Just a matter of days after discussing civility, dignity and compasion when discussing LGBT issues with their children and visibly appearing to struggle with continuing maintenance of anti-LGBT religious beliefs in the face of a society moving quickly toward inclusivity, a number of Conservative Christian leaders have banded together in a statement of anti-LGBT vitriol that they've labeled the 'Nashville Statement.'
As O&AN reported last week from the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission convention, conservative educators discussed wide ranging issues of import to LGBT people and the potentially difficult conversations regarding homosexuality and transgenderism they are bound to have with young people, that bullying of LGBT kids in Christian environments occurs and it is wrong.
That was Friday, August 25th.
At the same time elsewhere during the SBC's convention, a number of Christian leaders were putting the final touches on a document they would identify, upon its release Tuesday, August 29th, as the Nashville Statement, which in fourteen stand-alone pronouncements argues explicitly against same-sex marriage, sex outside of marriage, as well as "homosexual or transgender self-conception."
The articles of the Nashville Statement were immediately rebuked by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry who on Twitter labeled the statement "poorly named" and inconsistent with the 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
Of particular note to many online articles thus far is Article 10, which essentially discourages "approval" of homosexuality and transgenderism, noting that does not equate to indifference. As well, Article 11 explicitly states that followers are to use gender terms of an individuals' birth regardless to their personal identification, a statement that runs contrary to the discussion held on Friday among SBC educators.
John Pavlovitz, a "20-year ministry veteran" from North Carolina, has drafted what he refers to as a "plain language translation" of the Nashville Statement. Of particular note is this portion:
And so right now, in the middle of an unprecedented humanitarian disaster, in one of the most divisive years in our nation’s history, in a time when we are terribly fractured—we’ve chosen to gather as Christian leaders:
not to condemn the White Supremacy and racism our President has refused to,
or to decry this Administrations ties to Russia,
or to state unequivocally that Black Lives Matter,
or to offer support for Muslim-Americans,
or to stand in solidarity with the tens of millions who may lose the ability to be cared for,
or to leverage our influence to rescue people under water in Houston.
No, we’ve chosen this moment to launch an unprovoked attack on an easy target.
We’ve chosen to perpetuate and sanction discrimination, violence, and bullying against an already marginalized community.
We chosen to do damage and create conflict, in a time when the world is so starved for healing and so immersed in discord.
Back here in town, Chris Sanders — you'll know him from the Tennessee Equality Project, but who also has a Masters degree in Divinity from Vanderbilt — took to Facebook to voice concern regarding the signatories of the Nashville Statement and the effects these words can have on vulnerable individuals in our community.
It's hard to tell people they're the ones projecting their feelings onto you. It's hard to tell them that their feelings are causing them to ignore problems in biblical translation. It's hard to get them beyond their feelings and see that you can't plop ancient texts written in other languages into 21st Century America without doing a lot of interpretive work.
So my feelings are reserved for the effects of their position. Yes, I'm scared for the effects on LGBTQ youth and adults. But I don't simply "feel" that their position is wrong. It's my best understanding of the text, the interpretative process, and thinking about the place of gender and sexuality in the whole of the theological enterprise . And that's where I think a lot of progressive Christians are coming from when we oppose documents like the Nashville Statement.
Photo: Mayor Megan Barry (then a Nashville councilwoman) presides over Nashville's first same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015, from O&AN archives.