As if the queer community needed another reminder that they are not welcome in the Church, the CMBA released The Nashville Statement this week; this document lays out very clearly just how unwelcome the LGBTQ folks are. Once again, the Evangelical Church has failed to consider the psychological distress and spiritual trauma they are causing my family.
In past posts about my personal experiences in college ministry and the Church, I have left out names. It has never been my intention to “shame” a college ministry group or specific church because of their religious views. Because The Summit Church has embraced and endorsed the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric put forth by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I no longer need to do that. JD Greear (of Summit Church) preaches to thousands of people each week. While no human (not even pastors!) is perfect, church leaders are often looked to for moral guidance. His decision to sign on as a supporter of The Nashville Statement is detrimental. I was heavily invested in Campus Outreach (CO) and Summit Church for several years. I was a popular student leader in the college ministry scene; I was asked to join CO as a staff member upon graduation, but I declined the offer. I knew, deep down, that evangelical college ministry would never be something I could do as a queer person. I knew that if the leaders found out I was queer the offer would be retracted. I opted instead to join a Summit church plant so that I could get away and start over. I was a part of the planning team for several months. Together we had a Christ-centered vision for the inner-city and I was excited to move forward. Of course, my coming out and unrepentant heart cost me the opportunity to remain a part of this team. My partnership was revoked and I was left with no other option than to move back home when I graduated from college just a month or two later.
The trauma from my college experience led to years of insecurity and shame and guilt. I felt like I should have told everyone sooner; I should have let them remove me from the team earlier. I should have never tried to join in the first place. I believed I didn’t deserve to be a part of these ministry opportunities. I wrote apology letters to friends that I hurt and ministry leaders that I let down, and I tried my best to reconcile what I had destroyed. I was so desperate to keep the community that I had fallen in love with. I wanted to be in a church that preached the Gospel. The weight of the guilt I felt was slowly killing me. My anxiety around people’s perception of me left me in a closet of darkness. So much so that the only time I felt most comfortable with myself when I was drunk. While my CO friends were moving to other countries to teach the Gospel or serving on college campuses as discipleship leaders, I was crying into a bottle of wine in an empty apartment. I had never felt so alone. I spent years justifying my removal from this ministry and church. I continued going to Summit Church for a couple of years in a desperate attempt to remain in community. I was afraid to go out in Raleigh or Durham because I didn’t want to be seen with my girlfriend. My desperation for community far outweighed my desire to live authentically. This, friends, is one of many reasons why The Nashville Statement is dangerous. If you cannot live authentically, you can never truly live in community with others.
I spent years asking God why I was not worth it. Why was I not worth unconditional love? Why was I not worth finding a Christ-centered marriage? Why was I not worth having community? Were my prayers not right or good enough or faithful enough? I had become self-deprecating in every way and had no sense of self-worth. I was afraid to talk to my friends about my feelings of isolation, because the last time I did, I was told: “maybe you feel that way because deep down, you know that you’re choosing sinfulness.” It has taken over two years of counseling and 6 months(!) of sobriety to begin to understand just how wrecked I am from the rejection I experienced because of my sexuality. The stigma that the Evangelical Church places on people like me is detrimental to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fear and lack of understanding from the non-affirming side is astounding and alarming and dangerous.
The Nashville Statement tells Christians that they must have a non-affirming stance or they are just as guilty and sinful as the queer community. Christians are being fed an interpretation that was chosen for them. It does not encourage exploration of the Bible. It does not encourage conversation; it monopolizes it. It encourages churches to close their doors to anyone that does not fit the stereotypical, traditional, conservative Christian mold. It continues the flawed ideology that anyone who does not believe the Bible is the inherent, flawless, singular Word of God is a heretic. It rejects the idea that Scripture is open for interpretation, especially in ways that don’t dehumanize LGBTQ people. It does not bother to reference Scripture, because it expects Christians to blindly follow its rhetoric without question. The Nashville Statement wants to further alienate and marginalize LGBTQ people of faith by telling my Christian friends and family that they can no longer “agree to disagree” with me, that they can no longer formulate their own opinions and beliefs regarding same-sex marriage, and that they must reject me in order to remain in good standing with God and Christianity.
If you are contemplating endorsing this Statement, please consider the theology. Have you studied it extensively? Have you talked to your LGBTQ friends about what this means to them? Have you read anything about inclusive theology? Have you studied cultural contexts of Scripture? Have you studied patriarchy in Scripture? Have you studied gender roles in society and Scripture? There is an adventurous and exciting and joyful and spiritual relationship with a God that is not forced into a box of closed-off theology.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [Galations 3:28]