Updated: Aug 8, 2018
By Jim Shaw II
A few weeks ago, I wrote this article dealing with some concerns about the ReVoice Conference held on July 26-28 at Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Louis. It notes some similarities in beliefs between those who support ReVoice and those who do not, and notes problems with the language used (“LGBT+ Christians”, “Gay-Christians”, “Sexual Minorities”, etc.), which among other things, serves to make one’s sexual identity superlative to one’s status as a Christian.
The ReVoice Conference has occurred and I have had a chance to not only listen to the plenary sessions, but to look more into the background of things (the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), the speakers and workshop hosts, the “Spiritual Friendship” movement, and the “Side B” Christian movement). I am far more alarmed and troubled than I was originally. You should be too.
“Side B Christians”
ReVoice is self-admittedly a part of the "Side B" movement, which is supposedly a middle-way between the traditional Christian stance regarding homosexuality and that of the “Side A” movement.
Rosaria Butterfield gives these helpful definitions,
“Side B”, she states,“believes that homosexuality is not a morally culpable issue, although it is a consequence of the brokenness from the Fall; Side B teaches against homosexual sexual practice, but only for the sake of Christian tradition” (Ibid).
Indeed, those in the “Side B” movement find no problem with homosexual identity. They celebrate what I will term the ancillary aspects of homosexuality (effeminacy in men, maleness in women, same-sex orientation, queerness and more) and do so in the same ways that the “Side A” movement does, as “one of many forms of diverse sexuality that the church should welcome.”
Those among the “Side B” movement see their gayness as God given and beneficial to the world, and state that not all the aspects of their gayness are broken. The result is that “Side B” sees homosexuality or queerness or gayness as an orientation - the sexual acting out of which they seek to tame, but other aspects, such as orientation, they do not seek to mortify. They affirm the sexuality without the sexual practice.
“Why”, one might ask, “if they aren’t engaged in the sexual behaviors, should these individuals seek to mortify the ancillary aspectsof homosexuality?”
The reason is because male effeminacy, female masculinity, same-sex orientatations and homosexual behaviors are all corruptions brought about by the fall. The same corruption that causes the sexual perversion causes the gender behavior perversions. God tells us that both are serious sins. Leviticus states that homosexual behavior is an abomination, while Deuteronomy 22:5 addresses effeminacy, same-sex orientations, etc. There we see cross-dressing called an abomination, and we realize that God has not simply stopped at the sexual behavior, but He has gone on to include the heart issues of effeminacy in men (dressing like a woman) and masculinity in females (dressing like a man) and same-sex orientation.
The warning against leaving off from proper gender roles is repeated in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11: 13-16 where Paul states that not just God, but even nature teaches us that long hair on a man is a disgrace to him and that long hair is a woman’s glory, which she should not cut off nor shave. From this we understand clearly that “Side B” Christians were designed by God to be heterosexuals in both desires and behaviors. Sin corrupted both, and like any other sinner they are called to hate the sin and strive to kill it in all its forms.
By way of analogy let’s consider the modern male. We are visually attracted and the effect of sin in many ways trained us as young men towards sexual profligacy. It could be said that we have adulterous tendencies. But, what clear-thinking Christian would suggest calling such sinful tendencies an “orientation” and holding a conference where we shame the church for its “sins” against those with a polyamorous orientation? To the contrary, the church rightly commands men to mortify our hearts, take pleasure in our wives alone, and be noble Christian husbands to them. Our same-sex attracted brothers and sisters are to be shepherded in the same way [to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.] (Eph. 4:22-24)
Out of the exuberance of “Side B” has arisen a movement championed by Wesley Hill, one of ReVoice’s speakers, if not organizers, and shared by most of the conference’s presenters - “Spiritual Friendships”. It is somewhat nebulous concept that speaks in typical post-modern feeling terms of love and acceptance and sharing. However, it manifests itself in some very bizarre and troubling ways. In a post on the website Spiritual Friendship, Melinda Selmy has this to say in response to Rachel Lu’s critique of “Spiritual Friendship”,
Lu: “What reasonable husband would permit his wife to enter into an intimate “spiritual friendship” with another man?”
Selmy: Well, mine. My dearest and closest friend, with whom I have a very deep, intimate and multi-dimensional relationship, is a guy. My husband very reasonably permits this because it in no way impedes or interferes with our marriage—quite the contrary. My friend spends his vacations with our family, is a godfather to one of my children, lived with my husband and I for a period, and he is an essential part of the support network for my family.
This is not a “Spiritual Friendship”. This is an emotional affair!
In the same post Selmy also says,
“Most of us are familiar with a couple of celibate gay partnerships that really do seem to work very well, but we’re also aware that for most people the attempt to form a non-sexual relationship around an erotic attraction leads to a lot of pain and heartache.”
Selmy seems to be referring to Anthony Trent, a same-sex attracted man who lives together with Kyle, another same-sex attracted man, with whom he claims to have a non-sexual “Spiritual Friendship” in which they satisfy one another’s ancillary homosexual needs, such as being taken out on dates by a man. Sitting romantically beside another man on said dates. Cuddling together and holding hands. But, like most all other arguments from “Side B”, Anthony presents false “either/or” arguments conveniently blended with “tu quoque” (you do it too) rationales in order to come to the conclusion that the water for him is just too murky. Thus, he is jumping in.
Friendship and Christian love towards one another are desirable and beneficial. However, “Spiritual Friendship” has perverted this Christian virtue.
The Evangelical Covenant Church Problem
The Evangelical Covenant Church gives us a good glimpse into the dangers of embracing the "Side B" movement. The ECC claims that it “Values the Bible as the word of God…” however, it already actively encourages women into every sort of ordained role. It also was the sole denomination to host a group dinner at ReVoice and are the developers of EMBRACE, which is,
"a suite of human sexuality discipleship resources and experiences which are in
harmony with the adopted position of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), the
center of which is 'Faithfulness in heterosexual marriage, celibacy in singleness—
these constitute the Christian standard.' A special emphasis of Embrace is
equipping our church to flourish in love for LGBTQ+/SSA/sexual minority
individuals and communities. Embrace resources will be progressively curated and
created by Make and Deepen Disciples."
The ECC was not the host or promoter of ReVoice, but it is in solid agreement with the aims and means of the ReVoice Conference. As if it should be a surprise, just this year the ECC has had to begin dealing with clergy members conducting same-sex marriages, and there is a clergy split with at least 4,275 members having signed a petition that there be a moratorium ontheir guidelines forbidding clergy to officiate at same-sex weddings! We have reason to be concerned about churches within the PCA drawing themselves near to these ideas. As if common sense wouldn't dictate that doing so would lead to diminished faithfulness to the truth, the ECC stands as a real-life example.
Personal Concerns About Motives
I am more than a little concerned that Memorial Presbyterian and some others are being taken for a ride by those who would slip in destructive language, muddy the water and then suddenly have “reevaluated” their positions, leaving congregants confused and embracing unbiblical ideas. In fact, we already see a shift in the ECC.
Greg Johnson, senior pastor of Memorial Presbyterian, wrote a piece aimed at answering some people’s concerns about the ReVoice event. In it he noted that a number of great minds in modern evangelicalism such as Denny Burk, those at Harvest U.S.A. and, I must presume, others, like Rosaria Butterfield, don’t understand the issues or are ignorant about them. If the theological waters are so muddied that teaching and ruling elders, and minds like those mentioned above have trouble understanding things, why in the world would we EVER want to allow such ideas to come into our churches and affect our flocks?
I fear that ReVoice and Memorial’s decisions here are the result of an infection by the secular culture, which has fallen in love with homosexuality due to a well planned and executed campaign to normalize the behavior and even draw sympathy to it. (Within the secular world homosexuals have become a precious class.) Paul said, "Bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Cor. 15:33) I fear that some of our brothers may have listened too much to those who care not for God, but who rebel against Him, and have had their morals corrupted for a time. I therefore plead, humbly, with Greg Johnson, the brothers of Missouri Presbytery and others who have fallen under this spell to not make a shipwreck of your faiths. Turn away from this ungodly ideology and to the God of order and not of confusion.
For elders in the PCA, we must recognize that a very dangerous trend is being begun. The promoters of ReVoice do not wish to just have discussions or to minister to a victimized people in a compassionate way. They have already developed youth curriculum aimed at recalibrating the hearts and minds of the youth in evangelical churches like the PCA. As men committed to the peace, purity and guardianship of the church, we must state boldly, “Here we stand. We can do no more.”