The reason the EA did this? Steve Chalke, the founder and director of Oasis, has called for a public conversation between evangelicals around the issues of human sexuality, same-sex marriage and faithful examination of approaches to scripture.
Let me be clear, what I feel is a tragedy is not that the wider evangelical constituency might differ with Steve and Oasis, but that the simple act of calling for a conversation has led to them being effectively defined as non-evangelical.
It was remarked to me recently that Jesus merely had to say one sentence for Lazarus to be raised from the dead, and he was, yet Jesus spends a whole chapter (John 17) calling for unity, and we’re still divided.
Whatever hope we have for unity within local fellowships, between churches and across the boundaries of our denominations, movements and streams, it must be rooted in the generosity to engage with a different viewpoint, and to at the very least be willing to participate in a conversation.
Our unity as evangelicals is found in who we understand Jesus to be, how we understand his life, teaching, death and resurrection, the central place of scripture in our life, and the importance of participation in the mission of God in the world.
By taking an issue like human sexuality and making it a defining point of evangelicalism we are declaring its importance to be on a par with those unifying topics. It’s not.
We simply have to find ways of agreeing to disagree on these secondary issues, or else there will be no alliance at all, merely the splintering of broken pieces of the pot that was being formed. “My way or the highway” can have no place in the company of those called to follow the one who considered equality with God not something to be grasped, but took on the nature of servant.
You can read the EA press release here
And Oasis Trust’s response here.
Please pray that this sad state of affairs might somehow lead to a renewed sense of urgency to find ways of unifying evangelicals of all stripes, and for the humility of Jesus to be seen in us all.
On 6th May the EA released a members briefing from Steve Clifford. They are clear that the issue is broken relationship, and that a member organisation had made a complaint. What seems to be missing is any sense of this being a failure in terms of being unable to either resolve that complaint, or hold a creative tension.