This last week has seen the release of the Nashville statement by prominent evangelical American Christian leaders followed by a counter statement from the other side and countless parody statements on twitter.
The “Nashville Statement” affirms a traditional view of marriage as being a heterosexual institution whilst denying that homosexual marriage is honouring of God. It affirms gender as male and female and God given. It is worth noting that the council for biblical manhood and womanhood (hosts of the meeting that resulted in the statement) hold a complementation view on gender & marriage. The Nashville statement also affirms that sexuality is a central teaching and thus these issues are ones of orthodoxy. Therefore its proponents would hold that one cannot agree to disagree on this issue and that those who affirm same sex marriage or transgender identities are operating outside of orthodoxy. Those who are LGBT+ would be seen as not living as faithful followers of Jesus.
“The Statement” by Christians United is similarly laid out with a preamble and then 13 sets of affirmations and denials. It affirms that a wide spectrum of sexuality and gender identities are part of the beauty of Gods creativity and so support same sex marriage as well as a non binary view on gender. It denies any teaching that suggests God design for sexual relationships for solely between one man or one woman and would hold that such teaching is an affront to Gods intended design. They want LGBT+ to be embraced by the church as faithful followers of Jesus and desire all offices within the church be open and available to LGBT+ people.
I’m not here to debate the theology of this one. I will say that with such huge differences by people earnestly searching the scriptures, neither side can claim this is clear cut or be so arrogant as to suggest they definitely 100% cant be wrong.
I am going to suggest that in this instance statements do little to help anyone.
The Nashville statement is clear, concise, straightforward and outlines definitive positions with clarity and definition.
The counter statement exactly the same in its approach.
Yet the issue of human sexuality and gender identity is everything but clear, concise, straightforward and definitive. That makes both statements unhelpful.
As if these do anything but further polarise people on both sides. As if the Christian community was not already aware what John Piper thinks.
It is a complex issue involving the very definition (a definition I don’t believe we truly have) of what it means to be human, to be made in the image of God and also marred by sin. Made more difficult through our broken and incorrect gender stereotypes and many other labels that people have been pushing back against and throwing off.
I’m well aware that despite being cis gendered and heterosexual – my sexuality, my gender ideas, identity and expression of both is flawed and distorted by sin and God is doing a work in me on that. I would be reasonably confident to say the same is true for Piper, Chan, and everyone else who has signed any of these statements.
All people are trying to find worth, acceptance, meaning, belonging amidst things beautiful created by God and distorted through sin and brokenness. This is complex, and so the conversations must be complex and any “solution” if one even exists, will be complex.
Each person dealing with these issues will have their own story, their own web of relationships, broken and beautiful, that has both accentuated and hidden the image of God in them. That cannot be reduced to concise, straightforward statements.
Christians – whatever our theological position – must be willing to leap into the unique web of complexity for each individual we minister to. Trans or cis gendered, homo or hetero sexual. That is the only way we will be able to be Christ and show Christ to all who have written of the church as irrelevant to them.
There won’t be an app for that, or a nice packaged programme to guide you through it across 10 weeks and a weekend.