Randy Greenwald

Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Breathless in Nashville

Call me weary.

A few days ago I was finally able to read the recently issued “Nashville Statement” of which some, but not all, readers will be aware. I have some thoughts about its content, but I need to say that whatever merits it contains or lacks, I can’t get beyond its sky-is-falling tone. A friend calls it breathless, which strikes me as accurate. In my life there’s been a whole lotta breathlessness going on.

I grew up in a mainline church whose doom was pronounced by conservative voices in her midst. I began to flourish in my Christian understanding when the twin terrors of “charismania” and biblical errancy were staked as boding threats to be opposed. Soon we were being told that if we did not stand foursquare against women being ordained, the end would come. As well, all we held dear would perish if we did not take a life or death stand against the theory of evolution. And if we did not make immediate changes to the way we “do” church there would soon be no one to fill our pews as the youth, we were warned, were leaving and never coming back.

I have been hearing of the end of the church and her witness for so long that I can, or will, no longer hear such messages. When we are told that the only path of faithfulness is to Jump! Respond! Take a stand! all I want to do is to take a nap.

The Nashville Statement, addressing the shifting and rapidly evolving Western cultural position on sexuality, strikes the same rhetorical drumbeat:

“Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age?”

Catastrophe is imminent unless, of course, we fall in line with those behind this statement. But I’ve heard this song before. I change the station and move on.

Perhaps I lack the necessary cultural awareness and cannot see how weak the pillars are which hold the sky that will soon collapse upon us. A number of people I greatly respect have signed on to this and perhaps they are right. Perhaps I should awaken from my slumber. Perhaps this is the one issue, the one that rules them all and that will, in the darkness, bind us.

But I’m prejudiced against ultimata whatever its source.

It is not just prejudice, though. I have a great confidence in Christ’s church. In spite of the challenges she has shown herself quite resilient, hasn’t she? I see no reason for that resilience to pass. I believe her people will continue to trust Jesus, to love and serve one another and their neighbors. I believe the church will continue to worship, and struggle, as she waits and longs for the kingdom that will come.

For help along the way, a true consensus statement articulating and defending the traditional view of sexuality offering a humble and compassionate restatement of the historic Christian view of marriage with irenic engagement with some of the emerging counter proposals would be welcome. But that is not what we have been given.

It is the teacher who speaks with a calm and reasoned voice who gets heard in a noisy classroom. That is the voice we need.

While we wait for it, let us continue to serve Jesus through his church. In that we should not grow weary.

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11 Comments

  1. Carol Arnold

    I agree with you, as I see a lot of Matthew 16:18 going on as I travel throughout the world. Whatever “gates” are, God’s church continues to prevail.

  2. chrisinnm

    Confidence in Christ to preserve His church? And that actually affecting how we walk and act? What a novel concept…

    {Sorry for the sarcasm… Yes. Get on loving others and standing faithfully for Christ is what we have always needed to do and been called to do, and will always be.}

  3. As a postmil I see things this way as well. Progress is like a yo-yo on an up escalator. But some only see the yo-yo when it’s falling. That is the best time to raise funds I suppose. 🙂
    The main thing I missed in the statement was the church’s responsibility to love the marginalized people referred to in the statement(calling ourselves, as well as them, to holiness.) It’s an ethical conflict and we contend for our King with acts of service. And judgment begins with the household of God.

    • Good take on the absence of a pastoral tone. As to raising funds, it is telling that at the end of the online statement there is a ‘donate’ button.

  4. Stephanie

    The thing that keeps popping onto my head is just how nuanced the entire issue is within our denomination. This statement was so very obviously put together without even a small amount of understanding regarding some of the dynamics involved and I am frustrated by its tone-deafness in regard to anyone who doesn’t share Rosaria Butterfield’s (very valid, but different than many) experiences regarding homosexuality. And yes, I 100% believe this is a “breathless” response to her recent criticisms of our denomination. I am disappointed by many of the names signed to this, particularly the original signers. Such a rush to make sure nobody mistakes what we’re against that we neglect the real lives being lived. All echoes of the wisdom commented and blogged here…

    • You are putting your finger on another, deeper, issue – that of parachurch swallowing church. More on that soon to come.

  5. Eva

    I haven’t read the full statement because, honestly, it made me angry. I was reading it through the eyes of those I know and love who are homosexual. And all I could see was “anti-(name of person)”. I agree with you that a kinder, more compassionate statement would have been appropriate. But this statement made me wonder, “Where is the statement on sexual relationships outside of marriage, period? Or the statement on adultery? Or the statement on pride?” I think those are missing because perhaps we as Christians have already given in to the “culture” on those–the culture being “human-ness and our capacity to sin.”

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