Following the much publicised statements made by UK evangelical leader Rev Steve Chalke revealing that he could no longer support the exclusion of gay people from the church, he himself has been excluded by the Evangelical Alliance (EA).
The reasons offered centre around a perception that the Oasis Trust, pioneered by Chalke, has been on a mission to change the Church’s historic view on human sexuality. (Read the EA statement: http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/media/press-releases/oasis-trust-membership.cfm)
Oasis Trust responded by saying they had ‘no corporate view on this matter’ but this was seen as dodging the issue by this group of Evangelicals whose strap line is ‘better together’.
Now firstly let me say that the EA tells us on their website that they represent ‘the UK’s two million evangelical Christians’. That’s right; they represent all of us: presumably even if we have not asked for them to do so.
Not withstanding the fact that I know of many Evangelical Churches that are not members, this statement serves to give the impression that these 2 million Christians are of one voice on a variety of issues including human sexuality.
My internet friend Mark Hewerdine tells me that the EA conducted extensive research back in 2011 into what “21st century evangelicals” believe and do. In response to the statement “Homosexual actions are always wrong” (we can deconstruct the problems with the statement another time maybe…) 27% of those asked were either unsure or disagreed with the statement. So over a quarter of their sample of “21st century evangelicals” – it’s reasonable to assume – might at least quibble with the EA’s exclusion of an organisation for not opposing same-sex relationships.
Hewerdine says ‘EA’s own research suggests that by this decision to expel Oasis they are disregarding at best and silencing at worst the views of a significant number of evangelicals’
Now I ask you: when Steve Chalke raised his challenged did the EA return to ask its members for their opinions on such matters? No, they chose to represent them without knowing what they might feel. Did they look to the rest of the UK evangelical community for support. No, they gathered as a board and decided the subject was too hot to handle.
If they had looked for consensus before choosing to exclude Rev Chalke’s organisation they may have achieved something near a level of honesty that might be useful. Unfortunately they have now given a clear signal that honesty is not welcome amongst UK evangelicals.
So all of those evangelicals that disagree are encouraged to remain silent or face being put out of the group.