In the wake of the Nashville Statement, LGBTQ Christians make the case that they’re still part of the church.
I was scrolling through my Twitter feed as the news about The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s Nashville Statement broke -- a document claiming to define the limits of “Christian faithfulness” in regards to human sexuality and gender roles. I sat there as certain pastors tweeted about it, proclaiming “joyful sadness” and admonishing the light that it shines into the darkness of our world.
Clicking through, it was difficult to believe the words I was reading. Not only did the document do the expected by proclaiming that anyone who identifies as a sexual minority or transperson is not and cannot be a faithful follower of Christ, it took things a step further. The Nashville Statement condemns anyone who holds an affirming and supportive view of LGBT people as being “outside the bounds of Christian faithfulness” and denies that Christians can agree to disagree on this issue.
As a gay Christian, the beliefs of the CBMW aren’t surprising to me, they’ve been around for a while. What is surprising is the extent at which they are going to box people out of the church. Not only is the document laden with shoddy theology, it draws a line in the sand where Scripture never does. This theology has direct impact upon the lives of LGBT people: it is a theology of death and destruction. It cuts entire groups of people off from the redeeming work of Jesus and attempts to force people into a box made up of rules and regulations. Jesus never had kind words for the people who did this during his ministry.
Yet, as I reflect upon the idea of “Christian faithfulness” I’m reminded that no statement, no new creed attempting to kick me out of the church can define the bounds of Christ’s love. These misguided pastors and theologians do not have the power to exclude me from the work of Jesus on the cross -- and no matter how hard they try, I am still a part of the church.
I am still within the bounds of Christian faithfulness because I am a follower of Jesus, I have “confessed with my mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’” and I deeply believe. I see the fruits of the spirit manifesting themselves in my life and the lives of countless others as I continue to work in LGBT faith communities. We carve out spaces for ourselves within the church daily, laying claim to the fact that in Jesus “there is no male and female” and He died for people just like us -- regardless of our sexuality, regardless of our gender identity.
This document feels like a millstone being tied around our already heavy necks. The “joyful sadness” being proclaimed from the steeples feels like gloating as they toss our bodies into the depths, doing nothing to lighten or ease the load. The writers of the document claim grace, truth, and love, but I only see hard lines, turned backs, and hardened hearts. And while I want to approach the people who wrote this document with an open heart as my siblings in Christ, it’s hard to look them in the eyes knowing that they are condemning us to hell unless we twist and force and bend and break ourselves to fit into their rigid boxes.
The bounds of Christ’s love are so much bigger than the CBMW claims. As the old sunday school song goes, “deep and wide, deep and wide, there is a fountain flowing deep and wide” -- a fountain of abundance and spacious room for gender and sexual minorities. We sit within the bounds of Christian faithfulness because we are faithful Christians, following the teachings of Christ, and ministering to a broken and hurting world. Our love flows directly from the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead and as we continue to live into who we are made to be that love will change the world.