The Nashville Statement, 14 articles written by Evangelical leaders in Nashville, Tennessee, sparked renewed controversy over the legalization of gay marriage in the United States. Each article both affirms a Biblical truth and denies a cultural standard surrounding gay marriage and same-sex partnership.
“Whichever way you respond, you set yourself up for criticism,” Professor Rod Reed, the chaplain at John Brown University, said. The JBU Community Covenant retains the position that “Christian marriage is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman,” and that “Christians should seek to live with integrity and congruence between their birth sex and their gender identity.”
Reed affirmed that this is difficult in real life. “When I look in Scripture, Jesus’ first step towards anyone, except religious people who try to be very rigid, is always a step of love and relationship,” Reed said. He regularly speaks to students struggling with their sexual identity or orientation. He also leads a group on campus for students on the LGBTQ+ spectrum as a confidential place for them to come and know that they are loved and cared for. “I would guess every student on campus knows someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, whether they know it or not,” Reed said.
Andre Broquard, the Dean of Student Life and Director of Residence Life at JBU, agreed that Christians’ first step towards responding to those who identify as LGBTQ+ should be a step of love.
“We still want to create this place that is caring and loving and honors individuals,” Broquard said. “That’s what I would hope for JBU, is that we as individuals seek to understand and know each other.”
According to Broquard, responding in love does not mean that Christians must compromise their beliefs or refrain from sharing Biblical truth with those who identify as LGBTQ+. It simply suggests building relationships instead of condemning.
“Too often I think the Evangelical world has taken on this mentality of being God for other people,” Broquard said. Broquard said he believes Christians do not have a duty to correct people and show them that they are sinners. “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change us,” he said.
Reed cautioned Christians against refusing to see the big picture.
“I think one of the challenges today is Christians, conservative Christians in particular who are really desiring to be faithful to Scripture, see the most important thing as standing for truth and winning a short-term battle,” Reed said. “Short-term battles for truth are never won.”
“I think that the church in general needs to do a way better job of making significant friendship available,” Kristie Moergen, the Director of Campus Ministries at JBU, said. “I think being empathetic requires a lot more of us than drawing lines in the sand.”
Preston Sprinkle, author of “People to be Loved,” wrote, “According to the statistics, when young non-Christians were asked about the first thing that came to mind when they thought of evangelical Christianity, you know what they said? Ninety-one percent said that the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Christians is that Christians are ‘anti-homosexual.’” Moergen said she thinks this perception of Christianity could be due to negative social media posts regarding LGBTQ+ legislation as well as blanket statements about those who identify as LGBTQ+. She also said Christians need to “reflect the empathy of the heart of Jesus” when they speak.
The President of JBU, Charles Pollard, said he believes that answering questions about homosexuality involve both theological principles as well as individual human beings.
“I think a lot of times people can be really right about their theological convictions and really wrong about how they deal with human beings,” Pollard said. “Other times I think people can be really right about how they deal with human beings and really wrong in their theological convictions.” While Pollard said he agreed that sexual identity is an important part of who a person is, it does not completely define them. According to Pollard, the first step in responding to an issue of this magnitude is to listen, and then to ask questions gently once a relationship is formed.
“I wouldn’t start in a place of figuring out where the conflict is,” Pollard said. “I would start in recognizing that you’re both made in the image of God.”
KJ Roh – Managing Editor