Homosexual. Transgender. LGBTQ. Human sexuality is a religious question that is tearing church groups apart. I believe it is such a divisive question today because most Christian adults have made up their minds whether or not their understanding of Christianity allows for homosexual (or other nontraditional) relationships and practices. We have no room for discussion, no room for truly hearing the perspectives or stories of those with whom we disagree. If others disagree with us, we assume they are speaking out of hatred. Everybody believes they are standing for the truth. No one is willing to change their minds.
This week, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released a document called the “Nashville Statement,” named after the city where they were meeting when they wrote it. This statement was signed by many famous Christian leaders and distributed all over social media. It immediately produced negative feedback among other Christian groups, some of which responded with statements of their own (see the “Denver Statement” for an example). I encourage you to take a few minutes to read both of the statements I’ve linked here.
I believe that these two statements have their strengths. However, I cannot in good conscience sign my name to either the Nashville Statement or the Denver Statement, for various reasons. I will mention just one of my reasons for declining each statement:
- The Nashville Statement refers to “divinely ordained differences” between men and women. I am not sure whether this phrase refers to differences in sexuality or differences in gender roles (or both). What I do know is that the CBMW is comprised of an all-male staff, an all-male board, and a 24-member council which includes only six women, each of whom is listed on the CBMW website as “pastor’s wife” or, more often, “homemaker.” I do know that the CBMW stands for a doctrine called “complementarianism,” which essentially states that men and women are designed by God to have different (complementary) roles in the home and in the church. This results in marriages where husbands are the authority figures, and it results in churches where only men can lead, pastor, and teach. I do not agree with this complementarian perspective on gender, so I find it very difficult to agree with the CBMW statement on sexuality.
- The Denver Statement says that Christians “cannot bind the conscience of other Christians.” I understand what the House for All Sinners and Saints (HFASS, the congregation which wrote the Denver Statement) is trying to say here. The HFASS is known for making Jesus attractive to all kinds of people who are turned off by traditional churches. They teach that those whom Christ has set free are free indeed. For far too long Christians have used guilt and intimidation as means of changing other people’s sinful behaviors. However, I believe that the members of a congregation have an obligation to each other. We belong to each other, and when we see each other going down harmful paths (I’m speaking very broadly here, not about human sexuality), we owe it to each other to join hands with each other, to speak the truth in love, to show unfailing love and kindness, and to journey together toward holiness and the kingdom of God.
I have many other concerns about both statements. More importantly, though, I wish Christians could come together and write statements like these about economic inequality, racism, politics, genocide, warfare, discrimination, greed, gluttony, nationalism, and all sorts of other topics. Why is homosexuality The Big Issue for Christians today?
I know that homosexuality is a dividing line in the church. I know it’s not going away, and I know that arguments about this topic only move us further away from offering a life-giving message of good news to the rest of the world.
Regardless of my personal opinions about homosexuality (which I haven’t expressed here, but here’s a link to everything I have said about the topic), I want Mt. Haley Church of God to be a place where all people are welcome, where we can have difficult conversations with respect and grace, and where we all grow to become more like Jesus Christ. We are in this thing together. We must listen. We must love. We must stand for the truth, but we must also allow the truth to shape us.