Steve Chalke's Oasis Trust removed from the Evangelical Alliance

Published 02 May 2014  |  

The Oasis Trust, the ministry founded by the Reverend Steve Chalke, has had its membership of the Evangelical Alliance discontinued.

In a statement, the Evangelical Alliance said the decision was made following a disagreement with the Oasis Trust over their online and social media content surrounding the issue of human sexuality and same sex marriage, particularly Chalke's pro-gay views.

"[The Oasis Trust] 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," the Evangelical Alliance said in a statement.  

"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 Oasis Trust, who have been part of the EA since 1987, said in response that their actions were not unreasonable: "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."

A spokesperson for the Oasis Trust told Christian Today that the dispute related to the way in which a discussion on the Biblical view of human sexuality was held on their ministry's website.

Rev Chalke said in Christianity Magazine in mid-January 2013 that he no longer opposed same sex relationships, and did not believe that the Bible condemned them as sinful.

Steve Clifford, the general director of Evangelical Alliance, expressed strong disagreement with this view at the time.

In a statement, he said: "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."

Furthering discussion of the issues, the Oasis Trust posted links to Rev Chalke's article and other resources on the subject on their website, as well as setting up a blog space where anyone could comment their views on the matter.

"We've always been clear that we don't have a corporate policy. We don't enforce what the founders think onto anybody else," an Oasis spokesperson said.

"We created a blog where everyone was able to discuss their opinions and views, where people were perfectly entitled to disagree with Steve. Provided their comments weren't hateful or offensive, no comments were edited or censored."

Later however the EA requested that the Oasis Trust further clarify this was a discussion, which the Oasis Trust agreed to, and posted a video on the subject.

Then the EA made a further request that the Oasis Trust place an article on their website outlining the traditional Christian view of marriage that contrasted with Rev Chalke's pro-same-sex marriage position.

The Oasis Trust described this request as "problematic" on the grounds that there was no single united Christian view of marriage. Also, because Rev Chalke's initial interview on the subject was hosted on Christianity magazine's website, alongside a response that took the opposite view, the Oasis Trust believed that appropriate balance of views had been maintained.

Steve Chalke's change of heart on homosexuality shocked the evangelical community

This led to a direct confrontation between the two groups as it now appeared that the Oasis Trust no longer subscribed to the EA's statement of faith. The Oasis Trust refused to resign their EA membership, thereby forcing the EA to ask them to leave.

Rev Chalke has been at the centre of controversy within the British Evangelical community before. In 2004 he published a book called 'The Lost Message of Jesus' where he rejected the idea that Jesus died for the sins of humanity, and in fact referred to the idea as "cosmic child abuse".

In February this year, Rev Chalke published another article entitled 'Restoring confidence in the Bible' in which he rejected the traditional Evangelical view of the Bible as inerrant and infallible.

There was concern among Evangelical Alliance members that the timing of the article's release was politically motivated as it coincided with David Cameron's attempts to legalise same-sex marriage.  

The Oasis Trust spokesperson said Rev Chalke was "saddened" by the EA's decision to suspend their membership.

"We still regard ourselves as being part of the evangelical tradition. Steve still regards himself as an evangelical Christian," the spokesperson said.  

He also insisted that this would not in any way distract them from the focus of their mission: "We're committed to lifting communities out of poverty, demonstrating real inclusion, and sharing the love of God through real practical work for those who need it most."

Both the EA and the Oasis Trust have spoken of their desire to remain on amicable terms despite parting ways. The EA has said it would "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".

The Oasis Trust's spokesman responded similarly: "There's not going to be any kind of anger or aggression from us towards the EA. That wouldn't' at all be the Christian response."

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