Theology & Worship | Presbyterian Mission Agency
LOUISVILLE – On Aug. 30, a number of Evangelical Christian voices released The Nashville Statement. Because of the amount of news coverage this statement has generated, Theology and Worship, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), thought it would be helpful to clarify how the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has considered the issues discussed by the Nashville statement. Here are some thoughts which might help clarify the position of our denomination:
- The statement emerges from The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This organization was organized to oppose feminism in ways that are not consistent with the Presbyterian affirmation that “women and men are called to all ministries of the church” and that all people are equal before God and should have the same human and civil rights. Presbyterian theology and polity affirm the fundamental equality of all persons before God and one another.
- The 222nd Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly (2016) stated that “actions we and our members have taken over the years have at times led God’s beloved children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning to feel that they stand outside the grace of God and are unwelcome in the PC(USA). We deeply regret that, due to human failings, any person might find cause to doubt being loved by God. We affirm the God-given dignity and worth of every human being, and renew our commitment to ‘welcome one another, as Christ has welcomed [us], for the glory of God.’ [Romans 15:7].”
- Coverage in the popular media, as is often the case, presents a binary alternative: one either affirms the Nashville Statement or strongly disagrees with it. However, the PC(USA) has resisted this binary alternative with respect to sexual ethics, particularly concerning ordination and marriage. We have said that it is faithful for church councils to use their judgment in ordaining people absent a national standard on sexuality, and we have said that congregations and ministers can faithfully choose to celebrate same-gender marriages or not to. One way to put it is that, as a denomination, we have become agnostic around issues of homosexuality. At one level this is a sea change as that is has allowed for a recognition of faithful practices that would have been out of bounds previously. At the same time, we have not required that leaders or bodies within the church adhere to any particular stance. We have chosen a more challenging way.
- In terms of the Nashville Statement, it would seem that one could be a faithful leader in the PC(USA) and affirm aspects of the Nashville Statement such as believing that marriage is between a man and a woman.
- There are other articles, particularly those around transgender persons, that go beyond anything the PC(USA) has officially taken a stand on.
- We have taken a pastoral stand on all issues around sexuality, and that particularly is important in relation to transgender persons. The Nashville Statement with its emphasis “self-conception” does not do justice to the experiences of transgender persons. Nor does the experience of transgender persons neatly fit with issues around persons with same gender attraction.
In response to the Nashville Statement, some Christians at House for All Sinners & Saints have written the Denver Statement. Two affirmations from this latter statement may have particularly resonance in this discussion:
WE AFFIRM that sin distorts all aspects of human life.
WE DENY that human beings can escape sin by simply upholding a particular doctrine or lifestyle.
WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ is sufficient for this day.
WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is something that must be supplemented by works, piety or doctrine.
In a season of the tragedy of Tropical Storm Harvey and the racism that has become ever more obvious since the events in Charlottesville, issues of sexual integrity remain significant.
If it would be helpful for you to connect with Theology and Worship to learn more, please contact Cheri Harper.
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