When I had a public conversation with Steve Chalke last month, one of the questions I asked him was how he was going to handle people like myself. Where do people who choose to be celibate fit into your model? What about those of us who see some form of sexual orientation change or who marry? Are we doing the right thing?
In the video below, Chalke attempts to answer this question, but actually avoids responding to it. Fast forward to 24 minutes and 50 seconds and see what I mean.
So here’s a summary of what Chalke says,
- Many people, because of what they have been taught, have chosen to live a celibate life
- Jesus said some people had a gift of celibacy (really? where?)
- Some people choose to get married – sometimes to “prove credentials” or to “prove been healed” and sometimes that leads to “catastrophe” down the line. Note how he never affirms any of the those choices or gives examples of those who have married and are happy
- However, truth is truth. We should be stating what we believe to be true
- Talks about divorce (but this is irrelevant to proving whether homosexual activity is sinful or not). Raises an example of poor pastoral practice around divorce and physical abuse (but what has this to do with homosexuality?)
- Our theological understanding of homosexuality has grown
- Permanent, Faithful, Stable homosexual relationships are good and the church should endorse them
- This is better then gay people “pretending” to be something they are not or “live lives of deception“
- It’s the Church’s task to call everyone to lifelong, committed relationships
Now, reflect on what the question was that he was trying to answer was. That was, “Is there a danger that your article undermines the difficult choices celibate gay Christians have made?”. From his response I’m not sure what his answer actually is. He spends time criticising the examples of celibacy and marriage which have had poor outcomes (without exploring why those poor outcomes occur) but doesn’t spend even a single second affirming those who live successful celibate or married lives. He brings in an example of poor pastoral practice in another area and tries to use that as a justification for changing pastoral practice in the area of homosexuality. The whole response has a feel of dodging the question.
I think Steve Chalke needs to be prepared to give a direct answer in this area. Here are the kinds of questions he should be prepared to give a straight response to.
- Do you think that I (Peter Ould) made the right choice in pursuing first celibacy and then marriage? What about others who are now happily married or committedly single?
- If yes, why can you not encourage other gay Christians to do the same?
- If no, why can you not simply say so directly?
- If “It was right for you”, how can one tell whether it might be right or not for another?
It strikes me that as long as Chalke does not give straight answers to these straight questions he is essentially saying to people like me that we were wrong.