A leading evangelical has softened his views on homosexuality, questioning whether Christians could create a “nurturing” and “supportive” environment for gay people.

Steve Chalke, a top evangelical, wrote in the latest edition of Christianity magazine, that he had changed his biblical understanding of homosexuality.

The Baptist minister said the bible was much more inclusive than many people acknowledge, reports Christian Today.

“Rather than condemn and exclude, can we dare to create an environment for homosexual people where issues of self-esteem and wellbeing can be talked about; where the virtues of loyalty, respect, interdependence and faithfulness can be nurtured, and where exclusive and permanent same-sex relationships can be supported?” he wrote.

Mr Chalke, who is a regular conference speaker said he thought his changed stance might make some Christians think he had “strayed from scripture” and is “no longer an evangelical”.

“However, I have formed my view not out of disregard for the Bible’s authority, but by way of grappling with it and, through prayerful reflection, seeking to take it seriously,” he said.

Mr Chalke said he now believed that permanent, faithful stable homosexual relationships are not sinful , and called upon the church to be more accepting.

He recently made the decision to hold services of blessing in his church, for gay people.

In an extended version of the piece, which appeared on his Christian charity’s website, he wrote: “In autumn 2012 I conducted a dedication and blessing service following the Civil Partnership of two wonderful gay Christians.

“Why? Not to challenge the traditional understanding of marriage – far from it – but to extend to these people what I would do to others – the love and support of our local church.”

Greg Downes, the resident theologian at the magazine, also appeared in this month’s issue, arguing that the bible is “uniformly negative” about homosexuality.

“The sobering fact is that out of all the Bible references to homosexuality, every one is negative regarding its practice,” he writes.

“Those who say the Bible does not teach homosexual practice is wrong are simply engaging in hermeneutical gymnastics, in which they embrace a revisionist interpretation which is completely alien to the original meaning of the text.

“Since the scriptures are crystal clear on the issue, my fear is that any shift to embrace this new interpretation is nothing short of a denial of the authority of the Bible itself,” he wrote.

The editor of the magazine, Ruth Dickinson, wrote that Chalke’s changed stance on homosexuality might cause controversy in the evangelical wing of the church in upcoming years.

“Chalke is going against the majority of UK evangelical opinion. Furthermore, many see this as a primary issue, not a secondary one and one for which liberals will suffer grave consequences,” she said.

“Others, of course, will welcome his announcement, seeing it as an opportunity to make the Church more open and welcoming to homosexual people.”

He tweeted using hashtag #inclusion to introduce a video on the website of his charity, Oasis UK, he discussed his regret at not having softened his views sooner, and spoke of the importance of supporting young people coming to terms with their sexuality.

An evangelical Christian man from Tennessee last year caused controversy by pretending to be gay for a year, as research for a new book, and has received criticism from the LGBT community.

Meanwhile in the US, anti-gay evangelist, Scott Lively, said in an interview last week that he thinks gay rights are bringing the “wrath” of God, which is a sign that the world is nearing the “End Days”, just like before Noah’s flood.