Revoice Conference: Our Similarities, Differences and Some Concerns.
Practically all of evangelical Christianity, it seems, knows something about the Revoice Conference that will be taking place at Memorial Presbyterian Church, PCA in St. Louis. To be honest, the event has brought negative views upon our denomination. Who hasn’t received an email from someone asking “Is this Reallytrue?” Numerous outlets have also written articles questioning the conference’s propriety. Within our denomination there is plenty of disagreement and debate.
One of the cardinal rules of good debate practice is that stipulations should first be made and areas of agreement recognized so that people aren’t unnecessarily arguing over the wrong things. It is my hope that this essay will help to define things in such a way that parties will know the facts, rather than rumors, and thus deal honestly, charitably and knowledgably with one another. It will also voice some concerns about the Revoice Conference and propose a solution.
Both Parties Agree:
1. To an orthodox understanding of sex and sexuality.
The heads of the Revoice Conference have made it clear that they hold to a Biblical understanding of sex and sexuality. On their website, the leaders state the following, “We believe that the Bible restricts sexual activity to the context of a marriage covenant, which is defined as the emotional, spiritual, and physical union of a man and a woman that is ordered toward procreation.” They have sought to make this orthodox belief known in more than one format. Certainly, we as PCA Teaching and Ruling Elders can whole heartily agree with this statement. We also need to take the Revoice Conference’s leadership at their word on this matter until they demonstrate by words and/or actions that they aren’t true.* Therefore, we realize that no party is currently advocating for a changed view in the PCA on the sinfulness of homosexuality.
2. In abstinence from sexual sin including homosexuality.
Revoice calls for people who have aberrant sexual urges to practice celibacy instead of acting on sinful urges. All true Christians would agree that there is a place for people simply to refuse to act on temptations. Therefore, we recognize that both parties agree that calling on people to be celibate rather than act out in a way that is sexually sinful is appropriate.
3. That sin is sin and homosexuals can be redeemed unto Christ just as any other sinner.
Revoice wants to reach out to those who have same-sex attractions or who maybe identify as LBGTQ et. al. Their argument is that sin is sin, and Christ came to redeem men and women who suffer from all types of sins, including those who are involved in homosexuality. Indeed, Paul in 1 Corinthians 6 tells us that former homosexuals are among the list of sinful people who have been redeemed from their sinfulness. I would think that any true Christian would recognize these facts, agree with them and would be highly desirous to see former homosexuals repent and come under faith and obedience to Christ. Therefore, we recognize that both parties agree that homosexuals can be redeemed and both parties earnestly desire to see such happen.
4. It is not problematic that Revoice’s leaders wish to reach out to those with SSA.
The Revoice Conference’s leaders want to reach out to those who struggle with same-sex attractions and offer to them redemption through Christ as well as call them to practice obedience to God. It would seem that all PCA TEs and REs would see an attempt to reach out with the Gospel to this group to be a good thing. Until Revoice demonstrates that this is not their intentions or fails in practice, we must take them at their word. Therefore, we recognize that an orthodox, evangelical desire to minister the Gospel to those with same-sex attraction is good.
The Parties Disagree:
1. On the language and terms.
This is where, truth be told, the rubber hits the road. Those who are concerned with Revoice are concerned over the usage of such terms as “Gay-Christians” and “LBGTQ-Christians” and “Sexual Minorities”. These concerns are not small nor limited to our denomination, nor are they trivial. Therefore, we recognize that the debate is about the propriety of some of the Revoice Conference’s chosen language and terms.
a. The terms “Gay” and “LBGTQ” and “Sexual Minorities” are problematic because,
1. Using these terms gives the impression that Revoice (and the PCA) accept and approve of words that describe a sinful lifestyle.
The terms “Gay” “LBGTQ” are secular terms denoting that one is active in a homosexual lifestyle or identifies with the homosexual lifestyle. Furthermore, in the secular world, terms such as “Gay” “LBGTQ” and “Sexual Minorities” are used in conjunction with acceptance and even celebration of homosexuality.
The Revoice Conference, when using terms and language like “Gay-Christian” “LBGTQ-Christian” and “Sexual Minorities” implies their tacit approval of the terms and language, which in turn gives a sense to our church members and others in the evangelical community that they (Revoice), and we (the PCA), approve of these terms as well asall that these terms mean and represent.
2. The effect of using these term will be devastating to the minds and hearts of our congregants regarding this Biblical matter.
When our church members listen to us using terms like “LGBTQ” and “Gay” they will naturally begin to conflate our church’s position with that of the world, which presents these terms as badges of acceptability. Anywhere else, these terms are used in conjunction with acceptance, even celebration, of the behavior. People WILL begin to inadvertently believe that our position has changed on this matter. This confusion will lead to increasing ignorance in our churches as to what is the Biblical stance and soon the stance of our people will be more in line with the world’s. That is simply how things go.
3. One cannot be “Gay” or “LGBTQ” and a Christian.
“Gay” and “LGBTQ” are terms denoting that one is active in a homosexual lifestyle or identifies with a homosexual lifestyle. There are no two ways about this. There is no such thing as a person who is a true Christian and who is active in or desiring to be active in a homosexual lifestyle. Thus a “Gay” or “LGBTQ” Christians is a contradiction in terms. This language sends the message to people that the PCA has changed its position and it will over the course of time bring about an actual change in position. In the mean-time it sends an absolutely wrong message to those who are in homosexuality that they can be “Gay” and Christian. What Revoice hears as just another term for same-sex attraction is notwhat the homosexual hears, nor is it what our people will hear.
4. The term “Sexual Minority” is grossly out of order.
Homosexuals are no more a “Sexual Minority” than those who are incestuous or who practice bestiality (both also listed in Leviticus) are “Sexual Minorities”. We would never dignify the incestuous or those practicing bestiality with the term “Sexual Minorities” and it is shameful to do so in the case of homosexuals.
5. Those who struggle with sin cannot be encourage to identify themselves by their sin.
As Christians we are called to identify ourselves in Christ. A person can be a Christian who struggles with a particular temptation, but never should we allow people to identify by their sin, especially sexual sin. Many heterosexual males are Christians who deal with temptations to lust after women who are not our wives. However, we are not“Swinger-Christians”. Using terms like “Gay-Christians” simply encourages people to view themselves by their sexuality. It furthermore discourages them from separating themselves from the community and the lifestyle. It also is a humiliating statement of their hopeless destiny to be “Gay”.
Some, such as Greg Johnson (Senior Pastor - Memorial Presbyterian, St. Louis), have suggested that while the church must reject homosexual behaviors, we can still appreciate and look for valuable things in “Queer” art and culture. Why? Shall we look for the Imago Dei in pornographic movies too? Furthermore, why this fixation upon sex and sexuality for a conference that is designed to, ostensibly, de-escalate and disempower sex and sexuality?
6. It brings shame and reproach upon our denomination.
Our denomination already must contend with the liberalism and heresy of the PCUSA being inadvertently attached to us by way of our denominations sharing the name Presbyterian. It would seem that we would want to avoid any hint of immorality here.
The leadership of the Revoice Conference should recognize these serious dangers and listen to the pleadings of their brothers in the Lord who are pointing out some very serious issues with their language. They should cancel this conference due to use such terms as “Gay” or “LGBTQ” and “Sexual Minorities”. Revoice, should return to using the terminology of “same-sex attracted”. This term is more accurate Biblically** and deals with the matter in a descriptive way while not giving ground to the culture’s will. The term also allows a separation from the old lifestyle and the new, as one can now go from being “Gay” to be a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction instead of from “Gay” to being a “Gay-Christian” who is celibate.
Also, it may be advisable for Revoice to put out a statement saying that it has come to understand the problems and dangers behind the terms and language that it was seeking to use, stating that it will no longer be using these terms and will instead use such terms as “Christians struggling with same-sex attractions.”
* It should be noted that the denomination that presents the program, and thus is a partner with MPC in this presentation, the Evangelical Covenant Church, already does not believe in a historic Biblical understanding of church leadership, having stated that while they are “fully committed to the centrality of the Bible,” they are also fully committed to women’s ordination.
**Keeping “Gay” within a person’s self-identification, especially when it is the first word, puts the preeminence upon a person’s sex and sexuality. God’s Word tells us that Christians are transformed into new creations and that we are to put off our old mind and put on the mind of Christ.