Missouri Presbytery Revoice Report: a close reading (7)
NOTE: Missouri Presbytery (PCA) is the ecclesiastical authority over Pastor Greg Johnson and the elders of Memorial Presbyterian Church. Pastor Johnson and Memorial hosted the first Revoice 18 conference one year ago in St. Louis. The second Revoice (19) will soon be held, once again in St. Louis.
Responding to national pressure from inside and outside their denomination, Missouri Presbytery put together an investigatory committee and just issued their Report. This is seventh in a series of close readings. For all Warhorn articles on Missouri Presbytery’s Revoice Report, see here. Report text is indented. We pick up where we left off last time.
NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, all footnotes are from Missouri Presbytery’s Report.
2. The Committee’s Process
Having been formed in the Fall of 2018 by the process described above, the committee soon began its work in earnest. Our committee’s process has involved a series of steps.
First, we began with an investigation into the actual facts surrounding Memorial’s hosting of Revoice and the conference itself. In this investigation we interviewed TE Greg Johnson, Memorial’s Session, Revoice’s leadership, other attendees of the conference (including those postured both positively and negatively toward the overall direction of Revoice). Additionally, committee members listened to the recordings or read the transcripts of the Revoice 18 talks and read many of the published writings of the key leaders of Revoice as well as the published writings of their critics. The committee members read through numerous critiques of both Revoice and Memorial including those which were sent directly to Memorial and Missouri Presbytery as well as many other critiques that were published online.
The committee recognized that it had within its ranks a few men who had attended Revoice 18 and came away with a positive assessment of some key features of the whole Revoice project. In order to be sure that the committee was honoring and properly understanding the views of critics, we conducted several in-depth interviews with different critics who attended Revoice and/or who had sent written statements to our Presbytery or had made public statements about their disagreements with Revoice. Several of these conversations were formal and requested by our committee; several were informal, as individual committee members felt a need to seek clarification.
Note carefully what these eight men just slipped into their report:
The committee recognized that it had within its ranks a few men who had attended Revoice 18 and came away with a positive assessment of some key features of the whole Revoice project.
“The committee recognized?”
Picture the Committee’s first meeting. As the eight men walk into their meeting room, one guy points to another and says, “Hey, don’t I recognize you? Weren’t you at Revoice?”
The other guy responds, “Yeah, I thought I recognized you.” Then pointing to a third man who just entered the room, he says, “And what about him; wasn’t he there too? I think I recognize him!”
There’s a growing excitement among the men as they recognize within their ranks other men who attended Revoice 18 and share with them a positive assessment of the whole Revoice project.
Then too, “a few men.” There were a total of eight men on the Committee and “few” denotes minority status, so it must have been two, three, or four.
If it was two, Revoice participants and supporters comprised one-quarter of the Committee. If it was four, they were half the Committee. Maybe it was three.
Earlier in these close readings, we pointed out the Committee had at least five members who have long been on record advocating the very errors in morals and doctrine that Revoice promotes.
Now here buried mid-section, fourteen pages into the text, and with mincing words we learn the moderator did not simply select Committee members who had a track record of advocating the same errors Revoice advocates, but he placed Revoicers themselves on the Committee—somewhere between a quarter and half its members.
Neither Missouri Presbytery nor its Moderator Jeff Meyers made any pretense of integrity in setting up their “investigation” committee. Although some of us might not fault the Committee members themselves for attending and supporting Revoice, we all should see clearly that these men ought not to have agreed to serve on this Committee. If one is a supporter of Revoice, why call into question the Committee’s integrity from the outset by agreeing to serve as one of its members?
We must say we’re finding it hard to continue the work of this series of critiques after this Committee’s stunning admission demonstrating their ignorance of the fundamental principles of integrity in setting up an investigation. We have another 130 pages to go and will have to do the rest of our work knowing full well this Committee is writing in defense of itself. As in “We aren’t wrong! All our ways are right in our own eyes.”
The people who criticized us and our conference have fallen into a ditch. They are letting the world into the Church. They are denying God’s Word among us. They are spreading lies about us. They are slandering us. They are misrepresenting us. We have done nothing that strikes at the vitals of religion. If our movement and conferences have any errors, they arise only from the weakness of our human understanding. They are not likely to do much injury. They are merely acts of infirmity. There have been no credible reports against us. We are not guilty of any important delinquencies or grossly unconstitutional proceedings! We are not industriously spreading error! How dare you accuse us of such things! How dare you?
With a sick feeling pounding our gut, we move on. Half-heartedly.
The committee then began to evaluate the criticisms, weighing them against all the information amassed about Revoice teaching as well as the Scriptures. When, in our discussions, the committee had further questions, we reached out directly to the parties involved for clarification. The committee remains grateful for the willing and helpful participation of all parties involved: Memorial, Revoice, and their critics alike.
Who began to “evaluate the criticisms?”
Those being criticized whom Moderator Jeff Meyers appointed to that very task.
Then the Committee commends itself to us by assuring us of “all the information they amassed about the Scriptures.”
Finally, based on the criteria set out above, we discussed and debated the evidence, and in the end drafted and approved the judicial and theological judgments accompanied by the commendations and recommendations contained in this report. However, as will be noted below, the committee quickly recognized that some of the theological questions surrounding issues of human sexuality in the 21st century would be best served by having a wider denominational body consider those questions in an attempt to build a core consensus around the critical theological issues even as pastoral and missional practices may differ in our churches. We have done our best to elucidate the key theological issues and to articulate the various perspectives on those issues in this report in order to establish a basis for moving toward consensus. However, the committee felt that it was beyond the scope of its task and resources to deliver any final word on those questions in this report.
“Discussed and debated?”
Hardly. One of us has served on a study committee of the General Assembly and can testify to the difficulty of debate in today’s sulpherously cloying context which, in this case, would have been made much worse by trying to debate with a quarter to half the committee members participants in and supporters of Revoice. If one-quarter to one-half the members attended and believe in Revoice, and over half the Committee members are on record as advocating Revoice’s errors of morals and doctrine, who was it who took up the position against Revoice and debated that position?
And if one or two men did, where is their Minority Report?
But of course, the fix was in from the beginning. The purpose of this Committee had always been to provide good cover for the Memorial Presbyterian Church Session and Pastor Greg Johnson; but even more for Missouri Presbytery itself in their stunning delinquency in protecting their flock.
The Committee must finesse all these matters carefully in anticipation of this year’s General Assembly. They must come up with one-hundred and forty-three pages explaining and justifying their own refusal to file charges against Memorial’s Session and pastor, other presbyters who planned and participated in Revoice, and Covenant Seminary who had trained and degreed many of the Revoicers.
In fact, they must explain why they themselves as Missouri Presbytery members did not file charges against they themselves as Revoice participants and supporters.
That shouldn’t be so hard, right? They have the mic. They have the printing press and all they must do is keep a straight face as they give their self-justification spiel.
Before turning to the next mess of self-incrimination, it needs to be said that none of these Committee members had any idea how self-incriminating their words would be. Had they known, they would never have written them.
So how did they end up producing a document so filled with self-incriminations?
What’s become evident is that the men of this Committee have long lost any personal capacity for self-criticism. Proverbs describes them well: “all a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes.”
We would hope Reformed doctrine would inoculate Presbyterian pastors and elders against being as painfully naive as these men are showing themselves to be. Matter of fact, we would hope Reformed doctrine would lead them to write in such a way as to expect their readers to see through all their verbiage, and thus not to write it.
But no, these men talk and talk and talk proving over and over that they never suspected their own motives were sinful or even lacking objectivity. Neither did it ever occur to them their readers would have the belief in the depravity of man’s heart and the discernment to see them as they are.
This is seventh in a series of close readings. For all Warhorn articles on Missouri Presbytery’s Revoice Report, see here. The series will continue.