You may have noticed that I didn’t post on August 31st to wrap up my Better Every Day Challenge. And you may have also noticed that this is that Day 31 post. Although some of my challenge posts were quite short, I felt like this last one came with a “Handle With Care” sticker. In an effort to make sure that I dealt with the topic well, I pushed back the post so that spend time over this extended weekend (Happy Labor Day!) to really think through this topic.
If you’re an American Christian who regularly uses social media, you’ve probably heard something of an incredibly divisive document (website?): The Nashville Statement. The Nashville Statement is a series of 14 articles (short statements, actually) that seek to clarify the Biblical perspective on human sexuality. If you haven’t heard about it, I’m sure that you can understand why it’s so divisive.
I’ll be honest, when I first read it, I liked it. It wasn’t surprising to me. Everything that was in the Statement is drawn directly from Scripture.
I know what these pastors and leaders were doing. They were looking at church history and following the example of the leaders of the Christian faith stretching back millennia. They looked at the Council(s) of Nicea, the Council of Chalcedon, etc., and they saw church leaders coming together to wrestle with Scripture and put together a truthful and accurate statement about what the Bible says about a certain topic.
For that, I applaud these leaders, a few of whom I’m honored to have met and interacted with, and many of whose teaching I have sat under (through sermons, podcasts, books, blogs, etc.).
As time passed, I saw the reception, by non-Christians (to whom this Statement was not directed) and Christians (the intended audience) alike. I saw believers whom I know and respect trumpet their support of the Nashville Statement (posting on Facebook counts as trumpeting, right?). Some did this well (or as well as they could), others not so well. I saw hurt and angry non-Christians respond with vitriol, celebrating a document that validated all of their hatred toward Christianity.
And I saw a small segment of Christianity respond in hurt, a sense of isolation, and rejection, angry to have been brushed to the side, weeping because they felt forgotten. My heart broke for these Side B brothers and sisters. My heart leaped as I saw one brother in particular bravely, honorably, and passionately speaking up, even reaching out for conversations to those initial signatories whom he knows. He’s even gone so far as to write up a revision of the Nashville Statement, that remains biblically based, but does a better job of addressing the culture into which the Nashville Statement is speaking.
I love what they were trying to do. They were seeking to proclaim truth to a world that fights against it. I’m sad that our world has developed to the point where a Statement like this has to be made. I feel that the Nashville Statement was bold and courageous. However, as others have pointed out, the Nashville Statement has its clear shortcomings.
I’m uncomfortable with the delivery. It was too academic and not pastoral enough. I understand that they were writing a creed, but I also feel like they overlooked a major factor: creeds came about in a different era. There wasn’t a method to come to a conclusion and immediately blast it out to the entire world. That meant that these creeds were likely communicated by leaders to other leaders. These leaders communicated to pastors (and many were pastors themselves). And these pastors taught these creeds to their people. These creeds, unlike the Nashville Statement, were communicated through relationship, and I believe that makes a world of difference.
It also strikes me as strange that there wasn’t an accompanying document (or section of the website) that went into further detail. I understand that a creed in this vein hasn’t historically needed to have a supporting document, but it feels like a missed opportunity to further elucidate what these sentences meant. At the very least it would have been nice to see Bible references, as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood did in their previous Danvers Statment, which addresses biblical masculinity and femininity. I know that not everything in the Nashville Statement is explicitly found in the Bible, but even the ability to open my Bible and check out the foundation of these affirmations and anathema would have been nice.
The Nashville Statement has been made. There’s no taking it back, and I don’t believe that it should be taken back. However, now the ball’s in our court.
How am I going to take the truth of the Nashville Statement and communicate it through relationship?
How do I reach out to my LGBTQ friends and remind them that I still love them, that Jesus still died for them, and that Jesus has a better way?
How do I talk to the church and guide them in navigating through this time, when the vast majority of the church’s teaching about homosexuality is “It’s sin. Stop it.”?
I don’t have a nice, simple answer, unfortunately. I wish that I did, but I think it’s clear that a simple answer doesn’t adequately address this situation. I know that there are many people who are actively engaged in this dialogue, both prior to and in the aftermath of the Nashville Statement. They are better equipped to answer these questions because they have logged the hours of thought and research and dialogue and wrestling with the topic of Biblical sexuality. However, just because they may be better equipped doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to seek out my own answers.
If you’re a Christian, I encourage you to join me in going to the Bible and seeking out your own response to this situation.
If you’re not a Christian, please know that Jesus loves you, he wants a relationship with you, he accepts you as you are, and that he wants so much more for you than you could ever imagine.
If you want to learn more about the Nashville Statement, here are a few other posts you can read for further thoughts and reflections:
Al Mohler, one of the initial signatories of the Nashville Statement and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote an article in The Washington Post, clarifying some parts, and emphasizing how the Nashville Statement was written in love.
My friend Tyler, a self-proclaimed “huge theology nerd,” offered some excellent, clarifying thoughts on his blog, where he is regularly engaging in the dialogue between our culture and our faith (often on the level of philosophy and worldview).
And an acquaintance from school, Richard, has been actively engaged in teaching the church a better way to love men who struggle with same-sex attraction through his blog The 4 Ts and the Church.