The issuing of the Nashville statement by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in the USA has created a lot of ripples across the Christian blogosphere and press in recent days. Seeing themselves at a crucial juncture of human history, or at least the history of Western society they have set out their position in a preamble and a series of articles affirming and denying various things relating to marriage, gender and sexuality. You can read their statement online. It will probably come as no surprise to most readers of the statement that the main foundations of their argument are the metaphor of the church as the bride of Christ and Adam and Eve as God’s model for the family.
There have been many responses and rebuttals to the statement. Among the best I’ve seen are the Denver statement and a series of tweets from Fr James Martin SJ. The Denver statement is “a response to the Nashville Statement by some of the queer, trans, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, gender-queer, asexual, straight, single, married image-bearering Christians at House for All Sinners & Saints (Denver, Co).” It consciously follows the structure of the Nashville statement, responding systematically to each article. That said, it is more than capable of standing alone as a compelling theological approach to human sexuality and gender in the context of God’s wondrous creation.
A particular highlight for me from it is in Article 10:
WE AFFIRM that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, and while we believe in the full inclusion of all people into the body of Christ (here we stand we can do no other), we cannot bind the conscience of other Christians.
Fr James’ series of tweets follow the same affirm/deny structure as both the Nashville and Denver statements and similarly respond well, with an overall emphasis on God’s love for LGBT people and God’s image revealed in us.
I admire these responses (and others) and I’m moved by their contents. The affirm/deny structure lends a certain clarity to all the statements, including Nashville. But I wonder if there is a problem with this approach. I fear it leads us to divide Christians and others into two sides and we are reduced again to conservative / traditional / evangelical vs. progressive / liberal / inclusive, when we know that things are more complicated than that.
Within Dignity & Worth, we aim for a church which is in Lord Soper’s words "a fellowship of controversy" and to work for practical reconciliation with those with whom we disagree. This requires us to cross the lines we so easily draw and work together as people who are all created in God’s image.