During our recent General Assembly in Dallas, Texas, the Presbyterian Church in America voted to formally declare the Nashville Statement a Biblically faithful declaration. This document was prepared by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and was signed by a number of evangelical leaders from across the denominational landscape. (Please follow the attached link to read the Nashville Statement in its entirety.) In it, you will find a set of affirmations and denials which we believe summarize Biblical teaching in regards to human sexuality.
The elders at Christ Church have discussed this document and are in agreement with the vote taken by our denomination. They have also asked me to share this document, along with our pastoral guidance. As I do so, maybe the first question we should deal with is, “Why was this necessary?”
WHY WAS THIS NECESSARY?
It might surprise you to hear this, but strictly speaking, it was not necessary for the PCA to affirm the Nashville Statement. Affirming the Nashville Statement was not necessary because we already hold to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the inerrant and infallible Word of God, our only rule of faith and practice. In other words, the Nashville Statement provides no new teaching on the subject.
On the other hand, affirming the Nashville Statement was necessary given the confusion in our culture around sexuality and the rapidly advancing slide away from a Biblical sexual ethic. While the Nashville Statement does not add to Scripture (which is a primary reason it was affirmed), it does provide a helpful summary around some of the specific issues we face regarding Biblical sexuality.
My personal sense is that within our denomination there has been little to no conversation about affirming homosexuality or transgenderism (just to name two examples) as Biblically viable sexual ethics. However, there has been what I will call a pastoral discussion around how to best minister to those who struggle in some of these areas. It has become apparent that we have needed more clarity in some pockets of that discussion.
So, to offer a little more clarity we ask the question, “What is the Nashville Statement?”
WHAT IS THE NASHVILLE STATEMENT?
Perhaps highlighting the need for the Nashville Statement, we must define what we mean by “sexuality.” Our culture has adopted this word to broadly capture issues of a) gender identity and b) sexual activity. Given this definition, the Nashville Statement clarifies the origin of gender (engaging with the notion of “self-conception”) and God’s good design for sexual activity (again, engaging with the notion of “self-conception”).
The document clarifies these questions of sexuality by summarizing the Biblical teaching regarding gender and sexual activity through a series of 14 affirmations and 14 denials. These affirmations and denials engage with the cultural movement regarding sexuality, affirming our beliefs regarding Biblical teaching, and denying certain cultural perversions of that same teaching.
Our denomination (and our church) believes this statement to be helpful in the current cultural movement. It says much. But at the same time, it doesn’t say everything. So, where does it fall short?
WHERE DOES IT FALL SHORT?
While the Nashville Statement well summarizes the Biblical teaching on many of the hot button issues of today, it falls short on the pastoral application of that teaching. But then again, that was never the point. This statement was not meant to replace the local church as God’s ordained means of stewarding the Kingdom of God by gathering individuals into the body of Christ, and shepherding and serving them with the Word of God. The Nashville Statement is merely a resource for us as we apply the Word to broken and hurting people like us.
The elders at Christ Church feel strongly that we are called by God to compassionately shepherd His people through a multitude of struggles…some of which may include struggles regarding sexuality. Some of you may have questions regarding identity. Some of you (many of you), may likely struggle with sexual temptation, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual. Some of you are caring for children or other family members who have these struggles. We are not abdicating our calling in favor of a statement. We simply offer you this statement as a Biblically faithful summary of some of issues we face in our day. With that as a resource, it is our calling and desire to sit down with you, listen to you, open God’s Word with you, and pray with you. Please call on your elders.
And I’ll close with this. Just as the elders at Christ Church are not trying to answer all questions surrounding Biblical sexuality with the Nashville Statement, neither is the Presbyterian Church in America. Recognizing the same short falls, our denomination has approved a study committee which will seek to provide pastoral counsel and clarity as we seek to live under the authority of God’s unchanging Word.