Courage resigns from Evangelical Alliance

Evangelical Alliance/Courage Joint Statement

With the greatest regret, The Evangelical Alliance today accepted the resignation of The Courage Trust from membership.

A joint statement from The Courage Trust and the Evangelical Alliance reads as follows: “The Courage Trust has been a member of the Alliance since 1989. It provides a significant ministry to those of a homosexual orientation.

“Over the past few years Courage has defined and sought to pioneer a ‘New Approach’ to ministering to homosexuals. Exodus, which serves as an umbrella body for Christian organisations working in this particular field, removed Courage from membership in 2000 following Courage’s adoption of the New Approach. Following this a series of conversations took place between Courage and the Alliance, whose position on the subject of homosexuality was set out in its 1998 report, Faith, Hope & Homosexuality.

“The issue relates to same-sex intimacy. The New Approach states that while homo-erotic sexual practices cannot be actively commended there are certain circumstances in which it would be inappropriate overtly to condemn them. In such circumstances, the New Approach holds that the acceptability or otherwise of homoerotic sexual practice should be left to people’s private judgement and conscience.

“Courage takes the view that the Biblical condemnations and prohibitions of homosexual practice were not written with the pastoral care of Christians who are homosexual in mind. On the contrary, the passages concerned sought to confront selfish and abusive behaviour in a very different social context. Courage also argues that while the Bible is consistent in condemning homo-erotic sexual practice whenever the matter is considered, it is wrong to assume that these scriptures necessarily preclude all homo-erotic sexual practice in the context of long term committed, loving, same-sex relationships, where mature partners conscientiously believe before God that this is appropriate to their relationship.

“The Alliance considered a preliminary report about Courage’s new position in July 2001 and agreed to regard Courage’s membership as ‘under review’ until early 2002. Since then further discussions have taken place between Jeremy Marks of Courage and the Alliance, and a major Consultation held on 19 December 2001. This Consultation was attended by other groups ministering to homosexuals, by Alliance staff, and by a delegation from Courage. All the other groups working in this field stated that they looked to the Evangelical Alliance to uphold Biblical orthodoxy in the area of homosexual relationships, as stated in Faith, Hope & Homosexuality.

“At a meeting of the 79-strong Evangelical Alliance Council on 14 February 2002 a Report was presented concerning Courage’s continued membership of the Alliance. The key recommendations were:

  • The Alliance commends the pastoral motivation and integrity of Jeremy Marks
  • It acknowledges the valuable contribution Courage has made into many lives
  • The Alliance acknowledges the desire of Courage to remain within the evangelical constituency and their desire for evangelical unity.
  • The Alliance recognises the validity of a ministry strategy which seeks to minister to those of homosexual orientation without seeking necessarily to alter that orientation.

“However, the Council also unanimously decided that the New Approach of Courage constitutes a step outside the parameters defined in Faith, Hope & Homosexuality, in that it refuses to take a clear position on homo-erotic practice. The Alliance and Courage have therefore mutually agreed to part company with immediate effect.”

Jeremy Marks of Courage said: “It is with some sadness and regret that we have tendered our resignation at the request of the Alliance. We are encouraged that the EA have made every effort to hear and understand Courage’s New Approach and sought to recognise the significant areas of agreement between Courage and the EA. However, at Courage we believe that the proclamation of the gospel is our priority, not the policing of sexual behaviour between gay people. Sadly, the message of prohibition so often trumpeted by some quarters of the Church (ourselves included in the past) has only served to alienate gay people from coming to Christ and barred those who are believers from playing a full part in Church life.

“Though the New Approach has been developed over a number of years as a result of working at the sharp end of this much-needed area of ministry, clearly we cannot insist on remaining allied to an organisation that believes our viewpoint runs contrary to their basic beliefs on the subject. Unfortunately, whilst the EA’s stand will no doubt please many of our evangelical brethren, it will also serve to reinforce the sense of rejection of gay people by the Church. Reluctantly we have to accept that Courage’s mission has a long way to go before it can find widespread acceptance within the evangelical constituency of the Church.”

Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, commented: “EA remains committed to presenting the Good News about Jesus Christ. The key issue that divides Courage from the Alliance is how the Bible, which the Alliance takes to be the supreme authority for faith and conduct, should be expounded and used. We cannot accept the contention that all references to homosexuality in the Bible are in the context of abusive relationships and are therefore irrelevant in the current debate.

“The Alliance also maintains that apparent silence on a particular issue in scripture – such as long term, loving, same-sex relationships – cannot with integrity be invoked alongside private judgement and an appeal to conscience as a valid basis for permitting practices which are condemned in the Bible whenever and wherever they are mentioned.

“We have over many months sought to understand Courage’s new position on this key issue. However, we do not accept that its New Approach can be reconciled with Biblical teachings on homo-erotic sexual practice. Regretfully we therefore have no alternative but to accept Courage’s resignation with immediate effect.

“At the same time we utterly repudiate homophobia and call upon churches to welcome those of a homosexual orientation as they would welcome any other person.”

Ends

Iain Taylor: Evangelical Alliance: 020 7207 2117

Notes:

The Evangelical Alliance UK was founded in 1846 and today represents over one million Christians in 30 denominations. The Evangelical Alliance was a founding member of the World Evangelical Fellowship, which now has 120 member Alliances, together representing 200 million evangelicals worldwide.

An evangelical is someone who believes that Jesus is both God and man; that the Bible is the ultimate authority in all that it addresses; and that the traditional beliefs of the Church such as the physical resurrection of Jesus are true. An evangelical owns a commitment to Christ as their personal saviour and a desire to live out that faith in the community.

Evangelical Alliance’s position on homosexuality (outlined in Faith, Hope and Homosexuality):

  • The Alliance affirms that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the form of partnership uniquely intended by God for full sexual relations between people
  • We affirm God’s love and concern for all humanity, including homosexual people, but believe homoerotic sexual practice to be incompatible with his will as revealed in Scripture
  • We call upon evangelical congregations to welcome and accept sexually active homosexual people, but to do so in the expectation that they will come in due course to see the need to change their lifestyle in accordance with biblical revelation and orthodox church teaching.
  • We repudiate homophobia insofar as it denotes an irrational fear or hatred of homosexuals. We do not accept, however, that to reject homoerotic sexual practice on biblical grounds is in itself homophobic.


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