Reflections on the “Nashville Statement”
By Pastor Kali Freels
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” -- Ezekiel 16:49
In a week full of unthinkable tragedy, one would hope that the faith leaders of this country would implore their congregations to care for the widow and the orphan, those whom scripture calls us to care for time and time again-- and some have. But the biggest names in evangelical Christianity have instead chosen to use their voices in much more harmful ways. They released a statement that will undoubtedly be used in the days to come for violence and discrimination in the name of Jesus, the One who is all loving and welcomed all.
They approved the publishing of such a divisive document during a week of disaster and tragedy. Instead of allocating their resources to help those in our country who are enduring much suffering in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey, they are advocating for donations for themselves so they can widely disseminate this document. Many of the initial signers have been known to publically state that natural disasters are “God’s judgement upon that city,” so perhaps we should not be that surprised by the timing of this document or the fact that they are asking for money for themselves, not for Harvey survivors.
A large number of Southern Baptists signed this document. For those unfamiliar with Baptist history, Baptists have always believed in the right of soul freedom-- the freedom to recognize that the Holy Spirit speaks to each of us differently. Because of that belief, Baptists of all stripes have always been a non-creedal people because creeds would put limits upon how people could interpret the Spirit. They can call it a “statement” or a “manifesto” all they want, but those Baptists are going to have to deal with the fact that they sacrificed their convictions as a non-creedal people in order to put limits on how other people interpret the Holy Spirit speaking to them.
It isn’t based in scripture. Outside of the preamble, they quote no scripture references to back the affirmations/denials in the articles. Considering this is a conservative “evangelical” document, one would expect that they would have gone through great lengths to provide scriptural evidence for each article. They didn’t even try. The lack thereof only demonstrates that they couldn’t force scripture to back beliefs as harmful as theirs.
It’s contradictory. In one article, they waste no effort in stating that God only creates people as male or female-- only two ways. In a later article, they state explicitly that Jesus said that some people are born eunuchs-- outside of the male/female binary. By stating that God creates eunuchs, they are stating that God creates people who are neither male nor female. They are trying to have it both ways, but they are failing.
It’s dishonoring to God. They state several times in the articles that “choosing” to express gender in a way that is not explicitly “in God’s perfect design” is disrespectful to God. They also --in no uncertain terms-- say numerous times things that God does not do and things that God does: ex. God does create people as male or female; God does not make people transgender. Saying that you know exactly how God chooses to interact in the world is dishonoring to God because you are putting limits on what God can or cannot do.
It goes against the heart of evangelicalism. As a progressive evangelical, I know that telling people of the good news of Christ is central to evangelical belief. But I also know that people aren’t compelled to listen to what you have to say about Jesus if you start with words of condemnation. These are words of condemnation, not love. With every statement like this they release, they lose their claim to the evangelical title.
This is a hard document for LGBTQ+ Christians to see at this tumultuous time in our country, but we’re a strong people. We’re strong because we keep faith in Christ regardless of what others have to say. Stay strong, my brothers, sisters, and non-gender conforming siblings. We know that love wins.