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Why not sign?

Weighing evangelical reluctance to endorse the Nashville Statement

Why not sign?

(Anthia Cumming/iStock)

Sometimes public events aren’t quite as public as they seem. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Such was almost certainly the case, for example, with the Aug. 29 release of a “Nashville Statement” on human sexuality. Drawn up in significant measure by thoughtful people with close ties to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the statement is intended to serve evangelical Christians as a reference point on sex and gender issues. 

Evangelical leaders and theologians founded CBMW in the late 1980s to provide similar guidance—from a frankly Biblical perspective—concerning the respective roles of men and women in the home, the church, and beyond. Part of CBMW’s enduring fruit was a document called the “Danvers Statement,” spelling out a so-called “complemen­tarian” view of God’s intended relationship between men and women. Danvers was seen by many, and accurately so, as a response to the growing acceptance by many evangelicals of an “egalitarian” view that seemed more in keeping with the tone of a contemporary secular culture.

But who could have known how quickly the discussion would move past male and female relationships to a conversation instead on who is male, who is female, and who is somewhere in between? Most of us would have been hard-pressed 25 years ago to provide even a general working definition of the term “trans­gender.” We’re not much more ready in 2017.

So who has the right in such a confusing context to step up and help us navigate such a sticky wicket? What gives an independent and freewheeling group like CBMW the prerogative of telling the rest of evangelical Christendom what we’re supposed to think and teach on all these startlingly radical gender issues?

Most of us would have been hard-pressed 25 years ago to provide even a general working definition of the term ‘transgender.’

I ask that because the evidence suggests quite a few folks are fairly cautious about offering such advice. Only 159 individuals from across the country accepted the invitation to be up-front signatories to the Nashville Statement. I have no doubt there will be hundreds—and probably even thousands—of secondary signers. But for an issue said by some Christian leaders to be the dominant cultural question of our lifetimes, 159 people is a pretty paltry initial showing. 

CBMW, I’m sure, will be happy to show you who’s on the list of 159. But maybe we ought to be asking instead who’s not there. That, of course, is a disruptive question to pursue. But there are indeed lots of genuinely good reasons someone might not sign—explanations I heard when I touched base with some folks I thought might be there but weren’t:

• “I wasn’t invited to sign.” But if an invitation was required, I thought to myself, this venture was private, and not public. 

• “I heard about it, but with less than 48 hours to decide.” That was admittedly a bit of awkward planning on the part of CBMW.

• “I am in senior management with the organization where I’m employed, but I’d think twice before signing something in public that might seem to speak for my whole organization.”

• “I am in a campus ministry, and find this to be an excellent statement. I would very much like to sign. It would give me a great foundation for discussions with my students. But there’s also a real chance it could bring an end to our ministry’s presence on this campus.”

• “I am part of a denomination and a local church that have already spoken on these issues. If I signed this as well, it might look as if I’m piling on, and that I’ve got a hang-up on this one issue.”

So who’s left? You be the judge as to who ought to put his or her name on the line—and who deserves an empathetic response for holding back.

I signed. So did our editor in chief, Marvin Olasky. Our employer knows that WORLD is a sufficiently public target that we might take a hit or two from readers who consider us intolerant and fanatically narrow-minded. But we think we’re ready for that discussion.

The Danvers Statement 30 years ago wasn’t perfect. The Nashville Statement of 2017 isn’t perfect either. Both will continue to be improved with age. Read this newest installment and see what you think. And if you choose not to sign, we’d be interested in hearing your reasons.


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  • Janet S
    Posted: Thu, 09/07/2017 04:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing this.  159 brave souls who are sold out to God.  No wonder our nation is in the mess it is in. 

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Mon, 09/11/2017 09:00 pm

    I have signed the statement, and will leave judging others' motivations to God.

  •  Paul B. Taylor's picture
    Paul B. Taylor
    Posted: Thu, 09/14/2017 08:03 am

    America is a great, proud and just country, and on both sides in Congress, we are a country of laws and not men.  But now we are having a national crisis.  Marriage has been redefined.   It used to be that students going to college would have finding a suitable marriage partner their priority.  In a sense, young men were looking for an egg: young women were looking for sperm.  So, we were about marrige.  I'm sure that part of the evidence for this is familiarity with the Bible and, especially, the Song of Solomon. The most important part of marriage after the wedding, the honeymoon and bearing children was fidelity.  Divorce was very controversial. What of this and same-sex marriage?  There is no fidelity among same sex partners.  If you look at the statistics, you will find that they have high rates of adultery and divorce.   What does this mean?  Same-sex mariages are not promoting marriage and all the blessings included, but rather it is an attack on marriage with the goal of having a society completely without marriage.  Essentially, it is the furthering of the agenda of the glorification of the individual as it is in a socialist utopia.

  • jorgy
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 10:20 am

    I'm completely unnoteworthy, but could not sign the Nashville Statement because it is incomplete in not referensing scripture or that Jesue died for LGBT people of whom we can not approve but must accept in love .

  • DB's picture
    Posted: Wed, 09/20/2017 09:44 am

    Jorgy, John 3:16 is very comprehensive. The rest you can do your own research on.

  • DG
    Posted: Sat, 09/16/2017 01:58 pm

    I guess I don't understand the purpose of signing, other than to divide people into "those who are for us and those who are against us." And then judge the nonsigner's motives as to whether or not they deserve an "empathic response." We have to be careful. The Pharisees were all about rightness, too.

  • nevertheless
    Posted: Sun, 09/17/2017 11:35 am

    I counted 373 as of this morning.

  • DB's picture
    Posted: Wed, 09/20/2017 09:52 am

    I agree essentially with all the articles, but I'm weary of signing things.  What does it prove?  I saw the President of Wheaton College's name; there is a controversial article posted at World regarding hazing of some of his football players.  The team members continue to participate in the games and represent the school... hmmm....  I think we as belivers need to clean up our own backyards first.  There is a scripture verse that talks about judgment beginning with the house of God... that would be us :-)