Why I Applaud (and Fervently Deny) the Nashville Statement

By Brian McLaren

I passionately disagree with the Nashville Statement.

Theologically, it is based on the same regressive way of reading the Bible that was used to justify slavery, anti-Semitism, apartheid, the suppression of women, the rejection of good science, and the slaughter of the native peoples. It’s hard to believe the signors have still not critically assessed the toxic fruit of centuries of reading the Bible in this discredited way.

Socially, however unintentionally or unconsciously, the statement plays into the same virulent scapegoating that has encouraged the KKK and other white supremacists to take off their sheets. Its timing with Hurricane Harvey was insensitive enough; add to that its synchronicity with the obvious homophobia of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the President’s transgender ban.

Politically, the Nashville Statement perfectly serves the purposes of Trumpism by creating a pristine and pure “us” who need to push the dirty “other” to the margins.

Spiritually, it expresses exactly the kind of Christianity that I have been urging people to migrate beyond.

But I applaud the statement for three reasons.

  • First, it makes explicit what has been hidden. People will now know more clearly which churches are safe and accepting for themselves, their friends, and their relatives, and which are spiritually hostile and psychologically dangerous.
  • Second, the statement puts pressure on the large number of LGBTQ-sympathetic Evangelicals who are trying to remain anonymous (you know who you are). These folks have been hoping they could fly under the doctrinal radar or play the middle, not “coming out” as LGBTQ affirming on the one hand, and not being openly hostile on the other. The Statement will push many of them to position themselves either inside or outside its parameters.  I occupied this ambiguous middle zone for too many years, so I know about it, and I am glad that this lukewarm space will be harder to occupy going forward.
  • Third, the statement challenges LGBTQ-equal churches to open their doors and welcome Evangelical refugees in. This will be good for both parties involved. (For people seeking a new church, or for churches seeking to declare themselves so they can be found by seekers, check out this website: http://convergenceus.org/churches/

One of the blessings of my fundamentalist/Evangelical upbringing was that I memorized a lot of Bible verses, one of which went like this: “Don’t allow yourself to be overpowered with evil. Take the offensive—overpower evil by good!” For those of us who see the marginalization and stigmatization of LGBTQ persons as evil, I trust the Nashville Statement will strengthen our resolve and energize our creative, constructive, and good response.

Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, activist and Auburn Senior Fellow whose latest book is The Great Spiritual Migration.  

For those ready to differentiate themselves, the Nashville Statement has already evoked responses such as The Denver Statement the Christians United Statement and the Liturgists Statement which people can sign or otherwise affirm as an alternative.  Please also read the response from Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush at Auburn Seminary. 

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