Steve Chalke
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Oasis removed from Evangelical Alliance over homosexuality stance

Fri 02 May 2014
By Lucinda Borkett-Jones

The Evangelical Alliance, the umbrella organisation for evangelical Christians in the UK, has voted to throw out the charity Oasis, run by Steve Chalke, it has been announced.

At a heated discussion in late February, members voted that Oasis should leave the Alliance as it did not hold to key elements of the Alliance’s theology.

After the meeting, the board of the Alliance subsequently wrote to John Whiter, the chair of the Oasis board, and asked the charity to reconsider its membership status.

The EA had already written to Oasis following a council meeting in September 2013, asking them to include on their website resources which put across the ‘traditional evangelical’ point of view regarding homosexuality.

The Oasis board told the EA that they had ‘no corporate view’ on the subject of human sexuality, a statement from the Evangelical Alliance confirmed.

Oasis did make changes to their website content, but they were considered insufficient. In a statement Oasis said: ‘At [the EA’s] request we have made several changes to our online content and believed that we had reached a point where both parties could be satisfied that our relationship would continue.’

The Alliance, which has 20,000 individual members, 3,500 churches, 700 organisations and 79 denominations as members, has a council of reference made up of more than 80 church leaders and leaders of Christian organisations from around the country. They meet twice a year.

Chalke responded to the EA’s decision by saying: ‘I am an evangelical. The EA strapline is “better together” and I believe we are better together.

He added: ‘We’re saddened by what the EA have done. This is a very important subject – the issue of inclusion. We need to discuss it and have a conversation about it.’

Chalke has strayed from safe evangelical territory over the years, upsetting conservatives by publicising his views on homosexuality, biblical interpretation, and the atonement.

In 2004 he received an MBE for services to inclusion. He is also the founder and chair of Stop the Traffik, and a special advisor to the United Nations on human trafficking.

In the February 2013 issue of Premier Christianity, Chalke wrote an article outlining his views on homosexuality, essentially saying that he saw no problem with loving, committed homosexual relationships. He also said he had blessed a homosexual civil partnership at the church he leads in Waterloo.

Chalke is a Baptist minister, who, according to Baptist Union guidance, are not allowed to perform civil partnerships. However, no action was taken against him at the time.

In March this year he wrote an article in Premier Christianity in which he said the Bible contained mistakes and discrepancies.

In 2004 Chalke’s now infamous book The Lost Message of Jesus, co-authored with Alan Mann, caused huge controversy in evangelical circles when he compared God’s punishment of Jesus on the cross for our sin to ‘cosmic child abuse’. At the time, he and the Alliance were able to resolve their differences and he remained a member.

Oasis, founded in 1985, runs schools, hospitals and homeless shelters. It is founded on Christian values, employs approximately 5,000 staff.

Chalke said he still considered Oasis to be evangelical. ‘Oasis in its roots is an evangelical organisation,’ he said. ‘We are good news bringers. That’s the holistic, good news story of Jesus – his transformational power. We try to bring that to communities. Oasis has a Christian foundation, and works with people of all faiths and none – Children in the schools are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and no religion. We run non-selective, community schools.’

Editorial note: We contacted the Evangelical Alliance, but at the time of writing they have declined to comment further.



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