A number of factors meant that we felt now was the right time to tackle the issue of homosexuality and the Church.
Firstly, one of our columnists, Steve Chalke, made the decision to hold a service of blessing in his church for a gay couple in his congregation. Shortly after this, David Cameron announced plans to legislate for gay people to be able to get married.
Significant as they are, there is a danger that all the evangelical rhetoric around homosexuality focuses on these two things. We are very keen for that not to happen, and instead to look at the broader (and arguably more important) questions – what does the Bible actually say about it? How do we pastorally care for people who are homosexual, or experiencing same-sex attraction? How can we talk about these issues without rushing to judge those who think differently? It is these things that we seek to address in the pages of this magazine.
As you will read, Steve Chalke has changed his opinion on the subject. He argues that permanent, faithful, stable homosexual relationships aren’t sinful, according to his understanding of the Bible. We have given him space in the magazine to explain how he has reached this conclusion. Many of you will not agree with him. Some will criticise us for giving him the oxygen of publicity, for publishing heresy, or for unhelpfully confusing people who may be struggling with this issue on a personal level.
There are two main reasons why we’ve done it. Firstly, Steve has been a contributor for a long time, as well as a prominent evangelical. He spoke at Spring Harvest for many years and appeared with Billy Graham at Mission England. We wanted to let him have his say, rather than for rumour and hearsay to dictate the conversation.
Secondly, opening up the issues is what this magazine does. We’re evangelical in conviction, but our approach has never been to suppress what others think, whether within or outside of evangelicalism. Steve’s is not the only voice. Greg Downes, our theologian in residence, unpacks the traditional, conservative, evangelical stance and I have interviewed others.
There is a risk that this entire subject, which is much more important than what one person thinks about it, will be hijacked by people talking about Steve Chalke’s change of view, or about gay marriage. Let’s give this issue the respect and sensitivity it deserves, take time in prayer and with the Bible to reflect on where we stand, and then seek to graciously engage with others.