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Cultural gods

DISTANCING HIMSELF: Chalke (HRC/Wenn.com/Newcom)

Associated Press/Photo by Bruce Smith

STAYING BEHIND: An Episcopal church in Conway, S.C.

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William Brown

Religion

Cultural gods

British evangelical joins push for same-sex ‘marriage’

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.”

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

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

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. 

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  • Deluged by Grace
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:06 pm

    What has "evangelical" come to mean? The Greek base is "Good News," thus one characterized by sharing the good news or Gospel. Surely it means more than that. It means steadfast adherence to a set of principals (fundamentals, some have called them). I understand seven of them that identify those who really accept the Bible as opposed to other human structures as the true basis for life and eternity. Jesus said in Matthew 7 that supposed spokesmen for God can be identified by their fruits. One of those rudimentary principals is the "inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture."When professing Christians seek to redefine lifestyles that the Bible condemns, they deny the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We must show compassion to all of God's creatures and especially His human offspring. This cannot mean, however, dismissing or redefining their sin under the guise of reaching them with the Gospel that we undermine when we deny the clear teachings of the Word. When we redefine sin we are not loving; we fail to bring the source of healing. Such an approach is merciless, not kind. I must love the drunk, the addict, the liar, the cheat, the adulterer, the fornicator, the proud man, the homosexual, and every other nuance of sinner. Never do I have the right before God to redefine their sin as something less than what God says it is, rebellion and dishonor against His holy character.When Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9 that he wanted "to become all things to all men so that he might by all means save some," he was talking about limiting personal freedoms in the areas many call the "issues of conscience." Never was he suggesting that we soft-pedal sin. I have had numbers of friends and acquaintances come to Christ out of same-sexual sin and a host of other offenses against the Lord. None of them has come to Christ because the concept of sin was softened or the teeth of the Gospel removed.  Legalism may have been the bane of the visible Western church for some generations, but Lawlessness is the Prince of Darkness' very powerful weapon against us today. So-called spiritual leaders should come-out-of-the closet and own their status as false prophets who speak lies to God's people.  They probably mean well, but where truth and eternity are at stake let us "test the spirits to see whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1).

  • Lubbock Rebel
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:06 pm

    Great point, Laney girl! Do evangelicals need special programs to reach out specifically to unrepentant murderers, drug lords and pornographers as well?

  • Lubbock Rebel
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:06 pm

    You are correct, Midwest Preacher.  The issue is really not as much about the particular sin as it is the complete lack of repentance. I trust God will reduce the influence of the UK and the US so our perverted churches will not spread the infection to other parts of the world.

  • Laneygirl
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:06 pm

    How do evangelicals "fail to reach gays and lesbians" ? What class of sin needs a special plan for outreach? Isn't it all the same- one responds to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, repents of sin, turns and is saved by grace thru faith in Christ's atonement?

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 06:06 pm

    Lots of men have endorsed what God has said is sin.  This is an old problem and calling yourself by a particular label or name does not seem to eliminate the possibility.  Great influence creates great temptation.  Again, I say, a careful reading of Romans 1 would really help our understanding of the temptation, not only to commit sin but to commit the sin of endorsing sin in others and then being unrepentant.