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150 religious leaders sign anti-gay 'manifesto' on sexuality

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/30/2017 Holly Meyer
More than 150 conservative Christian leaders from across the USA signed a statement, released Aug. 29, 2017, that affirms traditional marriage and considers homosexuality sinful. © Getty Images More than 150 conservative Christian leaders from across the USA signed a statement, released Aug. 29, 2017, that affirms traditional marriage and considers homosexuality sinful.

 

NASHVILLE — A nationwide coalition of more than 150 conservative Christian leaders signed a statement, released Tuesday, affirming their beliefs on human sexuality, including that marriage is between one man and one woman and approval of "homosexual immorality" is sinful.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's list of 14 beliefs, referred to as the Nashville Statement, is a response to an increasingly post-Christian, Western culture that thinks it can change God's design for humans, according to the statement. 

"Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be," the statement from the coalition members reads.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood convened a meeting of evangelical leaders, pastors and scholars Friday at the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission's annual conference in Nashville. The coalition discussed and endorsed the statement. 

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In a press release, John Piper, co-founder of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, called the Nashville Statement a "Christian manifesto" on human sexuality.

"It speaks with forthright clarity, biblical conviction, gospel compassion, cultural relevance, and practical helpfulness," Piper said. "It will prove to be, I believe, enormously helpful for thousands of pastors and leaders hoping to give wise, biblical, and gracious guidance to their people."

Among the signers who have been involved in national politics: James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in the District of Columbia.

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Dobson and four others — Senior Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church, which has four campuses in northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri; Pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; President Richard Land of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.; televangelist James Robison, founder of Fort Worth-based Life Outreach International — also are members of President Trump's evangelical advisory board.

In a series of tweets, Pastor Brandan Robertson of MissionGathering Christian Church in San Diego, an LGBT activist who helped organize a protest at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission conference, called the statement an affront to God's creative design.

"When your theology breeds death, your theology is not of God," he tweeted.

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Christian author Jen Hatmaker of Austin, Texas, who come out in favor of same-sex marriage and whose books have been removed from the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay Christian Stores because of that philosophy, called the timing of the statement callous because of the Aug. 12 Unite the Right white supremacists' rally in Charlottesville, Va., and protester Heather Heyer's death.

"If the fruit of doctrine regularly & consistently creates shame, self-harm, suicide, & broken hearts, families, & churches, we shld listen," she tweeted.

Each of the Nashville Statement's 14 beliefs include one sentiment the signers affirm and one they deny. They cover a range of topics from a prohibition on sex outside of marriage to the connection between biological sex and gender identity. 

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, who as a councilwoman officiated some of the city's first same-sex marriages when they became legal in Tennessee, took issue with the statement's moniker. In a tweet, she called it "poorly named."

Its name is derived from the meeting location. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's founding document — the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood — was signed about 30 years ago during a summit at a resort in Danvers, Mass. 

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Founded in 1987 and based in Louisville, Ky., the council's website said it has helped several religious groups, including the 15 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, promote "gospel-driven gender roles."

Some members of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention that played host to the coalition last week, signed the statement.  

In the news release, the commission's president, Russell Moore, said it is "urgently needed."

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"The sexual revolution cannot keep its promises, and the church must stand ready to receive with compassion the many who are in need of a better hope," Moore said. "The Nashville Statement is part of that mission, and my prayer is that it will help anchor churches and Christians to the gospel of Jesus Christ for years to come."

This year, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission's annual conference focused on parenting, including how to talk to your kids about their biblical view of sex, same-sex attraction and gender identity.

Follow Holly Meyer on Twitter: @HollyAMeyer

 

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