Nashville Mayor Megan Barry on Tuesday criticized the Nashville Statement written and signed by evangelical Christians to show support for traditional marriage and maintain that homosexuality and transgenderism are sinful.
The document was approved Friday at a meeting in Nashville of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). The meeting was hosted by the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commision (ERLC) during its annual conference.
Barry, a progressive Democrat, tweeted that the statement and its name reflect poorly on Nashville because the declaration “does not represent the inclusive values of the city.”
The @CBMWorg's so-called "Nashville Statement" is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) August 29, 2017
In 2015, when she was a Metro councilwoman and a mayoral candidate, Barry officiated the first same-sex wedding in Nashville just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the 14th Amendment extends the right to marry to same-sex couples.
Denny Burk, president of CBMW, wrote on the organization’s website that naming the statement for the city of Nashville follows historical practice. He said:
There is a long Christian tradition of naming doctrinal statements after the places where they were drawn up: The Nicene Creed (325), the Constantinopolitan Creed (381), the Chalcedonian Creed (451), etc. Even more recently, there was the Barmen Declaration (1934), The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), The Danvers Statement (1987), and the Manhattan Declaration (2009). There are countless other examples. In each case, the name simply indicates where the statements were drawn up. Whether The Nashville Statement will prove to be as enduring as those others remains to be seen. But that is the reason for the name. We were simply following a precedent set by many before us.
The Nashville Statement has been signed by more than 150 conservative Christian leaders.
For some, it doesn’t come as a surprise that conservative Christians would publicly affirm biblical sexual ethics. In mocking the mainstream media for acting shocked, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted, “File this one under the same category as ‘Pope Condemns Abortion.’ ”
However, in recent years evangelicals have been wracked by internal debate. The Nashville Statement is meant to shore up support for biblical teachings and address head-on the current tendency among some evangelical Christians to make same-sex behavior an issue on which they can agree to disagree. Article 10 of the statement says:
WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.
WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.
Some evangelicals have completely broken ranks on the issue and have fully endorsed homosexuality and transgenderism as compatible with a faithful Christian life. Last year, popular evangelical author, speaker and HGTV star Jen Hatmaker announced that she now supports same-sex marriage and believes LGBT relationships can be holy. She blasted the Nashville Statement on Twitter:
The fruit of the "Nashville Statement" is suffering, rejection, shame, and despair. The timing is callous beyond words.
— JenHatmaker (@JenHatmaker) August 29, 2017
If the fruit of doctrine regularly & consistently creates shame, self-harm, suicide, & broken hearts, families, & churches, we shld listen.
— JenHatmaker (@JenHatmaker) August 29, 2017
Rod Dreher of The American Conservative wrote that Hatmaker’s tweets show why the Nashville Statement is needed. “There is nothing new in the statement. It is basic orthodox Christian theology on sexuality and gender — the sort of thing relatively few Christians would have challenged until recent years,” Dreher said.
Of Hatmaker’s comments, Dreher said, “This is what happens when you theologize guided by nothing but emotion. This is not Christianity…You would have to have a head of pudding to think you could dismiss very clear and deep biblical anthropology and moral teaching about sex and sexuality, to say nothing of the consistent witness of the church from its founding until pretty much the day before yesterday.”
In addition to concerns about spiritual and emotional well-being, evangelical Christians have also expressed concern about the harmful physical effects of homosexual behavior. While rarely noted by the mainstream media and LGBT activists, studies continue to show the health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sexually transmitted diseases have been rising among gay and bisexual men. In 2014, male gay sex accounted for 83 percent of syphilis cases in the U.S. in which the sex of the partner was known. Also, men who have sex with men are 17 times more likely to get anal cancer than heterosexual men, with men who are HIV positive being more at risk.
The Nashville Statement condemns all sex outside the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman – whether homosexual or heterosexual. But it makes clear the belief that anyone can experience a changed life through God’s grace. Article 12 says:
WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin.
Some Christians were disappointed that the statement did not directly address the growing promotion of “gay Christianity” among evangelicals, the belief that homosexual orientation is a fixed identity but that self-identified gay Christians should practice celibacy. Critics say the gay Christian movement downplays the hope of a changed life and can lead eventually to acceptance of homosexual behavior. They contend that while it’s good to be honest about a struggle with same-sex desires, Christians shouldn’t identify themselves as gay as if it were an integral part of who they are.
In a Facebook post about the Nashville Statement, conservative Christian radio talk show host Janet Mefferd said that “overall, it is very good. But I am also quite concerned that nowhere in this statement is there an explicit denial of so-called ‘gay Christianity.’ ” A commenter under her post agreed that this is “a huge issue,” writing that it “is the Trojan Horse through which homosexuality enters the church.”