Hundreds of pro-gay church leaders crossed the Nashville Statement’s “line in the sand” by rejecting it as heresy, and issued counter-manifestos claiming homosexuality is holy.
The 14-article Nashville Statement is a manifesto that clarified mainstream Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, as endorsed by over 150 interdenominational Christian leaders at a Southern Baptist Convention conference on Aug. 25.
The counter-manifesto, however, promotes homosexuality and transgender lifestyles as “fully blessed by God” and “without a need to conform to the heteronormative, patriarchal, binary sexuality and gender paradigm that Christianity has come to promote and embrace.”(Related: Nashville Mayor Condemns Christian Stance On Marriage)
It calls for a complete reinterpretation of scripture in conformity with current popular opinion, as opposed mainstream Christian doctrine’s call for people to be conformed to Christ’s teaching. The authors of the document hailed homosexuality-affirming Christians as “prophetic voices” who have been “excluded, marginalized, and demonized.”
While the Nashville Statement’s 14 articles addressed a multitude of topics concerning sexuality and marriage, Christians United’s 10 articles focused solely on acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism.
Jayne Ozanne, a principal signatory of the counter-manifesto and member of the Church of England’s general synod, told Christian Today that the document’s popularity and its rejection of binary genders were proof of its theological soundness.
“I think it very telling that within hours of the ‘Nashville statement’ being released, Christians United gathered twice as many signatories from church leaders that endorsed a far more affirming, loving and inclusive set of articles that embraces the LGBTI community,” Ozanne said. “I challenge people to read both statements and see which they believe reflects the width, length, height and depth of God’s love for all creation – and in so doing see which is the more prophetic and courageous in a world that is increasingly fueled by fear and hate.”
A group of Christian artists founded by Michael Gungor and Mike McHargue called The Liturgists issued another counter-manifesto against the Nashville Statement. Their counter-manifesto, like Christians United, also focused solely on acceptance of homosexuality in all of its eight statements of belief.
“We believe that same-sex relationships and marriages are as holy before God as heterosexual marriages,” one such statement reads.
The manifesto also specifically denounced the Nashville Statement as “powerful people of means (using) the platform of the Church to demean the basic dignity of gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans, intersex, and queer people.”
The authors of the document equated the Nashville Statement’s claim that homosexuality is sinful with past church leaders using the bible to “justify slavery, resistance to interracial marriage, genocide, and war.”
Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Ph.D., contributed yet another counter-manifesto, the Nazareth Statement, against the Nashville Manifesto via The Huffington Post. Lewis decried the Nashville Statement in her manifesto as “heretical and boldly against the teachings of God as we find in the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ.”
The document’s first two of its 10 statements affirm gay people as gay by divine design and promote gender equality. The remaining eight statements veer off to address issues of race, mass incarceration, and the economy – none of which was brought up in any of the Nashville Statement’s 14 articles about sex and marriage.
Most of the criticism and counter-manifestos leveled at the Nashville Statement focus on Article 10, which states:
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.
Denny Burk, president of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said the article was rightly interpreted as a “line in the sand,” on the issue of the Christian stance toward homosexual and transgender lifestyles, to the chagrin of many pro-gay Church leaders and advocates.
Critics decried the statement for what they saw as a denial of the dignity and value of people leading LGBT lifestyles – a critique which stands in stark contrast to article 8 of the Nashville Statement, which states:
WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.
WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.
Articles 6, 12, 13, and 14 make similar statements on the inherent dignity of and hope of redemption for people of all backgrounds and orientations, according to mainstream Christian doctrine as affirmed by the signatories of the Nashville statement.
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