Churches need to be more LGBT inclusive to deliver public services - Steve Chalke

Churches are not trusted to deliver public services such as education, new research has found.

Steve Chalke has called for churches to be more inclusive so as to win public confidence to provide public services such as healthcare.Pixabay

Over a third of Britons said they were concerned churches would use the opportunity to proselytise and over a quarter thought LGBT people would be excluded. The research was launched on Monday and found the majority of the public had serious reservations about church provision of mainstream public services such as healthcare and education.

The data was released by Oasis Foundation and called on churches to step into gaps left by government cuts and provide day-to-day services. The report, entitled 'Faith in Public Service', found the majority of the public trusted churches to run complex projects like foodbanks but most did not support Church involvement in more complex services.

In an interview with Christian Today, Steve Chalke, the founder and global leader of Oasis said the idea the state should provide healthcare and education was a "thoroughly modern" one.

"It was churches would developed the first hospitals," said Chalke. "It is only since the development of the welfare state in the last 60 or 70 years that we have been able to say healthcare is the role of the state.

"There are many countries in the world there the state does not do that and in the UK we are now moving away from state-provided services."

He said the problem with Church-provided services was it tended to be patchy and the Church needed to be trusted to deliver more universal service.

He told Christian Today: "The Church has always been engaged in an agenda far wider than a narrow spiritual one and that is our duty today." Oasis runs over 40 academy schools around the UK. Chalke said he did not think academies were perfect but added: "While I wait for the Kingdom of God to arrive I have a choice to make. Either I say none of this is what I would ideally like and disengage and pray and wait. Or I say none of this is what I would ideally like but I am called to engage."

He said he held a "pragmatic" perspective but admitted "there have always been churches who have taken a 'sit-on-your-hands' perspective".

The report focused on David Cameron's notion of a "big society" ahead of the 2010 election and argued the church "has a great to offer".

Ian Sansbury, director of the Oasis Foundation, said: "That potential is dependent on it becoming more explicitly inclusive, developing a better infrastructure and better articulating its ability to deliver integrated local services."

Chalke told Christian Today: "For hundreds of years churches have run schools. We have had this appetite to engage which comes out of our reading of Jesus' teachings. What this report says is if our faith is going to be of public service, there are a whole load of issues we need to address."

Chalke is known for his acceptance of LGBT people and for calling the Church to do the same. He told Christian Today some of the issues the wider Church had to grapple with was "our theology, our integrity, and our attitude towards LGBT inclusion. The stance I take on inclusion and LGBT is not divorced from the wider work I do."

The report highlighted issues with the Church's integrity and inclusion as primary concerns raised by the public. These were especially promient among young people with 55 per cent and 41 per cent of 18-24 year olds respectively seeing the risks of proselytism and exclusion of LGBT people as barriers to church-led services.