Theology Thursday - A "Progressive Christian" Response to the Nashville Statement

The Nashville Statement was released in July 2017, and quickly made waves. It’s a concise statement about human sexuality and gender from a conservative Christian perspective. Some claim it’s a hateful document. The Mayor of Nashville tweeted that it “does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.” Others couldn’t wait to praise it. John Piper, for example, solemnly declared he “read the statement with a kind of sorrowful joy.” 

In this day and age, the Nashville Statement was bound to draw opponents. And so it was that, not long after that document was released, another coalition met to draft the inevitable response. The result was a manifesto entitled Christians United. The accompanying website declared this document “came as a direct response to The Nashville Statement, a document composed and signed by 150 major evangelical leaders in August 2017, which reaffirmed toxic, non-affirming theological commitments that have caused verifiable harm to countless LGBT+ people of faith around the world.”

The entire text of the Christians United statement is below. SharperIron does not agree with the perspective and content of this statement:

Preamble

 

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are compelled to bear witness to the love, grace, and truth of God in every generation. We believe in and serve a God who is living and active, and continually drawing us nearer to the image of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom that he proclaimed. As Christ himself assured us, following the Holy Spirit often leads us into periods of time where we are called to reflect on and reform our traditions and practices to be more clearly conformed to the mind and example of Jesus Christ. This has been the case throughout Christian history.

So it is that we, like each generation before us, are called to reflect, repent, and reform our teachings and practices to be ever more closely aligned with the heart and will of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. In every generation there are those who resist the Spirit’s leading in various ways and cling to the dogmas and traditions that God is calling us to rethink and reform.

Throughout our history, those who have been on the leading edge of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work have often found themselves initially excluded, marginalized, and demonized by some of those within established Christian institutions. In the twenty-first century, we believe that the Church finds itself once again on the brink of a new reformation, one in which the Holy Spirit is calling us to return to the Scriptures and our traditions in order to re-examine our teachings on human sexuality and gender identity.

For decades, many pastors, theologians, and reformers have boldly responded to the Holy Spirit’s call and have stepped forward to call the Church to a renewed understanding of Christian teaching on sexuality and gender identity that includes, affirms, and embraces the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and non-binary, queer community as created and fully blessed by God and welcomed in to the life of the Church and society just as they are, without a need to conform to the heteronormative, patriarchal, binary sexuality and gender paradigm that Christianity has come to promote and embrace.

As these prophetic voices have stepped forward, some within traditional Christian institutions have gone great lengths to demonize, exclude, and marginalize those who have faithfully followed the Holy Spirit’s leading to reexamine Scripture and the tradition, claiming that these reformers were false teachers or heretics, and represented only a small percentage of Christians worldwide. Over the past twenty years in particular, hundreds of thousands of followers of Christ around the globe have begun to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and have come to understand the teachings of Scripture and our tradition to fully affirm, embrace, and celebrate the LGBT+ community and its relationships.

Whilst some within the traditional Christian establishment have sought to minimize the growing wave of prominent Christian voices that have reformed their perspectives on LGBT+ inclusion, the undeniable truth remains that the so-called “traditional” Christian teaching on sexuality and gender identity is being abandoned for a more faithful, Christ-centered, and, we believe, more biblical understanding of sexuality and gender identity that magnifies the creativity of God and celebrates the wide diversity in God’s creation of humanity.

A new day is dawning in the Church, and all Christians are being called to step out boldly and unapologetically in affirmation and celebration of our LGBT+ siblings as equal participants in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, in the hope of serving the Church of Jesus Christ and promoting greater reformation and reconciliation between the Church and the LGBT+ community, this coalition of Christian leaders offer the following affirmations and denials. ​

Article 1: WE AFFIRM that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and that the great diversity expressed in humanity through our wide spectrum of unique sexualities and gender identities is a perfect reflection of the magnitude of God’s creative work. WE DENY any teaching that suggests God’s creative intent is limited to a gender binary or that God’s desire for human romantic relationships is only to be expressed in heterosexual relationships between one man and one woman.

Article 2: WE AFFIRM that God designed marriage to be a covenantal bond between human beings who have committed to love, serve, and live a life faithfully committed to one another over the course of a lifetime. WE DENY that God intended human romantic relationships to be limited to one man and one woman and declare that any attempts to limit the sacred or civil rights of humans to covenant and commit to love and serve one another is an affront to God’s created design.

Article 3: WE AFFIRM that relationships between fallen humans have suffered great distortions resulting in various forms of infidelity and unhealthy behaviors that contribute to the suffering of humanity. We also affirm that God’s desire is for all humans to enter into loving, sacrificial relationships with one another, whether romantic, platonic, or social, regardless of gender or sexual identity. WE DENY that the fallenness of human relationships resulted in the multiplicity of sexual orientations and gender identities. Rather, fallenness manifests in the human capacity to function out of hedonistic self-interest instead of the self-giving love in whose image we are created.

Article 4: WE AFFIRM that those who are born as intersex are full and equal bearers of the image and likeness of God and are worthy of full dignity and respect. We affirm and support intersex individuals in their journey of self-realization and embracing their unique, God-created sexual orientation and gender identity, whatever it may be. WE DENY that intersex individuals are required to conform to a gender binary or a heteronormative sexual paradigm.

Article 5: WE AFFIRM that while the male and female gender identity reflects a majority of the human family, God has created individuals whose gender identity does not fall on such a binary spectrum. We also affirm that there are many transgender individuals who are born with a physical body that is incongruent with their true gender identity, and these individuals should be supported and trusted in regards to their own self-knowledge of who they are and how God has created them. WE DENY that forcing individuals to embrace a gender identity that matches the cultural assumptions based on their biology is a healthy practice and that the heterosexual, male/female binary is the only consistent reflection of God’s holy purposes in Creation.

Article 6: WE AFFIRM that LGBT+ Christians are called to live holy and fulfilling lives that are pleasing to God through living in congruence with God’s creative intent for them, and, like all Christians, are called to walk in a rhythm of life that reflects the example of Jesus Christ our Lord. WE DENY that heterosexuality or binary gender identities are the only legitimate sexuality and gender identities that reflect the natural goodness of God’s creation.

Article 7: WE AFFIRM that one may live proudly and openly as an LGBT+ individual and as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and that LGBT+ individuals must be fully embraced and included in every level of Christian leadership, life, and ministry without exception in order for the Church to fully embrace its call to be the body of Christ. We also affirm Christ’s call for the Church to be one, united in the midst of our diversity of sexual orientations, gender identities, relationships, and beliefs about the same. WE DENY that teachings on the Biblical interpretation of sexuality and gender identity constitute a matter of orthodoxy and should be a cause for division among Christians.

Article 8: WE AFFIRM that non-inclusive teaching causes significant psychological and spiritual harm to LGBT+ individuals in Christian churches around the world. We likewise affirm that the Church of Jesus Christ is guilty of preaching a harmful message that has caused hundreds of thousands of individuals to face bullying, abuse, and exclusion from their families and communities, and must publicly repent and seek reconciliation with the LGBT+ community for the harm that has been done to them in the name of Christ. WE DENY that any Christian who perpetuates harmful teachings and refuses to openly dialogue with LGBT+ people is living a life modeled after the faithful example of Jesus.

Article 9: WE AFFIRM that sexuality and gender identity may be expressed in a variety of different ways, including celibacy. We also affirm that commitment, consent, respect, and self-sacrificial love must be the center of any life or relationship that is to be deemed holy and upright for a Christian. WE DENY that any individual, especially minors, should be forced to seek any form of treatment or therapy that promises to change their sexual orientation or gender identity in order to conform to a patriarchal, heteronormative model of relationship.

Article 10: WE AFFIRM that Jesus Christ has come into the world to bring salvation to all people and through his life, teachings, death, and resurrection, all are invited into redemption through Christ. WE DENY that Christ rejects anyone from his loving embrace because of their sexuality or gender identity. We likewise deny that homosexuality, bisexuality, queer sexuality, trans* identity, asexuality, or any other queer identity is sinful, distorted, or outside of God’s created intent. ​

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There are 8 Comments

Joel Shaffer's picture

 No surprise here. Mostly signed by liberal/progressive mainliners.    Interesting that 2 of the signees grew up attndending Calvary Church of Grand Rapids (probably the largest IFCA church in Michigan)-(Kent Dobson-son of Ed Dobson, and Michael Hidalgo).   

Bert Perry's picture

Let's be honest; theological liberals have been denying the authority of Scripture for a century and a half now, no?  Or more?  

I must confess that I'm amused by their "demonization" comments.  The Nashville statement does no such thing, but ironically in accusing Nashville signers of the same, the "Christians United" group does demonize the Nashville writers and signers.  Yet another case of "look in the mirror, boys and girls....there's your culprit!".

And per Joel's comment, as I looked at the "marquee" signers, it struck me that a lot of the church and ministry names used are really evangelical sounding, or would work even as fundamental church names.  Differentiating by name on the basis of theology is apparently becoming quite difficult these days.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

I remember him being a loose cannon.  13 years ago, he used this illustration from Tony Campolo at a high school chapel service at the Christian school my kids now attend.  "I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a s***. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said s*** than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night."      

But he ended up saying s*** 6 times.  He was reprimanded for it and was told that he wouldn't be able to speak there again.    He was also asked to leave a church plant of Calvary Church (he was the the lead church planter) for some issues, including doctrine.

Darrell Post's picture

Joel, "loose cannon" sounds kind. Incredible that he would hold the Christian school kids responsible for something over which they have no control (world-wide hunger) and to be irresponsible with something over which they do have control (their speech).

Bert Perry's picture

It might be noted as well that if you're quoting Tony Campolo, you're simultaneously going to be endorsing things like massive foreign aid and socialistic policies--the very things that led to all those people starving in the first place.  We might also posit that the average student at Joel's kids' school would also have parents who are aware of this.  In fact, I know at least one set of parents does, as their #56 plays with Joel's son.  (dad is a good friend of mine from my MSU days)

Back to the topic, this fits pretty well with the declaration, which more or less says "yes, the Bible says this, but we're going to ignore that evidence."  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Andrew K's picture

What's interesting is that the liberal Christian project goes so much further than the modest conclusions it presents. Perhaps so much further than even many of its proponents realize.

For example, notice any calls to monogamy in LGBT+ relationships? Any limiting of the "covenantal bond" to two people? Or any reference to abstinence outside of the marriage covenant? 

Reminds me of a progressive Christian friend I had on FB a few years back who came out as a "practicing (emphasis mine) homosexual." So many of my progressive Christian friends were falling all over themselves to "affirm" him.

But even if, for the sake of argument, Scripture was neutral or even pro-same-sex relations...  in essence, a self-proclaimed Christian had just publicly announced he was actively fornicating. And "Christian" people applauded! In what universe does that make sense?

Jim's picture

Andrew K wrote:
in essence, a self-proclaimed Christian had just publicly announced he was actively fornicating. And "Christian" people applauded! In what universe does that make sense?

Up means down ... bad means good

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