The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Steve Chalke and Jayne Ozanne among the signatories of the “Christians United” statement promoting LGBT+ inclusion in churches.
A group of Liberal Christian leaders issued a response to the “Nashville Statement” on human sexuality, a document signed by influential evangelical leaders supporting heterosexual sexuality through a list of 14 beliefs.
The “Christians United” statement defends the inclusion of LGBT+ groups in churches, and has been signed by Christians who promote a re-definition of sexuality and marriage.
The preamble of the text calls to “re-examine our teachings on human sexuality and gender identity”.
The group asks other Christians to “include, affirm, and embrace the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and non-binary, queer community as created and fully blessed by God”.
The “prophetic voice” of those listening to the Holy Spirit, the authors say, should promote a view of sexuality that ends with what they define as the current Christian “heteronormative, patriarchal, binary sexuality and gender paradigm”.
“Hundreds of thousands of Christians” are said to support this new approach. “The so-called ‘traditional’ Christian teaching on sexuality and gender identity is being abandoned for a more faithful, Christ-centered, and, we believe, more biblical understanding of sexuality and gender identity”, the response to the Nashville Statement says.
The document follows the same structure of articles of the “Nashville Statement”, and also affirms and denies certain beliefs.
The signatories of this statement include British ministers Steve Chalke and Jayne Ozane, as well as USA church leaders Brandan Robertson, Yvette Flunder, John C. Dorhauer, Rachel Brown, Jeffrey Kuan and Joseph Tolton.
THE “CHRISTIANS UNITED” STATEMENT
This text can be found on the platform’s website.
Article 1. WE AFFIRM that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and that the great diversity expressed in humanity through our wide spectrum of unique sexualities and gender identities is a perfect reflection of the magnitude of God's creative work. WE DENY any teaching that suggests God's creative intent is limited to a gender binary or that God's desire for human romantic relationships is only to be expressed in heterosexual relationships between one man and one woman.
Article 2. WE AFFIRM that God designed marriage to be a covenantal bond between human beings who have committed to love, serve, and live a life faithfully committed to one another over the course of a lifetime. WE DENY that God intended human romantic relationships to be limited to one man and one woman and declare that any attempts to limit the sacred or civil rights of humans to covenant and commit to love and serve one another is an affront to God's created design.
Article 3. WE AFFIRM that relationships between fallen humans have suffered great distortions resulting in various forms of infidelity and unhealthy behaviors that contribute to the suffering of humanity. We also affirm that God's desire is for all humans to enter into loving, sacrificial relationships with one another, whether romantic, platonic, or social, regardless of gender or sexual identity. WE DENY that the fallenness of human relationships resulted in the multiplicity of sexual orientations and gender identities. Rather, fallenness manifests in the human capacity to function out of hedonistic self-interest instead of the self-giving love in whose image we are created.
Article 4. WE AFFIRM that those who are born as intersex are full and equal bearers of the image and likeness of God and are worthy of full dignity and respect. We affirm and support intersex individuals in their journey of self-realization and embracing their unique, God-created sexual orientation and gender identity, whatever it may be. WE DENY that intersex individuals are required to conform to a gender binary or a heteronormative sexual paradigm.
Article 5. WE AFFIRM that while the male and female gender identity reflects a majority of the human family, God has created individuals whose gender identity does not fall on such a binary spectrum. We also affirm that there are many transgender individuals who are born with a physical body that is incongruent with their true gender identity, and these individuals should be supported and trusted in regards to their own self-knowledge of who they are and how God has created them. WE DENY that forcing individuals to embrace a gender identity that matches the cultural assumptions based on their biology is a healthy practice and that the heterosexual, male/female binary is the only consistent reflection of God's holy purposes in Creation.
Article 6. WE AFFIRM that LGBT+ Christians are called to live holy and fulfilling lives that are pleasing to God through living in congruence with God's creative intent for them, and, like all Christians, are called to walk in a rhythm of life that reflects the example of Jesus Christ our Lord. WE DENY that heterosexuality or binary gender identities are the only legitimate sexuality and gender identities that reflect the natural goodness of God's creation.
Article 7. WE AFFIRM that one may live proudly and openly as an LGBT+ individual and as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and that LGBT+ individuals must be fully embraced and included in every level of Christian leadership, life, and ministry without exception in order for the Church to fully embrace its call to be the body of Christ. We also affirm Christ's call for the Church to be one, united in the midst of our diversity of sexual orientations, gender identities, relationships, and beliefs about the same. WE DENY that teachings on the Biblical interpretation of sexuality and gender identity constitute a matter of orthodoxy and should be a cause for division among Christians.
Article 8. WE AFFIRM that non-inclusive teaching causes significant psychological and spiritual harm to LGBT+ individuals in Christian churches around the world. We likewise affirm that the Church of Jesus Christ is guilty of preaching a harmful message that has caused hundreds of thousands of individuals to face bullying, abuse, and exclusion from their families and communities, and must publicly repent and seek reconciliation with the LGBT+ community for the harm that has been done to them in the name of Christ. WE DENY that any Christian who perpetuates harmful teachings and refuses to openly dialogue with LGBT+ people is living a life modeled after the faithful example of Jesus.
Article 9. WE AFFIRM that sexuality and gender identity may be expressed in a variety of different ways, including celibacy. We also affirm that commitment, consent, respect, and self-sacrificial love must be the center of any life or relationship that is to be deemed holy and upright for a Christian. WE DENY that any individual, especially minors, should be forced to seek any form of treatment or therapy that promises to change their sexual orientation or gender identity in order to conform to a patriarchal, heteronormative model of relationship.
Article 10. WE AFFIRM that Jesus Christ has come into the world to bring salvation to all people and through his life, teachings, death, and resurrection, all are invited into redemption through Christ. WE DENY that Christ rejects anyone from his loving embrace because of their sexuality or gender identity. We likewise deny that homosexuality, bisexuality, queer sexuality, trans identity, asexuality, or any other queer identity is sinful, distorted, or outside of God's created intent.
The “Christians United” statement is a response to the “Nashville Statement”, a manifesto signed by 150 influential evangelical leaders, defending the historic biblical understanding of sexuality and marriage.
Read this Evangelical Focus editorial on the debate on marriage in Christian churches.