About 250 pastors are in Dutch after their names appeared on a translated document by fundamentalist Christians in the United States being received in the Netherlands as bigotry against the LGBTQ community.
A Dutch translation of the Nashville Statement – a 2017 declaration by conservative U.S. Christians including leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention — sparked protests in the world’s first nation to legalize same-sex marriage including the flying of rainbow flags in The Hague, the seat of government known for its role in international diplomacy.
Prosecutors are investigating whether the proclamation denouncing homosexuality and transgenderism violates an article in the Dutch constitution barring discrimination based on “religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds.”
Dutch atheists countered with a “declaration of love” bearing more than 45,000 signatures affirming “that people love each other in different ways and can be attracted to each other physically” and that “all people must be free to be who they want to be.”
COC Nederland, the oldest existing LGBT organization in the world, denounced the Nashville Statement as an effort to put homosexuality “back in the closet.”
“This statement gives the impression that gay feelings can be changed, but dozens of research projects have shown that homosexuality cannot be changed with treatment and therapies, and that such treatments are downright dangerous,” the organization said.
Jan Wolsheimer, director of Missie Nederland — a missionary organization that includes nine denominations – said the local reaction is “much less spectacular” than the one being portrayed in international media.
Wolsheimer told Evangelical Focus, a news and opinion website for Europe, the signers represent a small section of Dutch Christianity. He said the names of two members of parliament – one of them identified with the country’s religious right – drew particular attention to the statement’s release.
The evangelical leader said some of the pastors identified in the document did not actually sign anything but indicated they agreed with the Nashville Statement in principle. Some are removing their names in light of controversy among Christians and non-Christian alike.
“The Dutch Christians are not very keen to import U.S. culture wars,” Wolsheimer said.
Released in Nashville, Tennessee, during a 2017 national conference sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the statement, defines marriage as a “lifelong union of one man and one woman” and says that “adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception” is sinful.
Denny Burk, president of the Council in Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, responded on Dutch television to concerns about the statement’s impact on young people who are struggling with their sexual identity.
“We believe that what the scriptures teach about manhood and womanhood and about our sexuality is actually good for us,” Burk told News Hour, a current affairs program on public television. “It provides clarity to the human condition.”
Burk said he would still love his children if they were gay but would not attend their same-sex wedding.
“I wouldn’t do anything that would affirm a moral action that is contrary to Scripture, but I would still try to have a relationship with them and love them and be a part of their lives,” said Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
“When we love each other that means that we are seeking the best for one another,” added Burk, who also serves as associate pastor at Louisville’s Kenwood Baptist Church. “We’re seeking truth for one another. Love doesn’t cover over all disagreements, but it does acknowledge that those disagreements are there.”
Wolsheimer, a former pastor who started his current job Dec. 1, said evangelicals constitute about 14 percent of Christians in the Netherlands. He said no data exists on how many hold to “a traditional biblical view of sexuality.”
Wolsheimer said “freedom of speech is very powerful in the Netherlands” and he believes there is little possibility that a criminal case would ever go to trial.
The Nashville Statement also sparked controversy when the English version came out in 2017, including a counter-statement affirming “that one may live proudly and openly as an LGBT+ individual and as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.”