NASHVILLE, Tennessee – An Evangelical Christian coalition’s statement on marriage, sexuality, and gender identity is “largely consonant” with Catholic thought, according to one commentator.
“The language of the document is clearly Evangelical, but its articles are largely consonant with Catholic understandings of human sexuality and sexual morality,” Stephen P. White, a fellow in the Catholic Studies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CNA on August 30.
“I think Pope Francis would agree with virtually everything in the letter,” White continued. “When man forgets his Creator, he loses sight of himself as well. We see the result of this in the confusion over sexual morality, but in many other areas as well. It’s what most of Pope Francis’s last encyclical, Laudato si’, was about.”
The Nashville Statement was published by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood after endorsement in Nashville by more than 150 Evangelical Christian leaders Aug. 25.
“As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being,” said the statement. “By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life.
“Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female,” it continued. “It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences.”
Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said the statement aimed “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.” He said the council prayed that the statement might provide churches and Christian organizations with “biblical guidance on how to address homosexuality and transgenderism.”
The council aims to foster a coalition of like-minded Evangelicals and influence a new generation of Evangelicals who are being pressured to abandon their vision of Christian teaching.
Signatories of the Nashville Statement include Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief of World Magazine; K. Erik Thoennes, a theology professor at Biola University; and Jerry A. Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters.
The statement includes 14 articles which each include affirmations and denials. It affirms marriage as a lifelong union of a man and woman; sex differences and sexual equality as a part of God’s creation; “chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage”; God’s forgiveness of sins; and salvation through Christ.
It rejects sexual immorality, whether heterosexual or homosexual. The statement affirms “our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female.” Another of its affirmations: It is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism, on the grounds that “such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.” It is not “a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.”
The Nashville Statement affirms the ability of people with same-sex attraction to live a life pleasing to God, encourages a self-conception as male or female “defined by God’s holy purposes in creation,” and rejects “a homosexual or transgender self-conception” as inconsistent with God’s purposes in creation.
For White, the statement’s language reflected “the absence of Catholic sacramental theology, for obvious reasons.” He also questioned an apparent failure to recognize that chastity is a virtue for both married and unmarried people.
“But the basic outline of Christian sexual morality is there: our sexuality is good and God-given, sexual intimacy belongs in marriage and nowhere else, marriage is between a man and a woman, no sin is insurmountable to God’s grace, etc.”
White predicted a mixed reaction, saying “many will be grateful for simple sanity in a time of widespread confusion; others will see the affirmation of orthodox Christian teaching on sex and marriage as disconcerting, perhaps even hateful.
“The Gospel doesn’t please everyone,” he added.
White said that Americans’ views on sex and morality have undergone drastic change. These changes are more than a shift in morality, in his view. Rather, they reflect “a fundamental change in our understanding of human nature itself.
“Whether it’s individualism, or affluence, our technological power, we often delude ourselves into thinking we can do as we please…and that doing as we please will make us happy,” White said, citing the Book of Genesis. “It’s the oldest temptation in the book, literally: to make ourselves like gods.
“Unfortunately, when man forgets God, he loses sight of himself as well,” he said. “We see the result of this in the confusion over sexual morality, but in many other areas as well.”
Nashville mayor Megan Barry criticized the statement on Twitter, saying it “does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”