Nashville statement on sexuality prompts response from LGBT-supporting Christians

01 September 2017

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CHRISTIAN supporters of LGBT inclusion in the Church have been quick to issue a direct and opposing response to a statement released by Conservative Evangelicals this week which affirmed their belief that approval of “homosexual immorality” is sinful.

The Nashville statement was released by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an Evangelical coalition in the United States, on Tuesday. It lists 14 beliefs, including a rejection of the idea that marriage can be homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous, or that people can be identified as anything other than male or female according to the reproductive organs with which they were born.

The statement, which has accrued more than 150 signatures, including British clerics, also condemns sexual promiscuity, relations, and desire outside marriage; denies the possibility of redemption for people who identify as homosexual or transgender; and states that approving of “homosexual immorality or transgenderism” constitutes “moral indifference”.

But LGBT campaigners responded by publishing a parallel statement, named Christians United, the following day. It imitates the structure and language of the Nashville statement, but contradicts its beliefs. The foreword reads: “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.”

Its first article states “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” and denies “any teaching that suggests God’s creative intent is limited to a gender binary” or that romantic love is limited to heterosexual relationships.

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It has been signed by 600 religious leaders, academics, and activists from across the major Christian denominations. One of the initial 100 signatories, Jayne Ozanne, a General Synod member, said: “It is very telling that within hours of the Nashville Statement being released, Christians United gathered twice as many signatories from church leaders who endorsed a far more affirming, loving, and inclusive set of articles that embraces the LGBTI community.

“I challenge people to read both statements and see which they believe reflects the width, length, height and depth of God’s love for all creation — and in so doing see which is the more prophetic and courageous in a world that is increasingly fuelled by fear and hate.”

Both statements have been fiercely debated on Twitter. The Revd Sam Allberry, an NSM at St Andrew and St Mary Magdalene, Maidenhead, who self-identifies as same-sex attracted, tweeted on Tuesday: “The Nashville Statement brings much needed clarity to issues where there is often silence, pain, and confusion.”

He co-founded the group Living Out, which supports conservative same-sex-attracted Christians who are conflicted by sexual ethics and biblical teachings. He is also a member of the pastoral advisory group established this year by the Archbishops, which has the task of “supporting and advising dioceses on pastoral actions with regard to our current pastoral approach to human sexuality” (News, 30 June).

The Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Revd Greg Brewer tweeted: “The #NashvilleStatement fails in Christian witness and is tone deaf to the nuances of Jesus.It is caricature not witness. Lord, have mercy!”

And a curate at Grace-St Luke’s Episcopal Church and School in Memphis, Tennessee, the Revd Broderick Greer, an African-American, said that his thoughts were with those LGBT Christians “traumatised” by the statement.

He wrote on Twitter: “I did a stint from ages 13-20 in white evangelicalism and deeply understand its obsession with marginalizing LGBTQ people. This is not new.

“People go out of their way to express their disgust with and disapproval of LGBTQ people by doing the theological equivalent of grunting. I would rather die than subject myself to ecclesial leadership abuse for my sexual orientation.”

Mr Greer was a keynote speaker at the Gay Christian Network Conference last year.

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