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Nashville Statement Reveals Deeply Polarized Christian Community

Nashville Statement Reveals Deeply Polarized Christian Community
Leading World Anglicans Signed it. No Episcopal Bishops Signed On

By David W. Virtue, DD
Sept. 4, 2017

A landmark document on human sexuality -- the Nashville Statement -- is being viewed by many church leaders as deeply polarizing in today's Culture Wars as thousands of churches capitulate their biblical witness on morals, even as their churches empty and die.

A preamble to the statement reads thus:

As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being...Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ ...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 lists 14 beliefs, including a rejection of the idea that marriage can be homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous, and affirmed that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant
love between Christ and his bride the church...a position the church has maintained for 2,000 years.

Predictably, Christian progressives vehemently denounced the whole document as bigoted and worse.

Evangelical leaders from across the denominational spectrum welcomed and applauded the Statement for being clear, biblical, culturally relevant, prophetic and Gospel-centered, even as the shrill cry of pansexualists said it was pastorally insensitive towards gay people, filled with homophobia and hate, viewing the Nashville Statement as unnecessarily antagonistic toward some of the very people whose commitment to a biblical sexual ethic means they are living out costly obedience.

Ironically, some of the signatories to the Nashville Statement publicly stated their struggle with same-sex attraction, and clearly do not feel that the statement is "antagonistic" towards them.

Leading world-class Anglicans like Dr. J.I. Packer signed the Statement, as did the Rev. Dick Lucas, Rector Emeritus St. Helen's Bishopsgate, a leading evangelical witness to the city's business district for decades and Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St. Ebbe's Church, Oxford, UK also had no difficulty signing onto it as did Dr. Michael Reeves president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in Oxford, England. VOL has confirmed that Canon Michael Green, England's best known Anglican evangelist and the author of more than 50 books has now signed the Statement.

In the U.S., ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach signed the statement as did CANA East Bishop Julian Dobbs.

However, once-upon-a-time charismatic priest of the evangelical Church of the Good Samaritan, Paoli, PA, now Bishop of Central Florida, Greg Brewer tweeted: "The #NashvilleStatement fails in Christian witness and is tone deaf to the nuances of Jesus. It is caricature not witness. Lord, have mercy!" REALLY! In an e-mail to VOL he confirmed, "this will do nothing to bring anyone to faith in Jesus Christ. So- why?" Ah, maybe because (homo)sexuality is an ontological issue, a creation ordinance, an issue that has eternal consequences if indulged in...if one is to believe what the Apostle Paul says.

The Episcopal Bishop of Springfield, Dan Martins, an Anglo-Catholic, also said he would not sign the statement. In an e-mail to VOL he wrote; "It is no secret that I hold the theological position that marriage was instituted by God in creation as a lifelong sacramental relationship between one man and one woman. It is also no secret that I hold the theological conviction that genital sexual activity between persons outside of that context of marriage falls short of God's will and design for human sexuality and human society. So, there is obviously material in the Nashville Statement (which I have really only scanned, not read closely) to which I could give mental assent.

"However, I will not be signing it. The lesser reason is its affirmation of Adam and Eve as historical persons, a belief which is not required by Christian orthodoxy and to which I do not subscribe. (The belief that human beings are fallen creatures, under the thrall of sin and death, however, *is* required by Christian orthodoxy and I do subscribe to it.) The greater reason is the rhetorical tone of the Nashville Statement. It is combative and pugnacious. It speaks the truth, but it does not speak the truth in love."

For the record, one of the affirmations read, "WE AFFIRM our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female."

VOL requested comments from bishops Bill Love (Albany) and George Sumner (Dallas), both of whom claim to be orthodox in faith and morals but did not get a response.

Clearly the Statement framers were not going to be led down the primrose path of felt pain or misplaced compassion. When next the Church condemns adultery and fornication will clergy be condemned as heterophobic and hate-filled?

Among the more than 150 evangelical signers that included scholars from most of America's seminaries was the Rev. Dr. Robert Gagnon, whose in-depth book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutic offers the most thorough analysis of the biblical texts relating to homosexuality, powerfully challenging attempts to identify love and inclusivity with affirmation of homosexual practice. No liberal or revisionist pastor or theologian has seriously undermined or challenged his arguments. He does justice to the biblical texts and to current scientific data as no one else has.

Christian Concern, a UK Blog said this; "We applaud the clarity, conviction, compassion and courage of the Nashville Statement. It is a statement for our time when Christian moral values are under attack. It is a statement that all Bible believing Christians can unreservedly affirm and be grateful for. At the same time, it says nothing new. It affirms the same beliefs and practices that the Church has upheld throughout church history."

What the statement over and over affirms is that sexual behavior outside of marriage between a man and a woman is the lightening rod issue. The statement nowhere condemns or names persons only behavior that is biblically proscribed and theologically errant.

Sadly liberals, progressives and a number of Evangelicals have fallen into the trap of putting feelings, emotions and 'my story' ahead of truth.

Today, churches in the West are in shambles with decades of liberal theology leading to the moral quagmire it now faces emptied of substance and the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Even as progressive churches cry out that they are inclusive, diverse and progressive, they repeatedly and continually fail to draw in the crowds, while upstart evangelical churches (many are now buying defunct episcopal churches) grow and thrive.

The Jerusalem Declaration (like The Nashville Statement) said this; "We acknowledge God's creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married."

The Rev. Dr. Albert J. Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he signed it as an expression of love for same-sex attracted people.

"The very fact that the statement made headlines and was greeted with shock and surprise in some quarters underlines why it was needed. We believe that human dignity, human flourishing, and true human freedom are at stake. We know that two rival visions of what it means to be human are now fully apparent. We stand by the vision affirmed in the historic Christian faith."

In the interests of full disclosure, I signed the Nashville Statement.


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