Steve Chalke and the threat to prosecute evangelical churches

Former evangelical leader Rev Steve Chalke has become an outspoken advocate for LGBT people and same-sex relationships.

Steve Chalke has given us a straw in the wind about what will be coming next in the ongoing campaign to change church doctrine and practice in line with the current cultural zeitgeist.

He tweeted: "When I began to welcome LGBT into my church, the Evangelicals threw the charity I founded out of their alliance. But I believe what amounts to the abuse of LGBT people by churches is likely to soon see a crop of high-profile prosecutions."

He referenced a Guardian article which gives a great deal more information about this campaign.

Earlier in the month, Steve put out a press release warning churches that it was psychological abuse to express pastoral concern or pray for people with unwanted same-sex attraction. He also declared that teaching the biblical view of sexuality could result in prosecution. Before that, the Ozanne foundation had issued a letter asking the Prime Minister to ban all forms of 'conversion therapy' including outlawing calls for sexual abstinence and preventing trans people who want to detransition from getting help.

In a message to the Creating Sanctuary Conference this weekend, Sir Elton John praised Steve and the other participants for their work, and attacked churches for failing to welcome, accept and include LGBTQ+ people. Sir Elton is an atheist who in the past argued that Jesus was gay and would have supported gay marriage. The endorsement of Elton appears to be more important than the endorsement of Jesus.

Let's be clear: this carefully orchestrated campaign is designed to intimidate and bully evangelicals into silence. Steve Chalke is warning his former evangelical colleagues that they are likely to be prosecuted for holding to the traditional, biblical Christian teaching on sex and sexuality.

He has for many years been on a trajectory that is leading him further and further away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In 2014, Steve and his organisation Oasis were removed from the Evangelical Alliance, and since then Steve has continued to attack and undermine the evangelical witness in the UK.

His recent statement dishonestly claims that he was thrown out of the EA because he "welcomed" LGBT people into his church. Why is that dishonest? Because evangelicals do welcome LGBT people into our churches. We welcome LGBT people in the same way we welcome anyone else – as sinners in need of a Saviour, broken people who need healing, and burdened and weary people who need to know Christ. There are no exceptions and no discrimination. All are called to repentance, faith and conversion to a new life. In Christ we are a new creation.

But Steve and his colleagues have a different perspective. They have changed the Gospel. Christ did not come to convert, but to affirm. In this new religion, it is sinful to be told that your desires are sinful. The Good News has been changed from 'you must be born again', to 'God accepts you just as you change necessary'!

Steve Chalke was removed from the EA not because he welcomed LGBT people, but because he turned away from the teaching of Christ and taught a false Gospel – which is no Gospel at all.

This is not new. But what is new is that Steve and his allies have now moved from dialogue to conflict, and in doing so have really upped the ante. A few years ago, Steve held a conference which he said was about 'having dialogue' with people who had different perspectives on same-sex marriage. Now he holds a conference where those who disagree with his theology are threatened with prosecution. So much for respectful dialogue!

If you teach the biblical position, you are to be treated as though you are a child abuser. The Guardian article cites several of the conference attendees who directly equate not accepting Steve and Elton's sexual philosophy with child abuse. Thus, the ground is set for the demand that the full force of the law needs to be brought to bear. It is incredibly sad that former evangelicals such as Steve Chalke and Jayne Ozanne, having failed to convince their former colleagues of the arguments for their case, are now threatening to use the force of the State to compel us to follow their doctrines.

We don't accept that teaching what Jesus taught is responsible for suicides and abuse. In fact, we would go precisely the opposite route. It is the failure to teach what Christ taught which leads to hopelessness and despair. Confusing the message of the Lord Jesus with the message of Sir Elton is what causes so much harm in so many ways. It is demeaning to those LGBT people who have already found hope in Christ, and seek to live, along with the rest of their brothers and sisters, in faithfulness to him. It also harms those who do need radical conversion (all of us!). But it is worse than that. Now that Steve is threatening us with the law, and encouraging the civil authoritities to prosecute us, he is causing great harm to the church he once belonged to, and the Lord he once professed to serve.

We are being pushed towards a point where the State, egged on by apostate clergy, are going to ask us to choose between following Christ and his word, or following the philosophy of those who despise Christ's teachings. Much as I like the music of 'rocketman', there is no possibility of me following Sir Elton. Some of us have to be a candle in the wind. We have to have the grace to hold ourselves, while those around us fall. What gives us the strength to do this is knowing that Christ's candle will never burn out.

David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at