An Evangelistic Time to Stand
A square circle. A married bachelor. An African-American millennial PCA pastoral intern who believes in biblical social justice and agreed with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) commending the Nashville Statement as a biblically faithful document. I not only agreed with it but I signed it and promoted it to others. Some will read this and think that, like the first two examples, the third is a contradiction of the highest order. I assure you it is not. As an evangelist who has been sharing the Gospel in the public sphere since 2006 across the United States and abroad, I see the need for this statement at this particular time in history.
Part of the Problem
I well remember my first semester of college in the Fall of 2007 in Southern California. I joined a campus Christian club and when it came time to speak with non-Christian students, I was surprised by their form of "evangelism." Their method of evangelism was simply to talk of God's love for all. No mention of sin, righteousness, or the judgement to come (Jn. 16:18). Their message gave the non-Christian students they encountered the impression that God is not angry at sin nor at the sinner and that all was fine between them and their Creator. Although shocked, I shouldn't have been. This phenomenon of withholding clear biblical truth isn't new or quarantined to Southern California only. It is worldwide.
Early last month in the Philippines, a group of professing Christians attended and walked in a Pride rally in Marikina City. They held up signs which included messages such as, "Christians harmed the LGBT community"..."I've rejected and hurt your family in the name of 'family values.'"..."God loves you, so do we," and "I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe Sorry!!" The pastor of this group, Val Paminiani, even went as far as to say, "I used to believe that God condemns homosexuals, but when I studied the Scriptures, especially the ones that we call 'clobber Scriptures' that are being cherry-picked from the Bible to condemn LGBT people, I realized that there's a lot to discover, including the truth that God is not against anyone..."
Some of the "cherry-picked...clobber Scriptures" he is speaking of are undoubtedly Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. None of these verses are taken out of context and all of them clearly condemn homosexuals and homosexual behavior as well.
That sort of argumentation is a case in point of professing Christians seeking to be nicer than Moses, the Apostle Paul, and the Triune God Himself. To compound the problem, many Christians believe that when homosexuals and transgender people think of Christianity, they think of people who hate them and call them the worse sorts of names (and, to hate and call precious image bearers names is a heinous sin; rather, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves). This is, however, quite a deceptive misconception--as many in the LGBTQ community are predominately hearing the demonic lies of theological liberal mainline denominations which state, as Pastor Paminiani said, "God is not against anyone..."
In other words, many within my denomination believe that the world already knows what the Bible declares regarding human sexuality in regards to homosexuality, transgenderism, and same-sex attraction. Based on my own evangelistic interactions with unbelievers, I strongly disagree. With groups of Christians telling the LGBTQ community that Jesus is all love who requires no repentance on their part, confusion as to the teaching of Scripture regarding these issues abounds among the lost.
Part of the Solution
In my nearly 13 years of sharing the Gospel with non-Christians, including homosexual and transgendered people, on college campuses, beach boardwalks, and street corners, I can say that the Nashville Statement ought to be commended by the PCA. The Nashville Statement--which was drafted by godly saints who deeply love God and their LGBTQ neighbors--is a document full of both grace and truth. It speaks the "truth in love" (Eph. 4:15) concerning homosexuality, transgenderism, and same-sex attraction. Of course it doesn't cover every single issue regarding these topics; but, as Pastor Harry Reeder said on the floor at General Assembly, no statement will ever be comprehensive enough. It does say enough however, is biblically faithful, and is desperately needed in our culture today.
Part of rightly loving the LGBTQ community is telling them the truth about their sin, its consequences (i.e. the wrath of God in the Lake of Fire - Revelation 21:8), and the redemption found solely through Jesus Christ and His finished work for all who truly come to Him (Acts 20:21). This is what the Nashville Statement does so wonderfully. It lays out the truth of what God says in His Word concerning these important issues and then, in Article 14, closes with the beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ. It ends with offering those in the LGBTQ community true hope of Gospel transformation. It is also telling that Christians who have struggled with or continue to struggle with same-sex attraction also signed this statement such as Jackie Hill Perry, Rosaria Butterfield, and Sam Allberry.
Law and Gospel
As a young Black Christian in a denomination that I love, I realize that I stand on a different side than many others I love, respect, and who are in the same biblical social justice camp as myself. So why take the stand I do? Because my loyalty lies not to any one camp or tribe but to the Word of God alone. And the Nashville Statement takes a much-needed biblical stand for Jesus Christ and His truth. As Ligon Duncan said on the floor, it gives clarity and we need to be clear to a confused world where we stand as a denomination regarding homosexuality, transgenderism, and same-sex attraction. To do so is both evangelistic and apologetic (1 Pt. 2:9; 3:15).
It does a wonderful job of laying out the Law of God regarding sexuality leading us to see how both homosexual and heterosexual sin is wrong (Article 9) and then presents the Gospel of Christ. In other words, this Statement is very evangelistic as that is one of the most biblical principles in evangelism: the Law being presented in order to prepare the person for the Gospel. In light of all the above, how is the Law and Gospel presented in the Nashville Statement not pastoral, beautiful, or nuanced enough for our LGBTQ neighbors?
The PCA is not to make decisions based on the emotive appeals and experiences of individuals but on the unchanging Word of God. On Thursday, June 27, 2019 we took the right stand as a denomination. I too take that same stand unashamedly. Therefore, the Nashville Statement is one I will, without reservations, use in evangelistic conversations with truly interested people who are open to hearing about the Bible's sexual ethic and how they can be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-21). I recommend the same to you. It is time to take a stand. Will you?
Lamont English is the Assistant Director of the PCA's Mission to the World (MTW) West Coast office. The views expressed in this post are his own and do not represent those of MTW.