I just read the Nashville Statement and I agree with its 14 articles. I simply ask: Why is this necessary?
In June 1997, the Southern Baptist Convention (the denomination to which I belong), voted to boycott Disney — its theme parks, its films, and its TV channel (they own ABC and ESPN). How’s that working?
The following year (1998), our denomination amended its essential statement of beliefs to include a declaration that a woman should ”submit herself graciously” to her husband’s leadership and that a husband should ”provide for, protect and lead his family.” I agree with this statement because it’s rooted in Ephesians 5:22-32. I believe the Bible is God’s authority over our lives. The problem is, the unbelieving world does not have the same context that we have — the entire Word of God as the foundation of our faith. When we make declarations like this, we speak in the global language of sound bites, which leads to misunderstanding.
Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to Christianity came about not because of declarations and boycotts by any denomination that were inconsistent with her world view (it should be noted that she was a practicing lesbian and LGBT activist at the time), but through the personal friendship of Ken Smith, pastor of Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church. It was not a statement of what Ken Smith stated he was “against,” but his demonstration through his actions of what he was “for.”
Here’s how Butterfield describes her relationship with the pastor and his wife in Christianity Today (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-february/my-train-wreck-conversion.html?start=2):
“Ken and his wife, Floy, and I became friends. They entered my world. They met my friends. We did book exchanges. We talked openly about sexuality and politics. They did not act as if such conversations were polluting them. They did not treat me like a blank slate. When we ate together, Ken prayed in a way I had never heard before. His prayers were intimate. Vulnerable. He repented of his sin in front of me. He thanked God for all things. Ken’s God was holy and firm, yet full of mercy. And because Ken and Floy did not invite me to church, I knew it was safe to be friends.”
We non-LGBT, non-adulterers, non-thieves, non-cheaters, non-greedy, non-slanderers (gossipers), non-drunkards (surely we’re not any of these — see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), need to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19), and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
If we’re going to declare anything and make statements, let’s just make one: The Bible is the Word of God and it is His authority over our lives, and we will seek to live by its precepts and the teachings of the One we follow; that we will sit down with the “woman at the well” and hear her story before we read her the 10 Commandments.
If we’re to be “salt and light” to a world in desperate need, we must first be like Ken and Floy Smith — enter the world of someone who is LGBT and meet their friends; talk openly with them about sexuality and politics; don’t treat them like a blank slate; eat with them and pray with them; show the mercy of God; don’t invite them to church as a panacea; give them a relationship — a safe place to be friends.
This is the Good News that a dying world is in desperate need of.