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Why I Changed My Mind on the Nashville Statement

November 16, 2022
By Todd Pruitt

Editor’s note: The following essay appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Eikon.

I did not originate the title of this article. The Eikon editors initially asked if I would be willing to write about how and why my thinking had changed about the Nashville Statement. But in service to greater accuracy, it would be better for me to pursue the question, “Why I finally decided to publicly endorse the Nashville Statement.” I have never questioned the biblical fidelity of the Nashville Statement. My initial reluctance to publicly endorse it was due to other factors that were at play at the time, primarily the debate over the doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS), of which I was a rather vocal participant. As many readers will know, that created an uneasy tension among those who were otherwise committed to complementarianism. Plus, as naïve as this sounds today, I believed the Nashville Statement was entirely unnecessary.

Nevertheless, my reticence to publicly endorse the Nashville Statement was banished decisively by three developments. First, I was encouraged by certain things happening within the CBMW. Second, it was clear that the moral revolutionaries who were driving the culture war had gained enormous ground, even among professing Christians. But the most decisive factor in my support for the Nashville Statement had to do with certain events in the denomination which I serve as a pastor, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

In the summer of 2018, the first Revoice conference was held at a PCA church in St. Louis, MO. It is true that Revoice upholds the Christian ethic that sexual intimacy is exclusively for a man and woman within the bonds of marriage. On that much we agree. But it is also true that Revoice holds to so-called Side B “Gay Christianity”. It is not my purpose here to go into detail about the deeply flawed doctrines attached to the “gay but celibate” movement which Revoice represents. I will only say that it distorts the doctrine of humanity — the telos of the body and sexuality — undermines sanctification, and strips the gospel of its power to transform our desires. And so, like so many within the PCA, I was dismayed that one of our own churches would play host to an event propagating such grievous errors.

This conflict in the PCA intersected with the Nashville Statement in the summer of 2019. That year, an overture reached the floor of our General Assembly which called for the PCA to declare that the Nashville Statement was biblically faithful. This overture (Overture 4) stated:

Therefore be it resolved that the Calvary Presbytery hereby overture the 47th General Assembly and asks it to declare the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood’s “Nashville Statement” on biblical sexuality as a biblically faithful declaration and refer the “Nashville Statement” to the Committee on Discipleship Ministries for inclusion and promotion among its denominational teaching materials.

Keep in mind that the overture did not call for the PCA to add the Nashville Statement to our Book of Church Order. We were not “adopting” the Nashville Statement. Overture 4 merely called for the PCA to declare that its denials and affirmations were indeed biblical and therefore useful in our instructions. But Overture 4 was fiercely opposed by those in the PCA who either were supportive of or at least sympathetic to Revoice and the idea of Side B “Gay Christianity.”.

One of the men who spoke against Overture 4 on the floor of the Assembly was pastor Greg Johnson of Memorial PCA in St. Louis, the same church that hosted the first Revoice conference the previous summer. Pastor Johnson continues to speak for and promote Revoice. And while many of those promoting Revoice and Side-B “Gay Christianity” in the PCA deny that they have “adopted a gay identity,” Pastor Johnson’s words that evening in Dallas in 2019 were quite illuminating.

Johnson (who claims to be “a six on the Kinsey scale”) stated on the floor of the Assembly that Article 7 of the Nashville Statement excludes him. Article 7 states: “We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.” How can a man claim such a statement excludes him while simultaneously claiming not to have adopted a “gay identity”? How can it be that such an obvious affirmation of biblical truth is controversial among some ministers in the PCA?

Before the Assembly convened that summer of 2019, I had already decided to vote in favor of Overture 4 if it came to the floor. After the various speeches against adopting the overture — especially that of Pastor Johnson — I was happy to cast an enthusiastic vote in favor. I am glad to say it passed. I am sad to report that the fight over Revoice and Side B “Gay Christianity” goes on.

The breathtaking success of the new moral revolution has made both clarity and, yes, redundancy on issues of sexuality and gender all the more pressing. Bottom line, it would be difficult for the church of Jesus Christ to speak too often of the doctrines of creation, anthropology, and the body. It would be difficult for us to speak too often about the God-given purposes and goodness of male and female complementarity. We will have to state repeatedly and persuasively things that we never thought we would have to explain, such as the fact that there are only two genders or that transgressive sexual practices that destroy the body are, in fact, bad for people.

There is a need for well-crafted and clear statements summarizing the Bible’s teaching about sexuality, gender, and what it means to be human. They are needful as means to catechize our children so that they may better resist the spirit of the age and avoid errors that will make shipwreck of their faith. But as the ongoing influence of Revoice makes clear, resources like the Nashville Statement are needful for the instruction of even our own pastors.

Todd Pruitt is the lead pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia and co-host of the Mortification of Spin podcast and blog. He is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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