Dutch backlash to Nashville Statement 'ominous'

AMSTERDAM (BP) -- In the Netherlands, signatories of The Nashville Statement on biblical sexuality have been threatened with criminal prosecution, admonished by employers and derided by protests.

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The episode has been cited by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. as "an ominous warning" of religious liberty restrictions to come in the U.S.

"There are many in the United States who would say, 'Well, that's the Netherlands. It can't have anything to do with Christians in the United States,'" Mohler said Jan. 9 in his podcast The Briefing. "But of course it can.

"Remember that back in 2001, when in the Netherlands same-sex marriage was legalized, even many who later became avid proponents of same-sex marriage, said in 2001, 'It can't happen here,'" Mohler said. "But it did happen here.... Consider that an ominous warning as you consider this headline news story from the Netherlands."

About 250 Christian leaders in the Netherlands have signed a Dutch translation of The Nashville Statement, Dutch News reported Jan. 7. Released in 2017 by an evangelical coalition including the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, The Nashville Statement affirms biblical prohibitions of homosexual practice and transgenderism.

The Dutch translation appends a postscript confessing the guilt of Dutch Christians for "not decorat[ing] our principles with the example of our lives" and for occasional "abuse of power towards those who know of same-sex orientation," according to a translation posted online by LifeSite.

Still, the Dutch government's prosecution service announced this week it was examining the statement to see if criminal prosecution of signatories was warranted, Dutch News reported. Dutch opera singer Francis van Broekhuizen has filed a formal police complaint against a Dutch member of parliament who signed The Nashville Statement.

Meanwhile, a professor at the Free University of Amsterdam has been admonished for signing the statement, then stating churches must not be silent about the threat of transgender ideology like they were about the threat of Nazi ideology before World War II, according to the online Dutch newspaper NU.nl.

The Nashville Statement also was fodder for a Dutch political cartoon, Christianity Today reported Jan. 10. Even some Dutch Christians who oppose same-sex marriage have called the statement unhelpful and polarizing.

The Hague, a city on the Netherlands' coast, flew a rainbow flag over city hall to protest The Nashville Statement, according to Jan. 8 media reports. Some Protestant churches in Amsterdam flew rainbow flags in protest Jan. 7, according to the news site Indebuurt Den Haag.

The Netherlands, Mohler said, "demonstrates the trajectory of European secularization perhaps better than any other single nation." Its 2001 legalization of same-sex marriage marked the first such nationwide legalization in the world. A 2015 survey indicated atheists outnumber theists among the Dutch, and 59 percent of Netherlands residents said they had never entered a church building, Mohler said.

CBMW President Denny Burk said in a Jan. 8 appearance on Dutch television The Nashville Statement "is really designed for churches" and represents the consistent belief of Christians for 2,000 years.

Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, added in a Jan. 9 blog post he "has been in touch with some of the Dutch signatories of The Nashville Statement." He urged prayer for them.

"They did not anticipate this kind of opposition to what is essentially a confessional statement," Burk wrote. "But now they are being called to stand in the face of severe headwinds from the wider culture. They are also facing a potential criminal investigation from the country's public prosecution service. Hopefully, this effort to criminalize Christian teaching will come to nothing, but we should nevertheless pray for these pastors until it does."

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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