Missouri Presbytery Revoice Report: a close reading (13); the sin that must not be written

Missouri Presbytery Revoice Report: a close reading (13); the sin that must not be written

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, 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 thirteenth 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 #3: On the Question of Morally Benign Qualities Tied to Homoerotic Desire

Allegation: While this was not explicitly taught at Revoice 18, it is alleged that Revoice teachers and speakers have, in their teaching elsewhere, created a novel “category of human identity and attraction” by arguing that being same-sex-attracted, or “gay,” is about more than sexual desire—namely that it is an attraction to “aesthetic beauty.” Put another way, Revoice speakers have argued that there are morally benign or even morally good qualities that are intrinsically or ontologically tied to their same-sex attractions.

Missouri Presbytery begins this “allegation” with a declaration: “this was not explicitly taught at Revoice 18.”

So this particular allegation begins with a judgment—that Revoice 18 did not teach something. For some reason, Missouri Presbytery wants to begin this allegation by fencing off Revoice from a certain criticism by declaring it was “not explicitly taught.” What is it that was “not explicitly taught?”

The Committee declares it was “not explicitly taught at Revoice 18″ that there is a “category of human identity and attraction” identifying as “same-sex-attracted” and “gay” who, by choosing those labels for themselves, are speaking “about more than sexual desire;” they also share a special “attraction to aesthetic beauty.”

Then Missouri Presbytery circles back to try to explain this same thing another way. The Committee declares it was “not explicitly taught at Revoice 18” that “there are morally benign or even morally good qualities tied… to same-sex attractions.”

Yet note that when Missouri Presbytery restates what “was not explicitly taught,” they change their declaration to “Revoice speakers have argued that.” If the reader returns to the first statement, though, he finds this phrase “in their teaching elsewhere” indicating this is taught by Revoice speakers, but not at Revoice 18. At least not “explicitly.”

The text is very confusing, but let us try to clarify what Missouri Presbyter is saying above, but using fewer words:

Although speakers did not explicitly teach at Revoice 18 that those who identify as “gay” believe “attraction to aesthetic beauty” is integral to their identity, these same Revoice speakers have argued and teach this elsewhere.

So noted, and only one simple response. If the pastors and elders of Missouri Presbytery go out of their way to declare something wasn’t done and they do so within the text of an allegation, we think they are wrong and this error was, in fact, explicitly taught at Revoice 18. We think this not because we believe these men lie, but because we have observed them misleading readers and doing so habitually. So if some good reader would go back through the transcripts of Revoice 18 talks and look for it, we believe they will find where Revoice speakers at Revoice 18 declared explicitly that being gay is integrally tied to an attraction to aesthetic beauty.

If you’re willing, please help with this and we’ll be pleased to footnote here the results of the search.

Judgment: If one takes the terms “same-sex attraction” and “gay” in their earlier sense, namely, as synonymous with “homoerotic desire,” then our judgment is that the allegation is false: Revoice itself does not teach that sexual desire for someone of the same sex is morally neutral and not sinful. In fact, they affirm that it is sinful. If one takes these terms the way Revoice and many Side B people take them in the expanded sense that they are inclusive of “attractions,” of an “orientation,” of a quality of “gayness” that lies behind homoerotic desire and yet is essentially or intrinsically related to it—rather than being simply related to it situationally—then the allegation is true that Revoice has committed at least an error of imprudence by indulging in needless and potentially dangerous speculation, and it remains to be seen whether this error will be used in such a way as to strike at the vitals of religion.

We’re sorry, but the entirety of this Allegation #3 strikes us as wrongheaded. Here under “judgment,” the Committee declares not true an allegation never mentioned under the actual “allegation” they listed above. Where did the Committee speak of the allegation that Revoice 18 taught “sexual desire is morally neutral and not sinful?”

Nowhere.

But then it gets worse.

Whereas under their allegation above the Committee declared Revoice 18 did not “explicitly” teach “attractions” to “aesthetic beauty” are an “ontological” “quality of gayness,” we see here under their judgment they say the opposite:

“The allegation is true that Revoice” takes the “gay” identity as “inclusive of ‘attractions,’ of an ‘orientation, of a quality of ‘gayness’ that lies behind homoerotic desire and yet is essentially or intrinsically related to it.”

Maybe Missouri Presbytery felt they could declare their judgment this allegation was true because this wasn’t an “explicit” teaching of Revoice 18, but declaring it wasn’t done by following with the judgment it was done isn’t clarified by any explanation that this teaching wasn’t “explicit.”

We leave this allegation and judgment behind having found it nonsensical as well as misleading. Gays and effeminates both Christian and pagan have always freely acknowledged sharing a certain aesthetic or “quality of gayness” beyond homoeroticism. This quality of gayness, this aesthetic, is universal and easily recognized by anyone half awake, as it has been throughout man’s history.

We leave this mishmash of Allegation 13 with another excerpt from The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church Has Failed To Love Homosexuals:

After the death of rock star David Bowie, Slate ran a piece titled “Was David Bowie Gay?” At various times Bowie said he was gay, then straight, then bisexual—each according to his mood at the time.

The writer of the piece is gay. You feel him suppressing his anger at Bowie for not simply coming out as a gay man. Near the end of his piece, he gives this brilliant summary of the state of gayness today:

I believe that cultural gayness is something that can and does exist apart from homosexuality. Gays may have developed the set of cultural practices that define gayness, or what some call the “gay sensibility” or “gay aesthetics,” but they need not be its only practitioners. Indeed, straight people (or whatever Bowie might have been) are theoretically just as capable of doing cultural gayness as gays are—and indeed, some may do it better.

Gay sensibilities, gay aesthetics, gay speech, dress, and mannerisms—all this gayness exists independent of homosexual intercourse. As the author says, a gay or effeminate identity may or may not be combined with gay sex.

Scripture condemns both. The gay, soft, or effeminate identity and gay sexual intercourse both deny the sex God made us.

Whether or not David Bowie committed sodomy, God made David Bowie a man and it was his duty to live in submission to his manhood. God called him to live manly, but Bowie rebelled and spent his life living gay. Effeminate.

The Apostle Paul lived in a time as sexually decadent as our own and he knew Bowie well. Writing to the believers in Corinth—the San Francisco of the Roman Empire—Paul warned them that arsenokoitai (literally, “men who lie with males”) will not inherit the kingdom of God. Immediately before that warning, Paul declared that malakoi (literally, “soft men”) will not inherit the kingdom of God:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [malakoi], nor homosexuals [arsenokoitai], nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Corinthians 6:9, 10)

The Apostle Paul refers to malakoi and arsenokoitai as two distinct categories of sinners:

1. men like David Bowie who are effeminate; and
2. men who lie with males (those who commit homosexual acts).

Men who betray their manhood by playing the woman1 will not be in Heaven.

Before moving to the next allegation, let us state for the first time, here, that this Report and the men who wrote it have proven themselves incapable of beginning to understand or provide wise pastoral care for all those claiming any of the LGBTQ identities because of their refusal to acknowledge that the sin of effeminacy—not homoerotic desire—is the sin that binds Revoicers together. Some Revoicers may never have given themselves to homoerotic desire, others may have left it behind, but not one of the Revoicers has left the sin of effeminacy behind.

Nevermind. Throughout their one-hundred and forty-three pages, Missouri Presbytery’s presbyters refuse to even to acknowledge the existence of this sin, let alone examine whether Revoice taught that those given to it will inherit the Kingdom of God. Search the Report for any word beginning with the letters “effem.”

Not one. Slate sees what Missouri Presbytery can’t.

Missouri Presbytery can’t fathom what Slate published and every last member of these minorities has always known and freely said—namely “that cultural gayness is something that can and does exist apart from homosexuality;” that there has always been a set of “cultural practices that define gayness, or what some call the ‘gay sensibility’ or ‘gay aesthetics,’ [and] straight people are …just as capable of doing cultural gayness as gays are—and indeed, some may do it better.”

“Straight people” can, and often do, give themselves to “cultural gayness,” the “gay sensibility,” and “gay aesthetics.” Christians who call themselves “gay” or “same-sex attracted” and are LivingOut give themselves to “cultural gayness,” the “gay sensibility,” and “gay aesthetics.”

In short, to playing the woman. To effeminacy.

We will return to this theme.

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

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1. Footnote from The Grace of Shame: “The word malakoi [referred] to adult males who . . . actively feminized their appearance and manner as a means to attracting [male] partners.” Robert A. J. Gagnon, “A Comprehensive and Critical Review Essay of Homosexuality, Science, and the ‘Plain Sense’ of Scripture, Part 2,” 229, accessed January 22, 2016, http://www.robgagnon.net/articles/homoBalchHBTReview2.pdf.

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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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