Below is the letter we, Jim Tablazon and Pieter Valk, shared with our church, friends, and family in preparation for our One-Year Promises. This is our letter to the Church. This is why a family for celibate men in Nashville is needed.
Dear Friends and Family,
We, Pieter Valk and Jim Tablazon, write to you in anticipation of a hopeful yet possibly overwhelming opportunity: we hope to make one-year promises to God and the Nashville Family of Brothers, a monastic community. We’re looking for intercessors to pray for us and this endeavor, and we hope you will commit to praying for us after you read this letter.
But monks are weird and…Catholic
We are aware that the word monasticism scares many Protestants. It seems strange, something from a different time. Many imagine medieval monks with tonsured heads and plain habits. But we are not intimidated by the possibility of a monastic community. We need this, and the Church needs this.
Why we need this
We are both Christian, gay, and committed to stewarding our sexualities according to a traditional sexual ethic. This means, just like our straight brothers and sisters, we have had to discern whether we are called to a vocation of celibacy or marriage with someone of the opposite sex. After a year of formal discernment (and what seems like a lifetime of informal discernment), we both believe we are called to a vocation of celibacy. Unfortunately, we don’t hear about the purposes or beauty of celibacy in our churches, and we haven’t seen thriving in celibacy modeled. There are no clear pathways for those called to celibacy. Too many men we know have tried to live out
celibacy,but instead found loneliness and despair. We too each have tasted this loneliness and despair. We’re stuck in a revolving door of friends where it’s become too painful to let ourselves need to love of others. Where will we find stablefamily? Who will be there when time and age make us more dependent on our closest relations? The solution for celibate Christian men has historically been family in the context of a monastic community. Familyis one of the most important ways God’s love is embodied for us, and without family, it’s hard to imagine His love as real. It saddens us when single gay friends lose their faith because they lack family. We admit there are many ways to build and have family. We hope that the Nashville Family of Brothers can be a place where our deepest desires for God and family can meet.
Why the Church needs this
In light of the growing acceptance of gay people in our culture and the idolatry of romance in our churches, the Church needs the Nashville Family of Brothers. First, monastic communities have often arisen as an attempt to address needs the Church could not yet meet from within. For the first time in our history, gay people can be ‘out’ without the risk of being disowned by their family or beaten by strangers. Gay marriage is celebrated in our culture, and even in some of our churches. Yet most churches still avoid talking about the reality of gay people in our churches, and few of our churches are places where LGBT+ people can find family and thrive according to a traditional sexual ethic. The Nashville Family of Brothers will help the Church meet that need. Second, monastic communities have historically been tied with the reteaching of ancient truths to the Church, reminding her to seek spiritual growth in areas it has
laxedor forgotten. We believe a Nashville monastic community can address a specific need of the American church today: a need for a better theology and practice of vocational celibacy in the Church. You see, gay Christians’ need for a better Church is the canary in the coal mine for a much bigger problem: the American Church idolizes romance. Our churches offer romance and marriage as THE solution to loneliness, to the detriment of all people, gay or straight, single or married. Without a robust theology and practice of vocational celibacy, single people in our churches struggle with loneliness, leading to sex outside of marriage, rushing into marriage, adultery, and divorce. This cheapens marriage. Widows, divorcees, women, and gay Christians are disproportionately affected. And the Church suffers,because we lack this powerful minority wholly committed to advancing the Kingdom. Our hope is that our monastic community would address this need in the Church in Nashville.
We hope to model celibacy in our churches and the wider community, help churches teach the beautiful theology of celibacy in Scripture, and support Christians in Nashville discerning whether they are called to celibacy or marriage with someone of the opposite sex. While we intend for our community to be made up of gay AND straight celibate men, we hope that gay men and women, in particular, will be compelled by our thriving to embrace the burden and the beauty of a traditional sexual ethic for themselves. We hope that Nashville will see that in contrast to the idol of romance, we believe God is worth giving up everything and that He can provide more than the gods of our culture ever could. And, in light of the mounting pain and suffering we see in the world around us, we hope to raise up a new generation of celibate men and women in Nashville who will fully commit themselves to ministering to the sick and the needy, supporting nuclear families, teaching in our churches, bringing about racial reconciliation, alleviating poverty, caring for the mentally ill, and advocating for immigrants and refugees.
Under the direction of a local Anglican pastor, we plan to make one-year promises this December to continue discerning our callings, live into our future vows, and write the Rule that will guide our community. Even then, this next year will only be the first of four years spent confirming that God has truly called us to make final vows. We believe God created each of us to work with Him to redeem creation and to enjoy intimacy in the context of
committedfamily. To support these created purposes, we hope to one day make final vows of celibacy and family. First, we believe that we have been called to a permanent vocation of celibacy – a vocation of equal theological and practical beauty as marriage – for the purposes of fully committing ourselves to Kingdom work mutually exclusive with raising children. Second, we believe God has called us to make permanentfamily for ourselves and with the other men who will join. Let us be clear: our house will not be our primary place of worship, our place of work, or a place of isolation from our churches and friends. We will each be required to be committed to the mission and community of a local church, the doors of our home will always be open to extended friends and family, and we hope our monastery serves as a seed for intentional Christian community of celibates and married people in Nashville. Our home will be a place of shared prayer, confession, meals, holidays, vacations, celebration, and mourning. But, we are only just beginning the process of taking these final vows of celibacy and family. a awider
Why we need your prayer
Our first year of building this family has not been easy on us, and we expect it to stay that way. Thirteen men began discerning with us in 2018, four men continue discerning, and only two are ready to make the one-year promises. Fear and pain have dwindled our numbers, but we recognize the importance and potential beauty of what we’re doing. Consequently, we sense that we are likely to be under spiritual attack and we need a group of people committed to
participatein our family by praying for us. We will send updates and prayer requests regularly. If you would rather not receive these emails, please let us know and we’d be happy to edit our e-mailing list. If you have any questions about the Nashville Family of Brothers, you can email us directly or check out our FAQ.
Please pray for us when you are able to.