Over 150 evangelical leaders endorsed a “Christian manifesto” on Tuesday condemning same-sex marriage, premarital sex, and transgender people as “immoral.”
Known as the “Nashville Statement,” the document was released by The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which was founded in 1987 to “defend” religious people from the scourge of “secular feminism.” President Denny Burk claims in a statement that the manifesto’s intent is to clear up “some of the most basic questions of our humanity,” namely when it comes to gender identity and sexuality.
“The aim of the Nashville Statement is to shine a light into the darknessto declare the goodness of God’s design in our sexuality and in creating us as male and female,” Burk says.
The 14-point document, which is intended to inform doctrine at evangelical churches across the United States, begins by stating that marriage is solely between “one man and one woman.” It adds that Biblical unions are designed to be “procreative” and “signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.”
“We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship,” the manifesto reads.
One of the most controversial aspects of the Nashville Statement is its position on trans identity, enumerated in the fifth point. The document claims that “the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.”
The manifesto adds that being transgender or queer is a “departure from Christian faithfulness” and not a topic on which “otherwise faithful Christian should agree to disagree.”
The Nashville Statement was a signed by a murderer’s row of conservative evangelical leaders. Signatories included Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, the Trump advisor who repeatedly pushed the president to block trans people from military service.
That ban, signed last Friday, is set take effect in March.
Even aside from the White House’s squabble over trans people in the military, the statement’s release was poorly timed. Just days before the statement was sent out to churches across the country, Houston was pounded by a Category 4 hurricane. The damage from Hurricane Harvey has left 22 people dead. Estimates suggest that more than 450,000 people will require FEMA relief in the wake of the historic storm.
Right-wing leaders have responded by denying shelter to hurricane victims and blaming the natural disaster on LGBTQ people.
Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Houston’s Lakewood Church, reportedly turned away community residents seeking shelter after their homes were damaged in Hurricane Harvey. The church would begin accepting flood refugees following public pressure. Dismissing the impact of climate change, conservative talking head Ann Coulter claimed that the storm was “God’s punishment for Houston electing a lesbian mayor.” (Annise Parker left office in 2016.)
But its authors have stood firm.
“It speaks with forthright clarity, biblical conviction, gospel compassion, cultural relevance, and practical helpfulness,” claims John Piper, co-founder of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, in a statement. “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.”
Burk adds that the manifesto is a “line in the sand.”
“Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise,” he says.