it’s sometimes hard for my american friends to take a cue from the brits.
there’s a wee bit of history between the two nations, and oftentimes the past is hard to forget – for many, the bridge across the pond was burned back at the boston tea party – or perhaps when mel gibson made the patriot and we relearned revolutionary war history.
and yet we would do well to learn from our polite neighbors across the atlantic, even if they do drink tea, drive on the other side of the road and still have a royal family.
it appears they’re getting on in healthy dialogue better than us.
this week, steve chalke – one of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the united kingdom (for those in the these
divided united states, think about the influence of celebrity pastors like rick warren or billy graham), made a case in support of committed same gender relationships this week in his article for christianity magazine regarding church, sexuality, inclusion and an open conversation.
steve argued that ‘thoughtful conformity to Christ – not unthinking conformity to either contemporary culture or textual prohibitions – should be our unchanging reference point’ stating a position of inclusion is necessary as a matter of integrity to the gospel of jesus.
in a spirit admittedly different from much of the regurgitated ‘activist’ messaging we’ve grown accustomed to, chalke presented in transparency his own personal journey with humility and a desire to provide support to anyone who may need it – while simultaneously engaging in an emotionally intelligent discourse with his detractors.
‘My prayer, in writing, is therefore to encourage a gracious and mature conversation around an extremely important pastoral and theological issue that impacts the lives of so many people.’
‘Rather than condemn and exclude, can we dare to create an environment for homosexual people where issues of self-esteem and wellbeing can be talked about; where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported?
Tolerance is not the same as Christ-like love. Christ-like love calls us to go beyond tolerance to want for the other the same respect, freedom and equality one wants for oneself. We should find ways to formally support and encourage those who are in, or wish to enter into, faithful same-sex partnerships, as well as in their wider role as members of Christ’s body.’
taking up chalke’s offer to enter into a ‘gracious and mature conversation,’ a counter argument was offered by steve holmes – a baptist minister and senior lecturer in theology at st. andrews university (steve also serves as the chair of the Evangelical Alliance’s Theology and Public Policy Advisory Committee).
holmes began his article saying,
‘I respect and admire Steve Chalke, and have enjoyed working with him from time to time over the years….I respect and admire Steve, and have done so for years; of course, that doesn’t mean I have always agreed with everything he has said or done. I have never doubted, however, that he was and is someone trying to follow Jesus and to serve the Church and the world to the best understanding and abilities. And I certainly do not doubt that now.’
folks, pay attention. this is what peaceful and productive dialogue looks like.
rather than demonizing and attacking the expressed opinion of an opposite worldview, holmes appropriately engages by entering into the tension of healthy discussion, stating ‘there is much to applaud in Steve’s article‘ and ‘he names the right problem – that [our] churches have, generally, been very poor at offering pastoral care to LGBTQIA people.’
engaging in the details of chalke’s proposed argument, holmes concluded,
‘As I said at the start, there is much to applaud in Steve’s article. He courageously and clearly names a pastoral scandal that we have swept under the carpet for too long, and honestly and openly explores a possible solution that he has found. For several reasons, some of which I have outlined here, I think Steve’s proposed solution is not the right one – I do not think it can be justified biblically, and I do not think it will work. I am prepared to listen to counter-arguments on each of these points, of course, and to change my mind if convinced.
and then this ::
‘The urgency here, though, is not in getting our theoretical ethics right; it is learning to love people we, as evangelical Christians, have too often failed to love – and indeed seeking forgiveness from people we have wounded. My most passionate prayer for the discussion Steve has begun is not that we agree on my conclusions, or his, or anyone else’s, but that we might together find ways to make our churches counter-cultural communities of love where every person may find true human intimacy and God’s healing grace.
do you see it?
‘he who has ears, let him hear.’
for all of our revolutionary ideals of 200 some years ago, perhaps it’s time for the american evangelical church to swallow it’s pride, take a cue from the brits and pull up a chair at the table of peaceful and productive dialogue.
tea and crumpets, anyone?