Comments: Nashville Statement: CofE clerics among signatories

Am I missing something, or is this so called "Nashville" statement a strong condemnation of marriage after divorce? That would seem like a big thing for a lot of folks.

I am frankly tired of the homophobic rant - that drumbeat is going to go on for some time, but society and, in increasing numbers the church (however loosely defined) has moved on. It will find its way to the same dustbin in which opposition to marriage between races and opposition to marriage between different denominations or religions have been deposited.

But I would have thought that divorce and remarriage, especially within evangelical circles in the US (where the rate of divorce is I believe rather high) would be more troublesome.

Posted by scott at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 12:31pm BST

"I find the insinuation that evangelicals don't think to be insulting in the extreme."

And as if by magic, the Nashville Declaration comes along to show just what they are thinking.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 1:05pm BST

One of the chief movers behind this is John Piper. If you look on Wikipedia under "Theological views" you get an insight into the world view that informs this statement.

Posted by Perry Butler at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 1:49pm BST

Scared silly. Silly, silly, silly as they apparently know little about ALL of Gods children and the abundance and depth of Gods love...there are many different versions of love that grows into into a holy bliss. Some of us have NEVER had to conform to a cross legged/tight lipped heterosexual Puritanical position (tight/squirm and many of OUR ancestors were Puritans who escaped to America)...gracias a Dios, diversity in humanity (even at Church) has blessed ALL of us. Let's keep growing in our understanding of one another and let's not leap backwards/blindfolded into the dimly writ pages of the chest-beating cowardice in the name of God that few of us could ever know (or follow).

Posted by Leonard Clark at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 2:23pm BST

Article 7 doesn't make sense to me.
'WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture. WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.'

In the WE AFFIRM part they are talking about gender only. But, in the WE DENY part they are talking about sexual orientation and gender. It suggests that they do not fully understand the difference.

The use of WE AFFIRM and WE DENY is just trying to enforce a completely unnecessary and unjustified binary approach.

And as for the 'self-conception' phrase... In the biological sense of the word conception, surely self-conception would mean getting yourself pregnant. Male and female, is that really their point?

Posted by Ann Reddecliffe at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 2:26pm BST

'The path of short-sighted alternatives' (to conservative Christian views) 'that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonour God.' (Preamble)

My love for another woman has not ruined my life; it has preciously and tenderly enriched it. To allege I dishonour God seems to me to be an arrogant and judgmental claim. As a nurse, I try to honour God in service and care towards others. In my sincere faith, I love God, and try to open my heart to God's grace and compassion. My life is not ruined at all by my love for my partner. If being 'counter-cultural' means the Church vilifying people for their private love, then maybe the claimed 'counter-culture' is mistaken on these issues. Many Christians believe so. It's possible society gets some things right. Like evolution rather than creationism, like condemning the kind of ethnic cleansing that was carried out against the Canaanites, like rationally challenging the reality of Noah's ark, like suggesting that perhaps its not the gender of a partner that matters, but their fidelity and decency.

'We cannot know ourselves truly without knowing him who made us.' (Preamble)

Then maybe we need to start by recognising that God transcends 'him' and made all people, whatever gender, in the divine image. This includes the female as well as the male, and challenges exclusively calling God 'him'.

'We affirm that God's revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.' (Article 2)

If so, that is a huge reason why LGBT+ people should be allowed to marry. Enforced chastity, and vilification of faithful love, are basically life-diminishing and a perversion. They 'ruin human life'. The clear majority of British people, including many Christians, affirm gay love, and regard the chastity idea as repressive. What if heterosexual couples had to stay celibate? Where is the magnanimity and the love?

'We affirm that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings... in his own image.' (Article 3)

They were NOT the first human beings, they had ancestors. Even primary school children know that. And again, if women are part of the image of God, then why do they say 'his' as if God's image is not female too?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 3:22pm BST

By "self-conception" they presumably mean what is sometimes called "self-image": the way one thinks of oneself, or the way one conceives of oneself. So what they're saying is that you're not just damned by doing whatever those horrible things that those gay people do when they are being horrible, you're damned for just thinking of yourself as gay, even if you don't do anything about it. So in the world of Nashville, it's sinful to even be a celibate, closeted gay person: the mere fact that you think of yourself as gay is a sin.

See, they _have_ been thinking. They've been thinking about all the different ways that gay people might be gay, and they're being sure to hate them in every possible sense.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 3:37pm BST

'We affirm that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God's design for self-conception as male or female.' (Article 5)

That is to elide sex and gender. In most cases, they operate fairly congruently, though gender could be seen as fluid and a spectrum in its experience and expression. Some women drive trucks, some men do knitting. It doesn't matter. For some people, genital sexual physicalities are deeply incongruent to a person's lived (often lifelong) experience of themselves, and it is not simply 'expression' of 'lifestyle choice' but integral experience of 'who they are'. Some research suggests that this incongruency may start in the womb. What the signatories of this sorry statement suggest is that it's all self-conceived – sort of made up by choice. It would be fairer to suggest, in any loving analysis, that it is self-experience of who they are; and that gender identity is not always defined by dicks etc (that's sex). It is a consciousness, and a reality, and a capacity to be true at a gender level. Whatever our chromosomes, everyone has oestrogen receptors as well as testosterone receptors, and sometimes hormone correction (and reception) can lead to huge psychological ease – and not to 'ruin' but to flourishing: the remaining problems tend to be some social hostility, prejudice, and the theological hostility of statements like this Nashville one. The harm, 'ruin' and damage for trans people often comes from abuse and marginalisation by bigots and religious zealots.

'We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God's holy purposes in creation and redemption.' (Article 7)

It is not a self-conception and you don't 'adopt' it, it is who you are. And there's nothing about it that stops you loving, caring, serving and being a decent and true human being.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 3:57pm BST

'Sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and towards sexual immorality – a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality.' (Article 9)

But if gay people can't get married, then ALL the sexual expression of tender gay love is 'immoral' and 'sinful', and a distortion of good (heterosexual) sexuality? Does Justin Welby believe this? Why can't he just say? This vilification of gay and lesbian sex – sinful, immoral, twisted – is exactly what he reassured his Primate friends was the position of the Church of England today, when he told them (to try to appease them) nothing had changed. It's not only a Nashville thing. Yet it lends religious mandate to bigots and bullies who appropriate the Church's condemnation to justify their abuse. There is not enough tender love and fidelity in the world. Condemnation of gay and lesbian sex as 'sin' is not 'Radical Inclusion'. Radical inclusion has to start with repudiation of this vilification. And yet, to date, that repudiation is missing from Justin's words. How sad, to portray tenderness, closeness, gentleness, loyalty, fidelity, as theological crimes. Gay and lesbian love (and sex) can be so rich, so life-enhancing, so decent, so noble, so brave. I am so proud of my partner and her courage and care. For many people, it is a sacred journey with God.

'We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism.' (Article 10)

The Church of England just decided to affirm and bless gender transition. Article 10 is a policy of exclusion and marginalisation – even outlawing alternative views and debate as 'sin'. This is not 'radical inclusion' at all. It's an attempt to do a Russian or Ugandan style of criminalisation even of advocacy or supporting LGBT values. It's an attempt at silencing and erasure. Most people in the UK now have gay friends, uncles, daughters, colleagues. Are many Christians to be silenced, their acceptance condemned as sin? The rector of St Ebbe's can call that being counter-cultural. It's like the old defence of being 'fools for Christ'. But does that mean that all our foolishness is counter-cultural? Sometimes it's simply folly – or conservative reaction to a world we've lost touch with. People have gay sex. The sky does not fall down. The same people also love their neighbours and lead kind lives. How narrow and fundamentalist do we want our Church to become?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 4:17pm BST

'Pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires.' (Article 12)

Conversion therapy then? Just condemned by the Church of England, by UK psychologists, by most other people. 'Putting to death' who you are is likely to lead to repression, diminution, sometimes breakdown. Gay is not a 'lifestyle choice': it is who you are. It's you. The way God happened to make you. And a conduit for love, and joy, and health, and deep well-being.

'We affirm that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions.' (Article 13)

My gender is not a sin. It is just a gender. Nor is it a self-conception. It is who I am. It is joyful. It is liberating. It is congruent with the way my brain works (and congruent with my very lovely body after gender surgery). It is a lived reality and a discipleship with Christ. And you know what – as you try to caricature us as somehow depraved – we are nurses, we are teachers, we are doctors, we are airline pilots... and yes, we are Christians. You will not erase or silence us. We are among you, and we want to love you, but some of you make that pretty difficult. You try to marginalise and vilify us. You should love us for who we are, not who you demand we should be. Fundamentally, we are just people, trying to love other people, trying to live lives that – who knows – are maybe as decent as yours.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 4:30pm BST

Re Perry Butler, " get an insight into the world view that informs this statement." Or more accurately, misinformed this statement. Just more religiously based culture warrior ignorance. It is all politics.

However, It did remind me of this great tune about Nashville, i.e. "Nashville Cats". Don't let demagogues ruin the reputation of a perfectly iconic town.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 1 September 2017 at 11:47pm BST

Critical American evangelical responses include a rather forceful statement from Jonathan Martin:

Katelyn Beaty (of 'Christianity Today'):

Jonathan Merritt:

Jim Wallis:

Interested Observer, please resist the temptation to tar all evangelicals with the same brush.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 5:57am BST

Interested Observer It is still insulting actually. And if you really think that the Nashville Statement is in any way an expression of the mainstream evangelical tradition in the CofE I would invite you please to show more interest and observe more closely.

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 9:23am BST

I think perhaps the critical issue is not the label 'evangelical' but the concept that the Bible texts are infallible and inerrant. Arguably the heart of the crisis is not latent homophobia, or the issue of human sexuality at all (though that is obviously a crisis in its own right). But the real background crisis is the way we read and understand the Bible. That is the crisis.

To that extent, I suspect quite a lot of benevolent evangelicals actually participate in an approach to the Bible that opens the door to the more harmful excesses of believing the Bible is infallible. I hasten to add, it is not only evangelical Christians who very often champion biblical inerrancy: I've noted the desire to 'believe' in the Bible's inerrancy also among liberal contributors here and elsewhere. It's as if people are afraid to say that, on some issues, the Bible may simply be wrong. Christians seem to want the Bible to be a watertight 'magical' book.

In generous and thoughtful hands, that may lead to tolerant and open-minded interpretations of text. In the wrong hands, it effectively leads to the perpetuation of Bronze Age and First Century mores and prejudices, to be applied and enforced on all peoples in all times. And as some of the most ardent champions of this infallible Bible, evangelicals collectively bear some responsibility for a concept that can do grievous harm.

My view is that the Bible needs to be read, handled and understood in a different way: not as a 'magical' and infallible text, but as a collection of fallible attempts to make sense of encounters with God... attempts expressed within people's own times, cultures and limitations of view. In short, the Bible is best read and understood contextually.

To me, the problem is the fear - sometimes almost a terror - that if the Bible is wrong about one tiny thing, then how do we know any of it is true? To me that is cowardice. We have faith because God can reach us, be alongside us, and be known - and be revealed - in a vast diversity of contexts and a vast diversity of ways.

We do not need to have a bunker mentality which depends on defending the Bible's infallibility. We need openness to love, to growth, to change. We have been given consciences and brains with which to think.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 2:48pm BST

Re: Tim Chesterton, thanks for the links to various alternative evangelical opinion. The Jim Wallis piece, predictably, is very insightful.

Notwithstanding, problems with "evangelical" Christianity, including Anglican brands of the same, go deeper than the kind of anti-social extremism articulated in the Nashville Statement.

Much of evangelical Christianity seems ill equipped to model constructive community making to a fractured and increasingly polarized world--although a recognition of the latter state affairs is clearly present across the spectrum of opinion in the articles you linked.

I have attached a link to the September issue of Anglican Journal. If readers scroll down to page four, they will find a letter titled "Misguided Campaign" by Keith Nunn which opens with an observation on Archbishop Welby's "Thy Kingdom Come" campaign. Nunn articulates the problem many of us have with evangelical religious sentiment.

More broadly, news about Nashville, or an Australian bishops' rumble, or the weld between Anglican patriarchs and a conservative social agenda, makes one concerned for the entire Christian project.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 3:16pm BST

With a couple of hours to kill, I have read all all of the links Tim provides. In passing, they are prolix in the extreme: the first is 3800 words, the length of a substantial undergraduate essay; this is hardly "forceful". They appear to boil down to "Trump is bad". They mention Trump a total of thirty six times (if we assume "the President" means "Trump"), including "But behind all the details was one overarching one: Trump." They are as obsessed with Trump as the Nashville lot are with sex.

Their logic, and I use the word loosely, appears to be "this is the sort of thing Trump would I think support, Trump is bad, therefore this is bad". I would take some convincing, given that evangelicals in the US overwhelmingly (80%+) voted for Trump, that these articles represent evangelicals speaking out against Nashville; rather they represent people who don't like evangelicals finding another reason to dislike them. The vast majority of American evangelicals will not read, or if they do read will not accept, these articles because they are rants about Trump. They are essentially saying "decent people support LGBTQ rights, decent people don't vote for Trump", which is hardly an effective argument to attempt to make a community which overwhelmingly voted for Trump introspect on other topics.

Beaty has very clearly and eloquently distanced herself from evangelical thinking, because, oh, look, Trump. (cf. her article in the Washington Post last year "I was an evangelical magazine editor, but now I can’t defend my evangelical community",

"Soi-disant evangelicans who despise Trump don't like homophobia" is reassuring up to a point, but hardly bespeaks of outrage amongst evangelicals more widely.

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 5:48pm BST

Susannah Clark, let me preface this by noting that you used the word "arguably" before stating that the "heart of the matter" is not homophobia or sexuality but instead Biblical inerrancy. I think in this case the heart of the matter really is about non-hetero human sexuality, as is witnessed by the fact that the dramatic loosening of heterosexual norms over the past half-century is so widely accepted in conservative evangelical circles. Those of us who are privileged to do premarital counseling and officiate at weddings know that virtually no couples of any age (twenties, forties, seventies) or orientation get married these days without a pre-existing sexually intimate relationship. Yet Biblical inerrancy is given only mild lip service in condemning such relationships so long as they are heterosexual. No doubt the issue of Biblical interpretation is a major difference in many disagreements between conservatives and progressives, but in the end, we all pick and choose which parts of Scripture we take "literally but not seriously" or "seriously but not literally".

Posted by Brad Purdom at Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 8:00pm BST

I honestly don't know what else to say.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 10:04pm BST

Surely at least one of the issues is that there is a difference between an evangelical who says, "Pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires" and one who says, "I rejoice that in the cross of Christ my sins are forgiven -- as are those of all other sinners." I can hardly think of a more opposite theological perspective. The problem is that both are free to call themselves "evangelical" -- but only one of them seems to have a solid grasp on the good news of the gospel, or indeed on the reality of human nature.

Posted by Tobias Stanislas Haller at Sunday, 3 September 2017 at 6:54pm BST

Re: Interested observer, your critique en masse of the articles referenced by Tim Chesterton is rather caviling with all the tone of Hoodoo McFiggins Christmas.

The Jim Wallis piece, just for example, makes cogent points about both the timing of the Statement, about relative priorities, and about the social and cultural climate in which it has been released. Wallis also provides a theological critique with regard to the lack of a premier evangelical value in the Statement i.e. repentance, especially repentance within institutions and movements.

The notion that the various authors are " obsessed with Trump as the Nashville lot are with sex." is both politically naive and a false equivalency.

I have a fundamental disagreement with most forms of evangelical theology, mostly because I find it profoundly misanthropic; but when thoughtful writers offer views that are at once passionate and analytical, they deserve a hearing.

I ain't no evangelical; but Jim Wallis is, and I appreciate the common ground he shares with non-evangelicals.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 3 September 2017 at 11:12pm BST

"My gender is not a sin. It is just a gender. Nor is it a self-conception. It is who I am."

What the Nashville Statement is saying, Susannah, is that they (the Nashville signatories) know you, Susannah, better than you know yourself (because God's on THEIR side: neener-neener-neener!)

It's really clear that LGBTs---and even LGBT Christians---aren't the principal target of the Nashville Statement. It's *straight Christian allies* (and even straight Christians merely in doubt). THEY are the ones the Nashville Statement is trying to "read out" of the Church (broadly). We LGBTs are *already* going to hell. The Nashvillains want to make sure that straight Christians who aren't anti-LGBT, are told that THEY are going hell, too!

Posted by JCF at Monday, 4 September 2017 at 3:21am BST

JCF, given the precipitant fall in evangelical church-going numbers in the US amongst those under 40, one might say that the Nashville Statement is a good thing: it won't make bigots any more bigoted, and for everyone else it clarifies where evangelicals stand. Evangelicals who don't like being lumped in with bigots can find themselves a clear way to articulate that distaste, one which isn't 3800 words of hair-splitting and refusal to condemn bigotry.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 4 September 2017 at 10:29am BST

Oh, and Rod, that Jim Wallis piece starts by saying, that is to say its first sentence is, "The timing of a new “manifesto” aimed against LGBTQ Christians and their allies — in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville and in the midst of Americans rescuing each other in Texas — is more than unfortunate."

So the content, presumably, isn't as bad, and had it been published last month, or next month, all would have been well. It goes on to say "This “Nashville Statement” exemplifies a grave mistake of public discernment and creates a more polarized division that seriously is damaging any credible evangelical witness in today’s culture." So it's politically damaging, then.

At no point does Jim Wallis disagree with it. It's just that it's at the wrong time, and it's something that should have been kept in the evangelical echo chamber rather than shown to the public who might now think - and how could they, really, when his heart is so full of love? - that it was written and signed by a bunch of nasty bigots.

He can't bring himself to disagree or dispute the contents, because the people who signed it are on "his side". All he's doing is cavilling about the timing. Martin Luther King wrote extensively about "friends" like this; he was in Birmingham, AL jail at the time. Jim Wallis can't actually disagree with bigotry, he just wants it to be kept a bit quieter and published in less charged times. If he wants to actually disagree, the stage is open to him.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 4 September 2017 at 10:37am BST

Re: JFC, "It's really clear that LGBTs---and even LGBT Christians---aren't the principal target of the Nashville Statement." Right on. That is one of the reasons that criticism from moderate evangelicals is useful. While it will fall on the deaf ears of the Nashville extremists in the American right, such criticism is a counter measure to attempts to "unchurch" moderate voices. It also contributes to a strengthening of church land voices which are expressing opposition to your President's divisive identity politics.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 4 September 2017 at 2:10pm BST

Evangelicals are called many things these days but ‘atheist’ really is a new one on me. I would agree with Jonathan Draper that the understanding of the incarnation is key. I would also agree it presents a particular challenge to evangelical understandings of the world and of faith. But in claiming that those lacking his summary of this doctrine are effectively atheists and idolaters – well that is worryingly close to the approach of the Nashville statement isn’t it? But it is not just evangelicals who will want to question a précis of this doctrine that sees no need to actually mention the cross, redemption and salvation.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 5 September 2017 at 8:02am BST

Re: Interested Observer, Jim Wallis also writes: "Many Christians, including evangelicals, have been seeking to repent of the damage done to LGBTQ people by our churches, even if they still wrestle with theological issues around sexuality. In this statement, there is none of that spirit..."

The Wallis piece does not seem to offend Dr. King's view that, "... the judgment of God is upon the Church as never before. ...I am meeting with young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust" (Letter From Birmingham Jail)

I'm mot an evangelical. I disagree with Wallis when he writes: "The Bible should indeed be central to how we decide hard questions, and biblical commitment should cross all our differences." However,"...look for common ground, compassion, civility,...discern the heart of God ..." Seems like good advice. I suggest you ponder it.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 5 September 2017 at 2:03pm BST

The Nashville signatories need to reject this vile binary approach, and come into the modern world. In our parish we are even ahead of the times, and do not confine ourselves to the gender-neutral liturgy and bible translations. We reject the subliminal racism of associating blackness with evil. Instead of “people who walked in darkness” (Is 9:2) we use “people who walked in negativity”, and “cast into outer darkness” is “deprived of positivity”. In the compline, the reference to “defend us from all perils and dangers of this night” is “defend us from all perils and dangers of lovelessness”. Clearly, we avoid all words like “blackmail” and “blackguard”. I think all thinking Anglicans should embrace the colour-blind future, for it is the only way to the truly egalitarian society.

Posted by Peter Starr at Friday, 8 September 2017 at 8:25am BST
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