Union University of Jackson, Tennessee is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, a statewide organization of churches associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Earlier this year, Union’s president and three other faculty members signed the Nashville Statement, a doctrinal affirmation of traditional Christian beliefs on marriage and human sexuality. Specifically, the Nashville Statement affirms God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman and denies homosexuality and transgenderism are sanctioned by Christian doctrine.
The Nashville Statement was formed by The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in partnership with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention has long upheld a biblically-based position on marriage and sexuality:
We affirm God’s plan for marriage and sexual intimacy – one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a “valid alternative lifestyle.” The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ.
However, a group of Union alumni appear flummoxed by the leadership at their alma mater standing by the Bible’s teachings. In a letter to President Oliver, just over 400 former Union students called the Nashville Statement a “declaration of bigotry and condemnation.” The vast majority of alums signing the letter attended Union within the last decade.
The Tennessean interviewed a recent graduate who signed the alumni letter:
2011 Union graduate Elizabeth Waibel was one of the first alumni to sign the statement. She admits she didn’t know how conservative Union’s views were until she began attending and got on campus, but she says she doesn’t see the point of Union being associated with the statement.
“I’ve become, I guess, more liberal in the past few years, and it’s disheartening to see the statement on gay relationships are wrong,” Waibel said. “The Bible allows for homosexual relationships and transgender rights and affirms gay marriage.”
Waibel said she was unable to provide specific examples of passages from the Bible that supported her view.
In a recent column, CBMW President Denny Burk explained why the Nashville Statement was necessary to refute the positions adopted by these alumni:
There are many “evangelicals” who are trying to convince other evangelicals that homosexual immorality is a special case. They are trying to convince people that same-sex immorality and following Jesus can indeed go together. One of the main reasons for The Nashville Statement is to expose this contradiction.
Clearly, The Nashville Statement “provides biblical clarity” on issues where believers have been pressured conform to the culture. Another group of Union alumni have commended the President Oliver and The Nashville Statement signers for their “courage of conviction even at the risk of personal detriment or loss.” The alumni letter in support of Union’s leadership can be viewed and signed here.
Have you signed The Nashville Statement? Read and sign this important set of principles here.