My heart aches because of the Nashville Statement.
My heart aches because it is reckless and dangerous and may put real people—image bearers of God—at risk.
To help explain why that is, let me explain a little bit about my history. This part is actually really difficult for me. I’ve shared small parts of this with folks in the past—but never in this much detail and never this publicly. With what’s happening now, though, I feel like I need to.
I grew up in a family that showed—and continues to show—unconditional love. My parents would never abandon me, and I knew that. I can truly not imagine a safer family to be a part of. I was raised as a Christian in a Christian family. My father was and is a pastor in a Christian church. I routinely volunteered at my church and became knowledgeable in the Bible. To anyone looking, I seemed to be a good, well-adjusted boy.
The reality, though, is that I was never as well-adjusted as I seemed to be. Underneath the image I portrayed, I was falling apart. I spent a lot of time as a teenager wishing that I would die. There were many, many times when I had no will to live. I would see tragedies and wish that I had been the person to die instead. I had actionable plans to kill myself more times than I really care to think about. The only reason I never followed through on one of those plans—the only reason I’m here today—is because I knew that if I did it would devastate my family and I could never do that to them.
So how does that pertain to the Nashville statement? The truth is there are some parts of the Nashville statement that I can agree with. There are some things that I don’t agree with. For this post, I want to focus on one specific statement from Article 7:
“WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”
The reason that I was in so much despair as a teenager was because I was struggling to process the fact that I was, and am, attracted to other guys. I prayed for God to change it; it never changed. That turned into a cycle of praying for change followed by a period of denial. I would pray for God to change my orientation, deny my orientation, only to have it show up again—and with every cycle of self-rejection I would venture deeper and deeper into despair, thinking that I could never be acceptable to God.
With every cycle of self-rejection I would venture deeper and deeper into despair, thinking that I could never be acceptable to God.
The turning point for me was when I finally realized that I could accept my orientation for what it was and decided to do so. Being able to conceive that I am homosexual (to use the term from the Nashville statement) / gay (the term that I prefer) allowed me to start rebuilding my self-acceptance and self-worth. It allowed me to escape the pit of despair that I had been sinking deeply into and instead process what my orientation would mean for my life.
That’s why I see this line from the Nashville statement as so dangerous. When I read the section I quoted, I see a statement that says “perceiving/regarding/understanding oneself as gay/homosexual is inconsistent with God’s will.” In other words, the statement says it is sinful.
I find that assertion to be very dangerous. Had I believed that when I was younger, I would probably have not escaped the despair that was overtaking me—and I really don’t like thinking about how that likely would have ended.
Even worse, though, would have been if my family had made that statement. I spent years praying to God asking for him to change my orientation—without change. If my family had said what the Nashville statement says…I wouldn’t be alive today. I’m thankful every day for the love they showed instead.
I truly hope that this helps you understand why I think the Nashville statement is so dangerous. My experience is far from unique. LGBT youth have one of the highest suicide rates—but there’s a group that has an even higher rate. That group is LGBT youth who have been rejected. LGBT youth who are rejected by their families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide as LGBT youth who are not.
There should be room to discuss theology. But we must do it in a way that is compassionate, respectful, and most importantly safe for the vulnerable people affected by the discussion. The Nashville statement is not.
Derek Kaser is an IT administrator by profession, and a volunteer technical director and sound engineer at Life Church in Greensburg, PA. He is also an Oriented to Love alum. Please read his article Naked at Church? for more insight into his story.