Those nasty, bigoted and homophobic Christians are at it again.
A meeting of a large and powerful US organisation, the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, recently agreed and announced a statement on issues of human sexuality. Specifically, it touches on several issues that have so riven church politics and culture in the last two decades: homosexuality, marriage and transgender.
The Nashville Statement is an appeal to Christians to stand firmly on an understanding of God’s will on these questions, which has only relatively recently been held up to question. In the preamble it says:
This secular spirit of our age presents a great challenge to the Christian church. Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life? Will she maintain her clear, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on ruin? … We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female.
It would be safe to say that the internet is alive with the sound of outrage. Outrage from LGBQT+ voices who would not call themselves Christian believers, but also from those within the church that want to promote a spirit of acceptance for those who have adopted "alternative" sexual lifestyles and identities.
The outrage and name calling only underlines how distant biblical Christianity has now become from the ruling ethic of our culture. We march to the beat of a different drum. We have always thought differently about money and truth and what ultimately matters. But suddenly it is in this area of gender and sexuality that we most feel the yawning gap.
I signed the statement—and encourage you to do the same—because I am persuaded that the explanations it contains reflect accurately the teachings of the Bible, and that they are therefore an accurate representation of what God is saying about these issues.
And we need the clarity of statements like this to help us resist the age-old snake talk which asks: "Did God really say…" (Genesis 3:1)
But the other reason I was glad to sign the statement was this. It did not just stop at being a statement of belief about the sinfulness or otherwise of these alternative positions. It also affirms and underlines the need for Christian people to speak lovingly and with kindness to those who identify in this way; to encourage those who are seeking to live a celibate single lifestyle as Christians wrestling with these feelings; and to be welcoming to all people.
And ultimately, I signed it because it puts the emphasis for the debate firmly in its right place. The most important thing for everyone is to discover the love, acceptance and forgiveness that is ours in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like everyone else in our fallen world, LGBTQ+ people are seeking love, freedom, fulfilment, and fruitfulness. They are just looking in the wrong place for it.
Tim Thornborough is Publishing Director at The Good Book Company, and has edited books such as Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry and Transgender by Vaughan Roberts. He blogs regularly at The Good Book Company Blog
Premier Christianity is publishing a variety of perspectives on the Nashville Statement. Click here to read an alternative viewpoint.