endure, even in our churches and faith groups.

    I am proud that in South Africa, when we won the chance to build our own new constitution, the human rights of all have been explicitly enshrined in our laws. My hope is that one day this will be the case all over the world, and that all will have equal rights. For me this struggle is a seamless robe. Opposing apartheid was a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination against women is a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice.

    It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious. We are all -- all of us -- part of God's family. We all must be allowed to love each other with honor. Yet all over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are persecuted. We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God. This must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for what they are.

    May we all learn to bless, love and accept, the way Jesus would.


    1. and by cave in (poor choice of words) I don't mean give in, but learn and evolve by listening to the wonderful ways and expressions others meet God.

  15. As already stated in earlier comments I am just disappointed by the tone of many sincere Christians in the ongoing discussion about this issue. I understand why it provokes strong feelings but we need to ensure that in all we say, whatever our view, we show love and respect to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Steve Chalke states his view, and all can consider how they view this, but as Christians we should not descend into the nastiness sometimes seen on then internet in discussion

  16. Mr Saunders, I am sorry to hear about this position adopted by Steve Chalke, but would like to thank you for promoting the traditional Christian view.

    I have read Chalke's article and note that he dismisses the Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah as not having anything to do with homosexual desires. I am rather out of touch with current thinking in Evangelical circles, but could you tell me whether his exegesis of Genesis is widely accepted among evangelicals today?

    1. No Steve Chalke's exegesis is a minority view out of step with most of evengelical Christendom. Greg Downes' exposition gives the traditional (and I would say bibllcal) view - see

    2. Thanks for that. Greg Downes does give a good summation of the biblical view. Unfortunately the press will no doubt focus on the other one.

  17. Just one correction - Steve Chalke has not said that he is in favour of gay marriage. He begins his article by saying the Government proposals are actually distracting the Church from the real and pressing issue of considering how we treat homosexuals.

    Perhaps you could correct this as I am sure you would not want to mislead anyone.

    1. Perhaps you could ask him to clarify this. He talks about nurturing 'permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships'. That certainly sounds like 'gay marriage' to me.

      The Times article is titled 'Evangelicals’ leader backs gay marriage' and its first sentence reads 'One of the country’s most influential senior evangelical Church leaders has come out in favour of homosexual relationships and gay marriage.'

      So he has certainly given the strong impression that he is in favour of gay marriage and has issued no clarification. I cannot believe that he had no contact with the journalist Ruth Gledhill given that the story was released to the Times apparently as an exclusive.

      I am very happy to amend the article at his request.

    2. I have told him what you have said and asked him to clarify his position re gay marriage on twitter.

    3. I think he does owe us all some clarity on that issue. He can't dodge it, and shouldn't try to. Many members of C4M approve of civil unions, yet are marked for opprobrium because they do not believe homosexual unions merit the same recognition as heterosexual unions. You can't claim to be on the side of the modernist angels if you aren't singing their tune.

      In any case, how can a Church bless a sexual union that is less than a marriage? Is this a union for the "quieting of concupiscence"? A way of taming desires that would otherwise run rampant? (Better a civil union than to burn...?)

      If so, would Chalke forbid homosexual unions for those with some heterosexual desire? Or does he really believe that homosexual desires are really on a par with heterosexual desires? If so a bisexual could choose a same sex marriage over heterosexual marriage. .

      Also, where exactly does Chalke stand on biblical authority? He seems to believe that some of the Bible's ethical teachings are mistaken. In what sense is he evangelical?

      His article raises many more questions than answers...not that I'll lose any sleep. It's just a very puzzling article.

    4. Yes I agree that there are many unanswered questions and I think he has done it this way deliberately. I don't think he will take a public position on gay marriage because by doing so he will risk alienating one group or another.

  18. He has shown leadsership on this issue and he should be admired for that. He will obviously attract a lot of followers who have also felt that the anger and hate shown to gay people are very un-Christian and his approach is quite a relief to them.

    1. A true leader will be willing to risk unpopularity by standing for biblical truth which is under attack by the world. By taking this stand he is actually further fuelling that attack by giving credence to the idea that evangelicals who believe same sex erotic behaviour is wrong are also homophobic and bigoted and persecute gay people.

  19. Whilst I don't support Steve Chalk's position or his arguments, he demonstrates a much better insight into the pastoral issues involved than most evangelicals. To loosely quote another person on another forum:

    I think we in the church are great for putting out rules but we are not so good at supporting people trying to obey those rules. Luke 11:46
    comes to mind:

    (Luke 11:46 NIV) Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

    This issue of loading down people with heavy burdens and not lifting one finger to help them is important to consider...

    We tell the woman with the unexpected pregnancy that she must keep the baby - but do we provide any means to help her? Do we give her the means to keep the child? (thankfully sometimes we do)

    We tell the older couple that is living together outside of marriage that they must either marry or break up (but don't consider the loss of income (social security) and benefits if they marry)

    We tell the gay or lesbian person that they must remain celibate (or perhaps enter a mixed orientation marriage which by the way has a questionable longevity) but we do not provide for their emotional needs.

    While it is true that straight singles are in a similar situation, in reality those singles are still looking for that special someone to be with. With gay or lesbian people we are basically telling them.. you can never have a significant other, you will never have soeone in your life to watch after you and make decisions for you if you are hospitalized, etc.

    If we are going to put them in this situation and expect this from them then, just as in the circumstances I mentioned previously, we need to be there for them. But the reality is that we won't be .. we have our own families .. our own children . our own elderly parents to take care of .. etc.

    Scripture only addresses the same sex sex issue. It does not talk much about the unique issues that gay and lesbian people face.

    I do not believe scripture condemns lifelong friendships. So, if we condemn lifelong friendships then we better be willing to provide alternatives. Otherwise, we may be pushing some folks into a box that they are unable to bear with the result being that they abandon their beliefs and seek an alternative route.

    Chrisitanity is about helping each other to live holy lives. We need to ask how we can support Christians with same-sex attraction rather than just affirming the traditional position.

  20. To say clearly that sex is for marriage and that marriage is a lifelong exclusive commitment between one man and one woman is doing everyone a favour. It is not an arbitrary man made law but corresponds to our humanity. Happiness is not found by seeking pleasure and fulfillment but by self giving, be that in celibacy or marriage properly understood.It is hard and sometimes we fail. An humble attitude of seeking forgiveness and trying again is required. If we seek to justify ourselves by saying anything that we find difficult is not really sin, then we do not need a saviour. Many pe ople struggle at some stage of their lives with sexual temptations, even unspeakable ones. Succumbing to them is not the way forward. Pretending there is nothing wrong with them still less so. His yoke is easy and His burden light. Try it!

  21. We talk a lot about the environment. But we must conserve the most precious resource of all; our humanity with its own internal energies that have to be carefully harnessed and directed rationally towards what is true, good and fruitful. The modern obsession with homosexuality is very sad. Don't worry. Whatever sexual temptations you suffer. Pray and confide if necessary in a good christian friend. God lives you and will never leave you. Give yourself to him. Temptations are passing but succumbing leads to addictions. If this is your case, pray and find a good Christian advisor.

  22. It is true that we must be firm in all firmness even though sometimes it can be the subject of conversation many people, like Steve Chalke who affirm same-sex partnerships.

  23. I think he does owe us all some clarity on that issue. He can't dodge it, and shouldn't try to. Many members of C4M approve of civil unions, yet are marked for opprobrium because they do not believe homosexual unions merit the same recognition as heterosexual unions. You can't claim to be on the side of the modernist angels if you aren't singing their tune.


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