Upholding Clarity in an Age of Confusion: The Nashville Statement, Part 1

Taking a Stand

Anyone who has pored over the arguments for homosexuality…knows they’re rubbish. When the dust settles, the case for accepting and “celebrating” same-sex relationships has never and will never be a rational one. It is emotional, built of beaming stock photos, upbeat music, and a glib disregard for the consequences for children growing up with two parents of the same sex, and the grim reality of the gay lifestyle.
G. Shane Morris


Key point: The Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality was signed by scores of Christian leaders and released in late August to restate and affirm what the Bible teaches about human sexuality, being created by God in His image as male and female human beings, and the meaning of marriage. In a day of cultural confusion and ambiguity over what is right and proper with regard to these important issues, it is a much needed statement.


You can access summaries of all the articles in this series here.

At Stand to Reason’s reTHINK Apologetics Conference held at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama on April 21-22, 2017, speaker and author Brett Kunkle likened subjective truth to ice cream preferences and objective truth to medicine. These analogies are quite appropriate. Ask five people to name their favorite flavors of ice cream and you may very well get five different answers—but a doctor diagnoses a disease or condition according to what he or she thinks it is, not according to desires or preferences. When surgery is needed, the patient’s well-being, and possibly even his or her life, depend on a doctor who is understanding, yet well-informed about what the problem really is. The doctor, especially, must not shy away from reality!

Jack Benny

This humorous exchange from the Jack Benny radio program airing October 18, 1953, illustrates the problem. The clip features Benny, voice talent Mel Blanc, and actress Veola Vonn.

Unfortunately, Christians often are squeamish—or at least less than confident—with regard to the truth about a great many critical issues today, including sexuality, homosexuality, and the meaning of marriage.

We must be compassionate and loving—absolutely. No one ever has an excuse for hatred or gay-bashing. We must realize that we who never have experienced same-sex attraction are in no less need of a Savior than the most militant homosexual activist. Yet we also need to see that it’s impossible to love authentically without upholding the truth. To uphold it effectively, we must know it and understand it.

Affirming Scriptural Teaching

For these and many other reasons, it’s encouraging that on Tuesday, August 29, a group of evangelical leaders released a statement upholding biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage. The Nashville Statement comes officially from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC) also was involved. Like many other confessions and statements in church history, The Nashville Statement bears the name of the city in which it was forged and refined.

Denny Burk

CBMW President Denny Burk cited the following as examples. In early church history, “The Nicene Creed (325), the Constantinopolitan Creed (381), [and] the Chalcedonian Creed (451)” were drafted and released. Burk added, “Even more recently, there was the Barmen Declaration (1934), The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), The Danvers Statement (1987), and the Manhattan Declaration (2009).…In each case, the name simply indicates where the statements were drawn up.” (Hyperlinks have been added.)

Established in 1987, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has a  mission of setting “forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church.”

The Nashville Statement’s Preamble says in part,

[The] 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. Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.

It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.
—Preamble to the Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality—


The entire Preamble is available here. It is followed by fourteen articles, each offering an affirmation and a denial. We will consider several of these in future posts, but for now, we should recognize that the drafters and signatories of The Nashville Statement didn’t affirm it for acclaim or popularity. Reaction was both harsh and swift.

    • A headline in the New York Daily News declared, “Evangelical council’s manifesto about ‘biblical sexuality’ and same-sex sin is straight out of the 1980s.”
    • “The Huffington Post” carried this article: “Evangelical Leaders Release Anti-LGBTQ Statement On Human Sexuality.”
    • At salon.com, this article carried news about the Nashville Statement. Here is the headline: “Evangelicals’ bigotry-filled Nashville Statement is denounced for its anti-LGBT message.” The last sentence reads, “The statement was denounced on social media as ‘un-American toilet paper’ written by hypocrites.”
    • Nashville Mayor Megan Barry tweeted, “The @CBMWorg‘s so-called “Nashville Statement” is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry
    • Offended by the name of their city in the name of the CBMW statement, a group of Nashville residents issued what they called the “Accurate Nashville Statement.” The headline of an article about the counter-statement states that it “Embraces LGBTQ With Love to Counter Bigoted Hate.”
    • In an article appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Rex Huppke drew up his own “Chicago Statement.” It declares that while the Nashville Statement says being gay, lesbian, or transgendered offends God, failing to affirm the wide range of differences existing within the human family is what really offends Him. Also offensive to Him, according to Ruppke’s “Chicago Statement,” is overlooking the fact that it is “wildly and dangerously damaging” to tell “LBGT people that they’re sinners, that their identity is wrong, [and] that they’re somehow imperfect.” Moreover, this is “a sin in and of itself.”
    • A group at the House for all Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, issued a counter-statement that sought to refute  CBMW’s declaration point-by-point.
    • A group calling itself “Christians United” issued a statement “In Support of LGBT+ Inclusion in the Church.”
    • Jen Hatmaker, an “evangelical” speaker, author, and HGTV television personality, came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2016. Her beliefs prompted LifeWay Christian Stores in October to stop selling her books. After the Nashville Statement was released, Hatmaker tweeted, “The fruit of the “Nashville Statement” is suffering, rejection, shame, and despair. The timing is callous beyond words.”
    • In response to the Nashville Statement, in a series of tweets, Jesuit priest James Martin issued his own series of articles of affirmation and denial, including this one: “I affirm: That LGBT people are some of the holiest people I know. I deny: That Jesus wants us to judge others, when he clearly forbade it.”

One certainly would expect strong opposition from those who don’t claim to be Christians, but here we see several people describing themselves as both evangelical and Christian expressing their disagreement in the strongest of terms. It’s interesting they so harshly condemn judging others, yet their condemnations against judging also are judgments. In other words, these people are doing exactly what they are accusing the drafters and signers of the Nashville Statement of doing. One wonders if this insight has totally slipped by these individuals.

In condemning the practice of judging others, critics of those who support the Nashville Statement are themselves judging others.

Widespread, Diverse Support

According to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Professor Owen Strachan,

Owen Strachan

The secular pushback to the document was altogether expected. But an article in the Washington Post—bearing the gentle title “Why even conservative evangelicals are unhappy with the anti-LGBT Nashville Statement”—argues that “conservative evangelicals” are opposing the statement. Not many are, it turns out; Katelyn Beaty quotes all of five evangelicals, most of whom agree with the document’s core commitments, but object to its tone. Given that more than 170 men and women signed the statement, things seem a bit overblown on this point.…

[Actually,]  it’s not hard to see why a stunning number of evangelicals signed it: like biblical figures themselves, it calls sin what the Bible calls sin (see Deuteronomy 22:5, Roman 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 for starters) while holding out the hope of salvation for every sinner of every kind, however far from God they may be.

Brandon Showalter

Writing for The Christian Post, Brandon Showalter authored an article carrying the headline, “Broad Coalition of Evangelicals Releases ‘Nashville Statement’ on Human Sexuality, Identity.” Mr. Showalter points out that the signers are diverse in terms of age, race, sex, and denominational representation. Can Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, leaders from non-denominational churches and ministries, and leaders from “almost every other historic Orthodox Protestant tradition” agree on what the Bible teaches about marriage and sexuality? The Nashville Statement offers strong evidence in the affirmative, because signers come from all of these groups. The professions represented are diverse as well; they include “theologians, Bible scholars, church pastors and ministry leaders, seminary presidents, college professors, Christian public policy thinkers, and writers.” Moreover, the number of signers continues to grow.

Even though support is broad, the strong opposition to the Nashville Statement, especially from inside evangelical circles—even from a few—underscores one of many reasons the declaration was and is so desperately needed.

Satan is a very cunning deceiver. He doesn’t just mislead people who mean harm, but also people who mean well.

Next time, we’ll explore just how effective a misleader he really is.

Part 2 is available here.


Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.Ownn

Unless otherwise marked, Scriptures have been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

One Scripture, which is marked NLT,  was taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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