A Response to the Nashville Statement

By Bill Mefford

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for a BREAKING NEWS flash! Apparently, right-wing Christians gathered in Nashville recently to craft a statement saying they don’t want gay people to marry!

Yeah, stop me if you have heard this one before. How many times do these people need to meet in cities where they can pay for hotel rooms to create statements saying they really do not like gay people and do not want to afford them the same rights they enjoy? We had the Manhattan Declaration not too many years ago, which was orchestrated by Chuck Colson. And now we have the Nashville Statement, which I am assuming means that they found some inexpensive hotels in Nashville on Orbitz otherwise we would have had the Disney World Statement!

I had been a United Methodist my whole life and in the last few years a new group called the Wesleyan Covenant Association has been created by some fundamentalist United Methodists solely around not allowing gay people to marry or be ordained. Though some of the most gifted people in the church I know are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer, and though they are leading some of the most dynamic ministries in the church today, they are not recognized by the church as a whole as ordained. So now, because a few conferences within the United Methodist Church are doing what they should have done all along – ordaining people called into ministry and marrying people who love each other – the Wesleyan Covenant Association is threatening the split the church until they stop and do ministry the way they want it done. This is religious triumphalism at its best (or worst for us).

Seeing what is happening in the UMC and now the unveiling of the Nashville Statement (in the middle of a hurricane no less), it honestly boggles my imagination to think that some people – in the name of religion – are so intent on preventing LGBTQ people from being who they are and who they were created to be, that they are willing to dismantle denominations and deny people the right to live freely as they choose. The harm they are causing is so immense and so unnecessary!

They could have gotten together and decided to make a statement decrying voter disenfranchisement, or mass incarceration, or state-sponsored terror directed towards immigrant communities, or government-sponsored attacks on funding public education – but NOOOO! What’s way more important to these people is that gay people are marrying and they have become powerless to stop it. There is so much real harm happening in this country and in the world and these guys only want to add to it.

A lot of folks may disagree with me on this – and I am cool with that by the way – but I strongly believe adherence to religious belief that causes harm to people as a direct consequence of that belief and practice is not actually faithful religious adherence at all.

The Nashville Statement has 14 articles, which is amazing that they have to use so many to basically say they are against gay people being who they are, but my favorite is article #10. It reads, “WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.”

I love this one because this is me. Although raised and discipled as an evangelical I have departed evangelicalism principally because the evangelical understanding of Christian faithfulness and witness has departed what I understand to be biblical Christianity. My departure from evangelicalism began years ago, before my beliefs on homosexuality were ever challenged, simply because I got tired of the obsession over gay sex by people who forbid others to have it, but who could not stop themselves from constantly talking about it. It was in the early 2000’s and while evangelicals went on and on about the evils of homosexuality, I saw practically no evangelicals oppose the illegal invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq. I didn’t see any evangelicals oppose tax cuts for the rich while cutting benefits for the poor. And I got tired of those doing nothing about justice issues harping endlessly about forbidding gay people from having sex. In fact, in 2004 they happily used LGBTQ people for their own political benefit to win the presidential election, all the while doing absolutely nothing about the real demands of justice for immigrants, for the poor, or for the oppressed. It was in 2003 when I eagerly departed evangelicalism principally because their brand of Christian faithfulness seemed neither particularly Christian nor particularly faithful.

And now, straight out of the Redundancy Department of Redundancy and with absolutely nothing new to say, we have the Nashville Statement. I hate that this is yet another message from one wing of the church that dehumanizes LGBTQ people. I am sorry the people who discipled me in Christ have themselves departed the loving Christ who walks especially with those who are harmed by people who claim to be the holders of all that is holy and righteous. It hurts to see other people claim Christ who obviously do not manifest his love and mercy for others.

Maybe it is time, far past time even, to quit calling those who use Christianity to cause harm, “Christian.” I departed this kind of Christianity long ago and I have no intention of returning. We need new leaders, new networks, and definitely new statements.

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