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Cultural gods

Religion | British evangelical joins push for same-sex ‘marriage’

Issue: "Maximum insecurity," Feb. 23, 2013

An influential British evangelical, Rev. Steve Chalke of the Oasis Church in Waterloo (London), is calling on Christians to approve “faithful gay relationships.” He already performed a “dedication and blessing” for a homosexual couple’s civil partnership in fall 2012, he says.

Chalke’s announcement has raised questions about British evangelical views of marriage and sexuality, and the extent to which Chalke is typical of evangelicals in the United Kingdom. (Liberal American “evangelical” pastors such as Brian McLaren have also affirmed monogamous homosexual relationships.) Steve Clifford, the general director of the Evangelical Alliance, Britain’s largest and oldest association of evangelical churches, says Chalke has “distanced himself from the vast majority of the evangelical community here in the U.K.” and from “2,000 years of biblical interpretation.”

Clifford concedes that evangelicals have largely failed to reach gays and lesbians, but contends that Chalke has gone too far and has fallen to the temptation to “produce ‘a god’ in our own likeness or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves.”

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Chalke’s announcement came on the heels of the Church of England’s announcement that it would accept bishops who were in “celibate” same-sex relationships, and came shortly before the British Parliament’s debate on a bill legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Chalke denies that his endorsement of gay unions has political implications, but the evangelical Anglican vicar Martin Kuhrt says he thinks there is an obvious connection. “Everything about [Chalke’s] intervention, from the timing of it to the arguments and the tone he uses, supports the government in its proposals to redefine marriage.”

Order from the court

STAYING BEHIND: An Episcopal church in Conway, S.C.
Associated Press/Photo by Bruce Smith
STAYING BEHIND: An Episcopal church in Conway, S.C.

A South Carolina judge has issued a temporary restraining order on behalf of the Diocese of South Carolina, which left the national Episcopal denomination over issues related to biblical authority and the ordination of homosexuals. The court order says the breakaway diocese is the only group that may use its official diocesan name. 

The diocese has also sued to keep the national denomination from seizing church properties and accounts, as The Episcopal Church has done with breakaway congregations elsewhere. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori visited South Carolina recently to install a provisional bishop for the minority of the diocese’s parishes that have not withdrawn from the denomination. —T.K.

A tighter ship

William Brown
William Brown

Ongoing controversy at Cedarville University has led to the resignations of its president and vice president of student life, and prompted speculation about the independent Baptist school’s theological bearing. Some had become concerned about leftward drift at the school, leading Cedarville officials to tighten its doctrinal statements with “theological white papers” issued in January. These documents clarified, among other points, the requirement that faculty affirm a historical Adam and Eve, which resulted in the removal of theology professor Michael Pahl from his teaching duties. Then in October, President William Brown announced he was stepping down, effective June 2013. On Jan. 10, the school told constituents of student life Vice President Carl Ruby’s resignation.

Ruby has maintained a positive stance about his departure, saying that he continues to support the school and its board of trustees. But critics suspect that the board pushed him to step down, pointing to the fact that Ruby left office only five days after his announcement. Among the possible concerns about Ruby was his coordination of a campus lecture series on immigration, which hosted talks by evangelical liberals such as Jim Wallis and Shane Claiborne. At a late January meeting, trustees reconfirmed Ruby’s resignation, and also announced the termination of the school’s philosophy major, citing low student interest. —T.K. 

Thomas Kidd
Thomas Kidd

Thomas is a professor of history at Baylor University and a senior fellow at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. His most recent book is Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots. Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasSKidd.


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