Search TAP

The Light from Nashville


Photo: Sue Careless

By C. Peter Molloy

I HAVE BEEN thinking about the value of the kinds of public statements that theologians and pastors have been making lately There have been a quite a few out in quick succession – I hope you have been able to keep up.

In light of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (the general one, not the glorious English Reformation), a number of theologians have gotten together to “honour the original vision of the Reformers” by drafting a confession which shows how great the doctrinal consensus is amongst the spectrum of Protestant churches. Called A Reforming Catholic Confession, it is an excellent statement that has been endorsed by several friends of TAP, including Drs. Radner and Sumner. It is both edifying and encouraging to read. Read, mark and learn it with your Bible in hand and pencil at the ready. I am sure you will learn from it, as I certainly did.

A few more pointed ones have come out as well in the last little while. Most notable amongst these is The Nashville Statement. This statement was drafted this summer by leading Baptist theologians and endorsed by many evangelicals across the spectrum, in a response to the growing confusion that exists in North America on issues of sexuality and gender. Its opening paragraph sets out its target:

“Evangelical Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being.”

It then proceeds to lay out 14 articles, in a series of affirmations and denials, which lay out positive biblical teaching on sexuality and gender issues and also deny common ideas that run contrary to that teaching. Again, I would encourage you to look it up and to read through it. From where I stand, it appears to be straightforward teaching that most biblical Christians would endorse.

Since then there have been no end of anti-Nashville statements bouncing around the internet. A statement by Christians United, a Denver Statement, a Liturgists Statement and scads of personal statements from various and sundry church leaders and opiners across the blogosphere. Some are clear denials of the biblical teaching of the Nashville Statement. These would come from a progressive wing of the church or beyond, and I suspect we are familiar with the sort of teaching they advance. These are people who fundamentally disagree with a traditional interpretation of Scripture and Christian teaching and their counterpoint should be expected.

The ones that have me thinking a bit more are the ones that do not explicitly deny the teaching contained within the Nashville Statement, but which suggest that its publication or phrasing is rather tone deaf – that raising up these specific concerns at this time causes more heat than light, further stigmatizes and marginalizes LGBTQ members of the church and that it projects a less friendly image of the church to those on the outside. And these are the questions that really present a pastoral challenge for the church in our day. I have certainly found this in my own pastoral ministry and I am sure you have as well, whatever your vocation.

I really do get that people with same-sex attractions and gender dysphoria struggle and have experienced hurt. I get that the church has not always, and does not always, deal well with people who are struggling with these issues. And I get how these sorts of statements can feel like a door slamming shut from a community that should be open to all. I really do get that. But I also see the need for clarity around these issues in the midst of our current confusion. 

I don’t think anyone would deny that there has been a massive cultural shift in our thinking about these issues in this generation. As Anglicans we have always enjoyed being in step with culture. In generations past we have indeed lead culture in thinking about moral issues, but those days are long past. Now that culture has drifted so far from the teaching of Holy Scripture on these matters, we need to put large sign posts up warning Christians ‘that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction.’

It is not enjoyable to stand in opposition to popular cultural opinions; it would be much easier to keep quiet in conflict.

But in doing so we abandon the duty that Christians have to one another, and we withhold the path of salvation from those who have need of it.

Let us be grateful for the authors of the Nashville Statement. I am not ready to become a Baptist, but I am glad that they have offered clear and gracious teaching for us all on these difficult issues. May we in our own spheres of influence reflect the light that they have cast--that light being Christ.   TAP

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
Member Account Required
Comments can only be made by registered members of the TAP community. If you would like to be a member of TAP online, please go to our registration page.  If you're already a member and just haven't logged in yet... well, you know what to do.  God bless you!