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Evangelicals’ ‘Nashville Statement’ denouncing same-sex marriage is rebuked by city’s mayor

A coalition of evangelical leaders released a “Christian manifesto” Aug. 29, that drew widespread condemnation on social media. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

A coalition of evangelical leaders released a “Christian manifesto” Tuesday asserting their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and condemning the acceptance of “homosexual immorality or transgenderism.”

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood outlined the views in what it called “The Nashville Statement,” and offered it as guidance to churches on how to address issues of sexuality. A group of evangelical leaders, scholars and pastors endorsed the statement Friday at a conference in Nashville. It was initially endorsed by more than 150 people.

The “manifesto,” which is composed of 14 beliefs, rejects the idea that “otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree” on gay, lesbian and transgender issues. The leaders refer to this mentality as “moral indifference.”

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“The spirit of our age does not delight in God’s good design of male and female. Consequently, confusion reigns over some of the most basic questions of our humanity,” Denny Burk, president of the council, said in a statement. “The aim of The Nashville Statement is to shine a light into the darkness — to declare the goodness of God’s design in our sexuality and in creating us as male and female.”

While the group’s views were not new or surprising, the statement’s publication was met with fierce criticism on social media. Among those who rebuked the declaration was Nashville’s mayor, Megan Barry. The “so-called ‘Nashville statement’ is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville,” Barry wrote in a tweet Tuesday.

In response to Barry’s tweet, the council’s president wrote that the statement was simply named after the city where it was endorsed. The group was in Nashville last week to attend the national conference of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was founded in 1987 to “to help the church defend against the accommodation of secular feminism,” according to its website. The council focuses on outlining the differences between male and female roles in the home and church. It supports the biblical teaching that men must be Christlike leaders at home and in the church, and upholds wives’ submission in marriage.

The group asserted its belief in these separate gender roles in its 1987 manifesto, “The Danvers Statement,” which affirmed a “complementarian” view of gender roles in a push against secular feminism and egalitarian marriages.

“It came in response to an increasingly feminist society (and church), where conservative leaders feared men and women were losing their biblical distinctions,” according to an article in Christianity Today, a prominent evangelical publication.

“The Nashville Statement” was written as a follow-up to that statement, in response to what the group sees as a growing acceptance of same-sex marriage and transgender rights. The council’s co-founder, John Piper, who is also a Baptist pastor, wrote that the statement addresses the “destructive consequences” of this modern inclusive culture.

The manifesto was signed by a number of prominent evangelical figures, including at least two who are known to be among President Trump’s few dozen evangelical advisers — Jack Graham, a Southern Baptist pastor, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. For months, Perkins urged Trump to issue his declaration that transgender people would be banned from the military, the New York Times reported.

White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump during the election — 80 percent. Since the election, they have been seen as the religious group with the most access and influence in the White House.

Each of the manifesto’s 14 “articles” included an affirmation and a denial. For example, Article 7 read:

WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.
WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

For some critics on social media, the coalition’s statement came at a particularly divisive time, in the wake of the violent rally in Charlottesville. It was also released in the midst of the deadly floods from Hurricane Harvey, a timing that many described as insensitive. Still, others commended the group for reaffirming evangelical views on sexuality.

Burk, the group’s president, said those who perceive some of the statement’s guidance as “a line in the sand” are correct.

“Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether,” Burk wrote, “even if they claim otherwise.”

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