Article 1 states marriage is “lifelong.” How do evangelical churches currently approach divorce in theological and pastoral perspective, since the Statement declares that marriage is a covenant, not a contract? Does this statement allow for divorce? Under what conditions? Is that up for each church or pastor to decide? Does the church recognize the state’s granting of divorces, or does the church itself have to grant a divorce? If the former, why? If the latter, what’s the process for doing so?
Article 1 states marriage is “procreative.” What about couples who struggle with infertility or who are past the time of fertility? If marriage is “procreative,” what does this say about the use of contraception and voluntary sterilization? Does any use of these measures go against the statement, or not? If not, why not, when the purpose of marriage is at least partly procreative?
Article 4 talks about “divinely ordained differences” between male and female. What are those differences? Article 5 highlights different reproductive systems, but what else is meant by these differences? The main difference highlighted in the Danvers Statement, issued by the CBMW 30 years ago, sees the difference primarily as one of authority and leadership: men are leaders in the church and home, and women are meant to support and follow them. For someone like me, who DOES want to affirm male-female difference, but does not want to locate that difference in terms of leader/follower, head/subordinate, the Nashville Statement needs more clarity on what the male/female difference means once we get beyond biology. I think many who support a traditional view of marriage and gender distinction should be cautious about signing onto a statement that references difference without clarifying what is entailed or meant by that.
Article 5 affirms that differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for us as male and female. So any voluntary surgeries such as vasectomies and tubal ligation is out, right? Their goal is to close down and therefore distort those structures, so it would seem they are. How exactly are those kinds of surgeries different from gender reassignment surgeries? Are they different in kind or just degree? I’d like to hear an explanation of that.
Article 6 seems aimed at intersex people. But part of being intersex is that sex is often ambiguous, so what do you mean “they should embrace their biological sex insofar as it is known?” Known by whom? A doctor? A psychologist? A theology professor? Is it valid to push people to one end of the spectrum or another? Given the close link the Statement draws between biological sex and self-conception, wouldn’t it be more consistent to say that intersex people, especially those who don’t feel comfortable identifying strictly as male or female, should indeed identify as intersex, with the ambiguity that may entail, precisely because it is consistent with their biology?
Article 7 uses language of “self-conception.” Why doesn’t the statement use more common language, such as “identify as”? I’m not sure what is gained by this, and it leaves me asking more questions about what precisely is meant here. And again, what are “God’s holy purposes” for us as male and female? Does this mean, as in previous CBMW work, that men = leaders and women = supportive followers? (And, if that model is about men and women, not just husbands and wives, why doesn’t it apply to all of society, not just church and home?)
Article 7 seems to say that if you identify as same-sex attracted or transgender, you are out of line with God’s will. The issue here is complicated. There are plenty of Christians who identify as gay but are also committed to celibacy. Does identifying as “gay” entail an approval of same-sex marriage? It would seem not. Even for those who would see enduring same-sex attraction as a result of the fall, not part of God’s creational purposes, what is gained by refusing to acknowledge and name the reality of enduring, non-volitional same-sex attraction? Would that paradigm also refuse to use a term like “alcoholic,” claiming that alcoholism is not part of God’s creational or redemptive design, and therefore should be rejected as a self-identifier? Relatedly, I would like to know when the signers of the Nashville Statement officially embraced a “self-conception” of themselves as male or female. The dynamic of personal identity and sexuality seems far more complicated than this article makes out.
Article 9 basically says you can’t move from what is (“an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality”) to what ought to be (“justifies sexually immoral behavior”). How is that different from moving from what is (“biologically male or female”) to what ought to be (“a self-conception as male or female”)? I have my own answer, but the articles as written don’t really explain this, and it seems inconsistent as written.
Article 10 mentions “transgenderism.” What does that mean? Is this saying that gender dysphoria is not a real thing? Is this claiming that the Bible speaks as directly to the questions surrounding transgender persons as it does to same-sex sexual activity?
Is Article 11 aimed at pronoun usage? Does “speaking the truth in love” mean that I refuse someone’s pronoun request? Really? Can theological truth be pastorally nullified through insensitivity and being a jerk?
Does Article 13 represent an overly realized eschatology? In other words, is it realistic or right to assume that gender dysphoria will be increasingly “healed” in the present time? Having realized that a simplistic “pray the gay away” is not helpful for Christians who are same-sex attracted, are we now doing back to square one with those who are gender dysphoric?
A larger question about this document is: why are same-sex attraction/same-sex marriage, gender dysphoria, and intersex persons all lumped together and treated under largely the same rubric? I realize that this is common in our culture, as we speak of LGBTQI+. But it’s not biblically faithful, theologically astute, or pastorally helpful to assume that all of these questions about sexual identity, gender identity, and sexual behavior are equivalent.
Finally: WHY DIDN’T YOU LEAD WITH ARTICLES 12 AND 14? For people who want to be gospel-centered, it makes more sense to highlight God’s grace, which leads to a grateful, Spirit-empowered life. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, because it was already condemned, but to bring life. I’m sure it was not the intent, but this document feels more like legalism that divides into us and them than a testimony to the life-giving love (and sexual ethic!) of those who embrace a Jesus-following, Spirit-filled life. For me, it lacks the beauty and winsomeness that any explanation of Christian sexual ethics should have and therefore, even if it were completely clear and accurate in content, I wonder if it would fail in terms of form, or medium, and therefore fail to be a proper witness to Jesus.