A prominent Christian pastor in the U.K. has shocked members of the evangelical community by recently suggesting that there is biblical support for monogamous same-sex relationships.
Baptist minister Steve Chalke, senior pastor at Oasis Church in Waterloo, London, stated in an opinion piece entitled "A Matter of Integrity" in Christianity magazine that he believes the Christian Church should embrace monogamous homosexual relationships.
"When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneliness, secrecy and fear," Chalke writes.
"It's one thing to be critical of a promiscuous lifestyle -- but shouldn't the Church consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships?" Chalke continues.
"Rather than condemn and exclude, can we dare to create an environment for homosexual people where issues of self-esteem and well-being can be talked about; where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported?"
Chalke then suggests in the editorial that just as Christians have re-interpreted issues related to slavery and women in the Bible, so they should also re-interpret teachings on homosexuality and same-sex relationships.
"Here is my question. Shouldn't we take the same principle that we readily apply to the role of women, slavery, and numerous other issues, and apply it our understanding of permanent, faithful, homosexual relationships? Wouldn't it be inconsistent not to?" Chalke questions.
While Christians have agree that the Bible does not condone modern slavery and some are divided over the role of women in leadership, many agree that scripture teaches that human sexuality should be expressed in heterosexual marriage.
The British minister concludes his lengthy article by saying that he believes Christians must follow the example of love and inclusion as presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible.
In addition to leading his church, Chalke is also the founder of Oasis, a group of charities that work to deliver housing and healthcare in several countries.
The Baptist minister has received mixed reactions regarding his public support for homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage.
American evangelical pastor Tony Campolo, former spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton, said in response: "Steve's public declaration in support of Civil Partnerships will cause reverberations far and wide. His statement represents the first time that a major evangelist and leader in the Evangelical community has come out in support of same-sex relationships."
Steve Clifford, general director of the U.K.-based Evangelical Alliance, contradicted Chalke's statements, suggesting that perhaps the Baptist minister is succumbing to cultural pressures regarding interpretation of Scripture.
"Generations of Christians have faced the challenge of making the Gospel relevant within their cultural settings. The danger we all face, and I fear Steve has succumbed to, is that we produce 'a god' in our own likeness or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves," Clifford wrote.
"God doesn't leave us on our own, He promises to work in us, to bring us into our ultimate goal which is His likeness," he added.
Chalke's statements come at a time when Great Britain is changing in its interpretation of open homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
In early January, the Church of England announced that it would start allowing gay clergy in civil partnerships to become bishops, as long as they remain celibate.
Additionally, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his plans to fast-track the legalization of same-sex marriage in in the country.