I’m wondering this morning if the Nashville Statement issued last week has more potential to draw people to Christ, back to a local church, deeper into relationship with God, or less?
The responses I read on social media indicated less.
My concerns with the Nashville Statement stem from the pain it has caused many of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Christ, and sadly, its failure to accomplish what I would hope the drafters intended.
Instead of drawing people closer to God, the Nashville Statement has pushed many away.
First, the statement doesn’t teach anything that we didn’t already know. Most of us have grown up in a local church and we know the views toward sexuality presented in the statement to be the traditional Christian sexual ethic that’s been the standard for decades. Centuries. This is precisely the reason that so many of us have wrestled internally for much of our lives. We’ve been trying to resolve the conflict between feelings we didn’t ask for, with what we have been taught about living a godly life in regard to our sexuality.
For most of us, we’ve had to do our searching and wrestling alone. And many have ended that wrestling by taking their own lives.
It has always amazed me the way we think reading a passage of scripture or drafting a document that lays out a policy or position will somehow instantly change the way people think, or live our lives. Certainly a statement like this provides guidance for anyone who didn’t know previously what this group of Christians believed about marriage and sexuality, and it gives reassurance for those who already hold these beliefs. But it provides no encouragement or design for living my life as a Christian woman who is attracted to other women in a way that I’m called to in this document. I would hope that the drafters intended more than anything, to encourage – to invite – those of us within the LGBTQ community to want to connect, or even reconnect with God.
To the authors of this statement, I so want to believe that your main desire was to encourage deeper relationship with God and a desire to live a life of holiness. But the way you went about this doesn’t speak to anyone’s heart who isn’t already in total agreement with you. If your intent was to reach out to anyone else other than the very ones who believe the same way you do, simply issuing a statement won’t do.
It is Christ’s love that compels us – love that came down to earth to live among us, as one of us, in relationship with us.
Two of your signers are proof of the power of relationship in bringing people to Christ. I have great respect for Christopher Yuan and Rosaria Butterfield as brother and sister in Christ. To my knowledge, they were the only representatives from the Christian LGBTQ community who were consulted in drafting the document. I’ve read both of their books, and I’ve heard them share their compelling testimonies of conversion to Christ. Their commitment to living out their lives as they have felt called by God is to be admired. But for both of them, their desire for transformation in their sexual identities didn’t happen with a document. If I remember correctly, they were ultimately won over to Christ, and in altering their views of sexuality, through spending time – over an extended period of time – in deep, personal relationships with other Christians.
And if this is true, why, then, would you devote an entire article in the statement to chastising straight Christians for forming relationships with us, lest it seem they were too accepting of us, and thus reflect on their own Christianity?
If you believe we are transformed through relationship and community, why would you want to make it more difficult for us to be in relationship with fellow Christians and find real belonging within a faith community? Why would you want to create an even greater risk and stigma for our parents and grandparents and siblings and friends and aunts and uncles and cousins if they maintain close connection with us, making relationship with us a black mark on their own faithfulness?
Sadly, responding to an issue with a document, void of any mention of God’s love and our need for community, is what causes the most pain. Pain that has rarely – if ever – resulted in the transformation you are requiring. In fact, over my lifetime, all I’ve witnessed is that rejection and abandonment drives people further away from God. That’s what’s so frustrating at the very least.
Something like the Nashville statement comes out and it opens old wounds of rejection and isolation from last month, last year, decades ago. Unless you’ve been close to someone who’s gone through this pain personally, you may not realize what that’s like. It’s easy to simply see the anger that spews from social media posts and believe it to be a disproportionate reaction. Perhaps. But I encourage you to look deeper, to listen, because there’s a lot of pain underneath that reaction, of which you may not be aware.
Sometimes pain comes out in anger and greater advocacy, and sometimes it goes inward. When it goes inward is when it does the most damage, resulting in silence, secrecy, isolation, depression, and even suicide.
My dear friends, people are sitting in your pews who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and they have never told a soul. Many don’t dare wear those labels, just as your statement also takes issue against. They would say they “experience same sex attraction,” but they’re scared to death and filled with shame to even take a risk and choose vulnerability over hiding. I know because I lived in that silence and shame for years.
If this statement had been publicized when I was living in secrecy over 20 years ago, I would’ve listened carefully to your conversation. I would’ve read every thread of comments on social media. I would’ve observed your facial expressions and tone of voice when talking about “the gays.” Because even when I didn’t yet wear that label, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish between what you said about a group of people you thought were just being hostile, and me. I would have taken it personally, adding to my shame and fear of anyone finding out.
This is why the Nashville Statement doesn’t accomplish what I want to believe its drafters intended, to bring us into deeper relationship with God and with each other. After all, that would require greater transparency and authenticity. Issuing statements like these doesn’t make it easier to open up and share our lives with you, it makes it harder.
Finally, I believe it also makes it harder to convince people that church can be a safe place. Or that they’re deeply loved by God.
I’m thankful for a church that embraces me just as I am, and I know other churches who would. I’m thankful for relationships that keep me anchored in my faith when I feel afloat. And for brothers and sisters in Christ who aren’t afraid to sit next to me at the table.