As Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the South Texas coast ten days ago, the Nashville Statement produced by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) was picking up steam online. This statement is a multi-authored document with many noteworthy signatories seeking to articulate a concise biblical defense of traditional views relating to gender and sexuality. So it was destined to make a splash.
With our church building flooded, fifty members displaced, and disaster relief efforts ongoing for the foreseeable future, I didn’t and won’t have time to evaluate the Nashville Statement or respond to its friends and critics. But as a pastor in the city where Harvey struck, and as someone who cares deeply about the careful articulation of biblical truth, I’d like to address one criticism some have made against the statement’s release—its timing.
Today I spoke with one of the leaders behind the statement, a friend from my time in academia. He asked how we were doing in post-Harvey Houston, and I asked how he was doing after the past week of controversy. Knowing our situation in South Texas, he mentioned that some people had criticized the timing of the Nashville Statement’s release. He clarified that the statement was actually released several days before Harvey arrived, but only gained traction as the storm began unveiling its full force. At one point, he asked how I felt about the fact that the statement was being bandied about online while a catastrophe was unfolding in my city.
It did seem strange to watch the who’s who debate theological anthropology while our city drowned. In that one sense, the havoc wreaked by the storm put the Nashville Statement into momentary perspective. At the same time, as I told my friend, there are storms of all kinds in our world, and we can’t always wait for one kind to die down before we address another. CBMW couldn’t have predicted Harvey’s effects, and even if they could’ve, a delay would’ve meant the statement would’ve been released just as South Asia was getting hammered by their own rains and floods which displaced far more people than Hurricane Harvey. In short, there’s always something going on.
So for anyone who’s criticizing the timing of the Nashville Statement, I would encourage them to read the document afresh and focus on the affirmations and denials being made rather than some presumed insensitivity among its purveyors. Sadly it’s now the rule, rather than the exception, that our public discourse is hijacked by irrational accusations and uncharitable assumptions that draw us away from the essential exercise of doctrinal discernment and articulation.
The fog of controversy is thick enough already—why turn on the smoke machines in the process?
Don’t let hype—of any kind—over the Nashville Statement’s release blind you to the significance of its content. For all who have eyes to see and ears to hear, our ongoing cultural confusion over matters of gender and sexuality is a storm that was raging long before Harvey began spinning in the Caribbean, and will be challenging the church and waylaying the culture long after Harvey is a distant memory.
I’m glad the Nashville Statement was released, even though our hurricane followed closely on its heels, because there’s more than one kind of storm.