Oasis Trust, a sizable ministry founded by a prominent but controversial British Christian leader, has been "discontinued" as a member of the United Kingdom's largest evangelical group after its board refused to adjust online resources and social media to "equally profile the traditional Christian view" on human sexuality.
"After many months of prayerful discussion, the Evangelical Alliance UK—which encompasses 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, and 750 organisations—concluded that a relationship between an organisation and one of its members in which the member felt it could not comply with a reasonable request from council, was not tenable," announced the EAUK in a press release (full text below). Oasis Trust, which took in nearly $350 million USD in 2012, had been a member since 1987.
While the Oasis board says it has "no corporate view on this matter," Steve Chalke shocked British evangelicals by coming out in favor of same-sex relationships last year. He announced his belief that monogamous same-sex relationships are not sinful and that churches should support them in the February 2013 issue of Christianity magazine.
The Oasis board was "deeply saddened" by the EAUK decision, and said that Chalke's views had never been imposed on anyone involved with Oasis, according to a press release (full text below).
"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," stated Oasis. "We would like to take this moment to restate our profound belief that the ethos, values, and mission of Oasis sit firmly within the Evangelical tradition."
The website promotes Chalke's challenge to "'rethink' attitudes on homosexuality." Christian Today reports more details and rounds up reactions.
Oasis was started by Chalke in 1985 to support a hostel for the homeless. It now stretches into 10 countries and supports a variety of ministries to communities, including education, health care, and housing.
CT reported when Chalke came out in favor of monogamous homosexual relationships, as well as when Britian's biggest Christian conference broke up in 2007 over the atonement theology debate and whether or not Chalke should speak.
Chalke has been an outspoken critic of the penal substitution theory of atonement; his 2004 book The Lost Message of Jesus prompted rebuke from the EAUK, which in turn prompted more controversy. Chalke supports the Christus Victor model instead.
Here is the EAUK statement:
"It is with sadness that the Evangelical Alliance have discontinued the membership of Oasis Trust. Having heard the concerns expressed by the Alliance's board and council as to what has been perceived by some as a campaign to change the Church's historic view on human sexuality, the Oasis board did clarify their position as having 'no corporate view on this matter'. However they were unwilling to fulfil the council's request to adjust the content of their website/resources and social media output to equally profile the traditional Christian view. After many months of prayerful discussion, the Evangelical Alliance council concluded that a relationship between an organisation and one of its members in which the member felt it could not comply with a reasonable request from council, was not tenable. The Evangelical Alliance council remain deeply respectful of the work and achievements of the Oasis Trust and have a strong desire to avoid any unseemly dispute and to speak well of each other."
Notes for information:
• For the sake of clarity, the views of individual members of the Evangelical Alliance are a matter of personal conscience. Personal members are requested to affirm the Evangelical Alliance basis of faith and indicate their support for the work of the Alliance by making a financial contribution.
• Oasis Trust joined the Evangelical Alliance in March 1987.
• Organisation and Church membership of the Evangelical Alliance involves not only an affirmation of the basis of faith but a willingness to abide by the guidelines of the relational commitments with a specific reference to good fellowship with other evangelicals.
Here is the Oasis Trust statement:
"The Board of Oasis is deeply saddened by the decision of the Evangelical Alliance to remove Oasis from its membership. We would like to take this moment to restate our profound belief that the ethos, values and mission of Oasis sit firmly within the evangelical tradition. The Evangelical Alliance made its decision following comments by the Founder of Oasis, Rev Steve Chalke, calling for an open and generous acceptance of people with sexualities other than heterosexual as well as to affirm and support all those who seek to live within faithful, lifelong, monogamous relationships. When making these comments, he argued that they had come from a deep understanding of the overarching message of scripture and has subsequently written about the importance of moving towards a more affirming, compassionate, rounded and thoughtful approach to the Bible, humanity and sexuality. At no point has anyone within Oasis tried to impose the Founder's view on Oasis staff, volunteers or church members (let alone anyone else) and, as such, the board of Oasis continues to give Steve their full support in his quest to seek an open and honest conversation amongst the Church on these issues and on how to restore society's confidence in the Bible more generally. Since the publication of his article 'A Matter of Integrity' in January 2013 the Oasis board has been in an on-going conversation with the Evangelical Alliance. At their 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. We are, therefore, disappointed by their announcement but will continue to seek and enjoy a warm relationship with the breadth of the Christian Church in Britain and across the world, forming partnerships to lift people and communities out of poverty and exclusion, and seeking to demonstrate the love of God to all through practical service."
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