Missouri Presbytery Revoice Report: a close reading (12); words unfitly chosen

Missouri Presbytery Revoice Report: a close reading (12); words unfitly chosen

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 ReportThis is twelfth in a series of close readings. For all Warhorn articles on Missouri Presbytery’s Revoice Report, see here. Report text is indented. Unless otherwise indicated, footnotes are from Missouri Presbytery’s Report. We pick up where we left off last time.

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Allegation #2: On the Question of Terminology

Allegation: It is alleged that Revoice has adopted “worldly and unbiblical categories,” concepts, and terms in the language they use; and further, that they give new meanings to words that already have accepted meanings—all of which confuses both Christians and the wider non-Christian public. This allegation rejects Revoice’s common use and/or definitions of such terms as “gay,” “sexual orientation,” “homosexual attraction,” “same-sex attraction,” “queer,” “sexual minorities,” “LGBTQ,” etc.

Let us stop here and point out once more the cover Missouri Presbytery provides Pastor Johnson and Revoicers with their word choices in their Report. Take “allegation” for instance: note all the criticisms of Revoice that are filed under this term although most concerns expressed by fellow believers and church officers are simple criticisms—the sort that are the bread and butter of sessional and presbytery life. The majority of these concerns didn’t rise anywhere near the level of “allegations.” Critics were not out for blood. There were many ways Pastor Johnson and his Revoice could have responded to fellow believers’ concerns that would have satisfied those fellow believers well short of allegations and formal process.

But no, Missouri Presbytery insists on speaking of “allegations” made against Revoicers.

Imagine if every time a presbyter rose on the floor of presbytery to express concern about wording and underlying doctrine indicated by a candidate for ordination’s word choices, the moderator were to refer to his criticisms as “allegations.” It would do a good job of stifling presbyters, wouldn’t it? Sadly, Missouri Presbytery’s insistency in using the word “allegations” will have a similar impact on any discussion of Revoice, especially within the PCA. “I have concerns about Revoice, but I certainly don’t want to make any allegations against them.”

To understand how needlessly sectarian or hidebound Missouri Presbytery’s language is, look no further than Allegation #2, “that Revoice has adopted ‘worldly and unbiblical categories,’ concepts, and terms in the language they use [and this] confuses both Christians and the wider non-Christian public.”

Your scribes smack forehead with hand, exclaiming, “No; seriously? Someone alleged that??!?!”

It would have been much better not to force every concern into the category of “allegation.” There’s probably not a single person who has read even a sentence of Revoice’s ads and content who doesn’t conclude, “this language is worldly and unbiblical.” To say Revoicers’ words and phrases and sentences are both worldly and unbiblical is the equivalent of saying “water is wet.” Who could possibly deny it?

Missouri Presbytery’s Committee might respond they were merely trying to be consistent by referring to all these concerns as “allegations.” An old wit once said foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Our judgment, though, is the Committee had something to gain from this consistency and it’s anything but foolish. Rather, it is perfectly suited for the Committee’s purpose in writing their Report. It paints Revoice’s critics as aggressors against Christian LGBTQ minorities.

Judgment: We agree that the way Revoice and Side B believers in general use terms has been confusing to many of our churches. But we reject the claim that this is because terms like “gay,” sexual orientation,” “queer,” and “sexual minorities” are always or necessarily unbiblical.

“Confusing” is morally neutral. Those who have spoken in a way that leaves others confused merely need to clarify themselves. The unstated assumption is that confusing others is never intentional, strategic, or sinful. Watch this word “confusing” because it causes readers to let down their guard. “Confusing” obscures the matter of Revoicers’ culpability for their terminology and language. “Confusing” also provides the opportunity for Missouri Presbytery to demonstrate one more their condescension towards innocents who don’t “get it.”

“Here, let us come alongside you and clear up your confusion over what Revoicers and Pastor Johnson and his Memorial Church Session actually meant by what they said. We have 113 more pages to work with.”

The Committee continues:

These terms pose a particularly challenging problem for both the Revoice project and its critics. We encourage Revoice and those who would adopt such language to do so with great care, recognizing its potential to cause offense and division within the church. At the same time, we would encourage those who are inclined to hear such language and dismiss those who would use it, to charitably, sincerely, and carefully listen to what those people are intending to mean by it. The ongoing and evolving discussion of terminology around sexuality in the 21st century has led the committee to suggest that terminology be one area of study taken up by a General Assembly study/consensus building committee.

Here Missouri Presbytery again shows their hand. Beyond their endless clarifications, any heavy lifting to be done they are punting to General Assembly. Meanwhile, 113 pages remain to help things along to their requested “consensus.”

Study committees normally have majority and minority reports, but not this one requested by Missouri Presbytery.

Gelded men diss parliamentary procedure and forthright conflict, so again and again Missouri Presbytery makes clear they are opposed to any final disagreement and judgment in the study committee’s work.

Remember, “consensus” does not mean majority. It means unanimity. Only when dissent ceases have you or your committee reached “consensus.”

Missouri Presbytery’s Committee didn’t allow any minority report. They plead with General Assembly not to allow the General Assembly study committee any minority report, either.

We’ve mentioned before that one of us served on a General Assembly study committee a few years ago.

This study committee refused to allow its members any majority and minority report. Over and over again, committee members were pressured to produce a “consensus” document. Then, failing that, immediately prior to their report coming to the floor of the assembly, the committee chairman forced through a vote of the committee denying the assembly their right to know which was the majority and which was the minority report.

When the reports came to the floor, repeatedly the assembly’s moderator asked the Chairman to identify which was the majority and which the minority report. And repeatedly, the chairman refused to answer the moderator’s question.

The assembly melted down and dinner break was called early to seek a way around the impasse.

This is the betrayal of deliberative assemblies that perfectly suits the effeminate.

In fact, this is always the path of liberal decadence. Smother conflicts over false doctrine and immorality with cries of “charity” “sincerity,” “consensus,” and “peace.”

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(This is twelfth in a series of close readings. For all Warhorn articles on Missouri Presbytery’s Revoice Report, see here.)


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About The Authors

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Tim has been senior pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Bloomington, Indiana since 1996. Married to Mary Lee, the Baylys have five children and twenty-something grandchildren. Tim's book on fatherhood is "Daddy Tried." Co-author of a book on homosexuality, "The Grace of Shame," his latest book on the Church is "Church Reformed."

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Andrew Dionne is the Senior Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (Evangel Presbytery) in Spartanburg, SC. He serves on the boards of Clearnote Pastors College and Personhood South Carolina. He has six children and a lovely wife.

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Andy Halsey is a pastor ordained in the PCA. He has a wife and 5 children and lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

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