Church Life, LGBTQ, Ministry

Dear Mainline Church people (a response to the Nashville Statement)

Dear Mainline Church people,

I’m writing this in response to the Nashville Statement, a pernicious manifesto issued today by a coalition of conservative Evangelical Christians. In a season when the church could be speaking out against White supremacy, agitating for peace in a troubled world, finally getting some clean water for Flint, and mobilizing to help after Hurricane Harvey, they felt it was instead the time to reiterate their condemnation of LGBTQIA+ people and to be particularly specific in their disdain for trans* people.

Now, my Church people, some of you make space for your LGBTQIA+ siblings; we can really be part of the body of Christ with you. Some of you think you do it, but maybe you stopped at making a statement without doing any further work to figure out what might make us feel welcome to do things beyond coming to worship, or worry that if you have a rainbow anywhere on your premises, people will think you’re “the gay church.”

Meanwhile, our Evangelical cousins, empowered by the political success of the right, have doubled down on theology that is exclusive and cruel. They’ve affirmed their own superiority, denied the full humanity of LGBTQIA+ people, and declared that anyone who doesn’t agree and come over to their side of the line they are drawing is not a faithful Christian.

For Jesus’s sake and in Christ’s name, mainline pastors and leaders, have the conversations you’ve been putting off. I say these things with all love. Get clear about what it means to be welcoming and affirming. Fix up the forms parents fill out at Sunday School; why do they need to be gendered? Consider new signage for your bathrooms. Be ready when one of your young people comes out to you, ready to love and embrace that young person instead of setting them on the path of rejection. Have a Bible study and discuss alternative interpretations of scripture used by others to condemn, equipping yourselves for larger conversations in your neighborhoods.

Maybe even buy that rainbow flag for the outside of your church, so we know it’s safe to come inside.


28 thoughts on “Dear Mainline Church people (a response to the Nashville Statement)”

  1. Thank you for calling us to be our better selves. I re-made our Sunday School registration forms so that any configuration of family could be comfortable completing it and have been amazed and surprised by how thankful everyone has been to it. In my mind, I was streamlining it. To others, it seems more inclusive and welcoming.

  2. Dear Martha,
    First, as someone on the asexual spectrum, thank you, thank you, thank you! for including me.
    Second, as someone on her way to becoming a pastor in the church, thank you for calling the church to attention. I think many congregations are stuck in the “well we said we’re welcoming” bucket, and don’t know how (or are unwilling) to actually live out their welcome. May we continue to work towards a space where love in action is truly shown to all.

    1. I think there’s a lot of fear of the unknown. What we need is a mixture of treating people as if they are normal, because they are, and allowing that some of the heteronormative things we take for granted need to be adjusted, which will be good for everybody.

  3. P.S. Pease fly the rainbow flag AND please remember that for many of is it’s a matter of life and death. If you fly it, take responsibility for acting in ways that honor and celebrate us. All the time.

  4. It’s funny, too. A great many “inclusive” clergy show their true colors when it comes to gender roles, transgender, or cross dressing.

    The reality is that many so-called inclusive churches have a long, long way to go.

  5. Thanks Martha – and all.
    I am retired UMC clergy. I have little if any expectation that the UMC will become inclusive. I know the politics. I know how General Conference functions. I know what the Good (read”bad”) News faction does to get the very conservative African delegates votes to General Conference. Polity and the democratic process are locked in by the voting majority. But…it is Pentecost. The. spirit prevails. Love bats last. And no denomination can hijack the spirit. It is not “containable.”. To be overly invested in the institution is, for me, idolatrous. The decision is both personal and social as to how long to pound on those professed to be open, but locked, doors.
    Beyond that, I say the Book of Discipline, when unjust, is to be disregarded. Do the right thing! “Faith ought not to be a puny thing!” (Mary McCloud Bethune quote)

  6. Martha, sadly I am watching the American church base move further and further into irrelevancy by exclusionary rhetoric and hateful actions. As an African-American minister, I have watched with a weary eye, imagining that Dr. King would be so disappointed in the state of Amerikkka and repulsed by the church’s participation in furthering social injustice. Dr. King talked about the arc of justice, but the church in Amerikkka is doing everything possible to straighten that arc, so that we who believe in justice, equality, and equity for all have so much further to journey to realize the full humanity of all of G-d’s creation. May you be blessed in ministry and life and thank you for sharing wise words.

      1. Hard truth for hateful times.
        Amerikkka…first time seeing that…speaks to our times, I think.

  7. As someone who belongs to the evangelical church, I must speak in favor of the original statement. The feelings in my heart towards those in the LGBTQIA+ community are nothing but love & respect for them. They are human beings & image bearers of God. I am aware that the opinions of me will be negative from said community as I agree with the views of the Nashville Statement, but I ask you only to read on. The angle that those who write the Nashville Statment is not one of hate & exclusivity, but one of truth. We do not march across the LGBTQIA+ community, wanting others to follow our God out of fear or shame, but out of love & reverence. God, the Creator of the world, the orchestrator of all life, designed marriage & sex to be a certain way. Due to the Fall (found in the Bible), sin has plagued us ALL. For we have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. Even those who follow the Lord & His teach. Sin is a constant battle to be fought. It is a repentant & heavy heart that allows an honest relationship with the Lord. That relationship with the Lord bears grace & redeption from all sin, whatever that may be. I know even as I type these words, your fists are clenching in anger, but I truly mean no harm or hate. It breaks my heart to see those who preach against the Gospel. Churches who have opened their arms to those with all different sexual preferences should be PRAISED, for that is how Jesus Christ would have acted towards them! However, churches who have told these same people that their preferences are okay in the eyes of God are deceiving them & leading them further from our Lord. I humbly admit, I do not know all of the answers to this subject, but I do believe that God can save ALL. God’s love is big enough for you & for me. I am sorry if I have offended anyone. That is not my intent. My intent is to shed some light on the Nashville Statement. My intent is to attempt to ask those who are so quickly condemning the statement, just as they believe it is condemning the LGBTQIA+ community, to take a step back & have a dialogue. The true evangelical church does not intend hate & I pray you can see that.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts. Have you had a chance to read some of the books of Christian scholars with a “high” view of scripture that reexamine the verses typically used to claim that LGBTQ relationships are sinful? I challenge you to seriously consider some of them. Try “Bible, Gender, Sexuality” by James Brownson or “Changing Our Mind” by David Gushee. There are more and more biblical scholars who hold a “high” view who are concluding that the verses used to declare LGBTQ relationships sinful are actually a lot more complex than the people who drafted the Nashville Statement want you to think.

      I also challenge you to look up organizations like the Gay Christian Network or the Reformation Project and listen to the stories of gay Christians who have suffered deeply in evangelical churches, even if they mean well. There are some gay Christians who choose life-long celibacy, but that shouldn’t be something forced on anyone. We have seen the fruits of “hate the sin, love the sinner.” The good intentions don’t make much difference. It results in depression, increased rates of suicide, rejection from families and communities. This is not of God.

      In the Nashville Statement, I was primarily concerned with the harm this causes to LGBTQ Christians, but also disappointed that they claim that Christians who disagree with their statement are not Christians at all (article 10). Do you agree with that? The Bible has so much depth and context that the drafters of this statement skim over for simple black and white answers. Despite how strongly I feel that the Church should be a place that celebrates a diversity of expressions of sexuality, I wouldn’t claim that people who feel differently are not Christians. How divisive.

      I challenge you to look outside the boundaries set in the Nashville Statement and learn from Christians who have experienced real persecution because of who they are. You’re going to find Christ there.

  8. Very well said, thank you for the advocacy and offering a way for those of us struggling with how our church CHOOSES to treat children of God. I cannot reconcile with it, I tried to stay in the church as it worked its way through to the justice and the right of this issue, but when combined with the Trump support in the church, it just became ‘a bridge too far’ and I have left for good. It shames me that anyone can claim this is Christian or worse, “truth.” As I see it, it is far from it.

  9. There is a growing pile of research documents showing strong support of the idea that those people who self-identify as LGBTIQ are, indeed, born that way. If we are truly made in the image of God, how can that be if God abhors the LGBTIQ community? Science is not in opposition to faith, but in support of a loving God. I would encourage people of faith to also read research papers on gender, epi-genetics and differences in male and female brains.

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