Press release from the Oasis Trust
Irresponsible church leaders, who encourage a literal and juvenile interpretation of the Bible, are partly to blame for heightened mental illness and physical harm among LGBT people, according to one of the UK’s most prominent Christians.
Despite the fact that the Bible’s underlying message is one of justice, compassion and liberation, Rev Canon Steve Chalke – leader of Global Christian charity Oasis – argues in a hard hitting video that a failure to grapple with the challenges, contradictions and inconsistencies it presents has caused its true purpose to be distorted. As such it has wrongly been used throughout history to undermine women’s rights, create an unnecessary confrontation with scientists and oppress LGBT people.
In a video released today, Rev Canon Steve Chalke has challenged Christians to rethink their handling of scripture with urgency, recognising the damage that misinterpreting it can cause.
Rev Steve Chalke says, “From Florence Nightingale to Martin Luther King, many of history’s most revered social reformers have been influenced by the Bible. However, we have to face the fact that parts of Scripture have been used by others to justify some of the most inhumane, brutal and repressive episodes in human history. To sanction crusades and inquisitions. To approve witch-hunts across Europe and North America which saw tens of thousands of innocent women slaughtered in the name of God. To portray African people as cursed by God and therefore to justify the enslavement of millions. To legitimise apartheid and anti-Semitism.
“And still, the Bible is used by some to condone the death penalty, to keep women subservient to men, to incite Islamophobia, to insist on a ‘young earth’ – anti-scientific – six-day understanding of creation and to abuse the environment. All these have been ‘faith-based initiatives’ and all born out of the same over literalistic misreading of scripture.
“But, today, in order to focus and earth this challenge around how to use the Bible responsibly, I have chosen another contemporary example of discrimination to demonstrate how its poor use still costs lives. The tragic example of the Church’s treatment of LGBT people.”
Referencing research released by the Oasis Foundation last year, Steve stresses that the pervasive impact of the Church’s traditional view of sexuality has reinforced and perpetuated a global culture in which LGBT people are less than fully accepted or included and, indeed, are often rejected. There is now huge evidence that the anguish and distress this has helped to produce too often leads to spiritual, mental and physical harm, and in the worst of cases to people making the desperate decision to take their own life.
The video is the latest instalment in the ‘Chalke Talk’ series which in recent weeks has outlined a number of principles to aid a mature, reasoned and accurate understanding of the books which constitute the Christian Bible. This week however, Steve presents three bold challenges to Christians everywhere:
- Be honest – When people say they ‘follow the Bible literally’ – and badge those that don’t as liberals or heretics – they do so only by sidestepping the serious moral issues that some of its books present. Instead, of this, we need to grapple with the whole of Scripture, wrestling with the cultural confines and preconceptions into which they were originally written, to discover the bigger arc of where the Bible’s overall story is going.
- Recognise this matters – These moral issues are simply not things Christians can ‘agree to differ’ on. Getting interpretation of the Bible wrong can cause serious harm to people in churches and society as a whole. The issue of LGBT rights is one of the most pressing examples.
- Start repairing the damage now – Only by acting now to ensure that each and every church is a centre of openness, inclusion and justice can churches begin to address some of the unintentional damage that has at times led to oppression and marginalisation.
Rev Steve Chalke continues, “In the light of all this, my call is to all responsible Church leaders and Christians to re-evaluate their attitude to the Bible and therefore to LGBT people; to work to welcome and celebrate them for who they are, to recognise their relationships and to sanctify their faithful, monogamous marriages.”
Over the coming two years Steve Chalke, who as well as leading Oasis Globally serves as the senior minister of Oasis Church in Waterloo, central London, will be posting his ninety-five revolutionary questions about the way the Church operates in video form, one at a time, week-by-week, on the worldwide web. The series can be viewed at openchurch.network/chalketalk
The ‘Chalke Talk’ series is hosted on the Open Church Network – a virtual gathering place for people seeking an open conversation about Christianity, theology, church, the Bible and life. www.openchurch.network is a web portal rich in content and resources for those with a personal interest in Christian life or theology; for church leaders, church members and those who are currently finding their way outside a traditional sense of church.