Hundreds of church leaders have joined forces to denounce an evangelical manifesto that condemns same-sex marriage, promoting instead a message of inclusion in the name of the Christian faith.
This week's Nashville Statement reaffirmed conservative Christian teaching that any sex outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful and that it is 'sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness'.
In a statement today signed by the Church of England's general synod member Jayne Ozanne as well as dozens of US pro-gay church leaders, more than 300 Christians 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.'
Titled Christians United, the statement continues: 'In every generation there are those who resist the Spirit's leading in various ways and cling to the dogmas and traditions that he is calling us to rethink and reform. Throughout our history, those who have been on the leading edge of the Holy Spirit's sanctifying work have often found themselves initially excluded, marginalized, and demonized by some of those within established Christian institutions.
'In the twenty-first century, we believe that the Church finds itself once again on the brink of a new reformation, one which in which the Holy Spirit is calling us to return to the Scriptures and our traditions in order to re-examine our teachings on human sexuality and gender identity.'
The statement includes ten 'articles', concluding: '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.'
Another statement was released by a group called The Liturgists.
They wrote: 'As floodwaters still rise in Houston, many prominent Christian leaders released the Nashville Statement. This document released a flood of its own, only this time instead of homes flooded with water, it was hearts flooded with grief. Yet again, powerful people of means use the platform of the Church to demean the basic dignity of gay, bisexual, lesbian, trans, intersex, and queer people.
'This isn't new. "Biblical" morality has been used to justify slavery, resistance to interracial marriage, genocide, and war. The scope of the Bible's narrative allows a broad interpretation of what is right and moral, and both the church and society at large have moved toward universal justice and acceptance on issues once thought to be "crystal clear".
'In regards to Christians across the spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities, it's past time to accept and affirm them as they are. In the same way that we no longer accept the morality of slavery based on its inclusion in our scriptures, we can no longer project first century notions of sex and sexuality on people today. The very notion of "orientation," or even "heterosexual" would be completely foreign to the authors of both the old and new testaments in the Bible.'
Ozanne told Christian Today: 'I think it very telling that within hours of the "Nashville statement" being released, Christians United gathered twice as many signatories from church leaders that endorsed a far more affirming, loving and inclusive set of articles that embraces the LGBTI community. I challenge people to read both statements and see which they believe reflects the width, length, height and depth of God's love for all creation – and in so doing see which is the more prophetic and courageous in a world that is increasingly fueled by fear and hate.'