Missouri Presbytery Revoice Report: a close reading (14); the Zooville test

Missouri Presbytery Revoice Report: a close reading (14); the Zooville test

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 fourteenth 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 #4: On the Legitimacy of an SSA or Gay Identity

Allegation: It is alleged to be a crucial error contradicting Scriptural teaching to claim a condition, like being same-sex-attracted, or homosexually-oriented, or being “gay” as, in any sense, a feature of one’s “identity,” since such a condition is sinful. This is a fundamental betrayal of “who a Christian is” by virtue of being in union with Christ. In addition, terms like “gay Christian,” “queer Christian,” “LGBTQ Christian,” and “sexual minority” necessarily attach identity language to the term “Christian” in ways that undermine a believer’s identity as one who is united with Christ.

Judgment: We reject the allegation that Christians cannot legitimately claim something intrinsically related to sin as in any sense a part of their “identity,” as in any sense a part of “who they are.”

At the same time, we do not believe this is a carte blanche license for SSA Christians to do as they please in the way they think about who they are. What we regard as crucial for us all is what we do with the multi-faceted picture that defines who and what we understand ourselves to be. Any part of “who we are” that is the result of the Fall and sinful must be mortified, and all aspects of our identity must be seen through the lens of our primary identity as those who are made in the image of God and restored to that image through our union with Christ.

To restate our conclusion from allegation two, we believe that the language of “gay Christian” (and attendant language such as “queer Christian” or “LGBTQ Christian”) poses 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.

Although we’ve held off applying this test until this Number 14 in our close reading series, it is time to put Revoice and Missouri Presbytery’s Report through the Zooville Test. What is the Zooville Test?

There are a number of sexual sins Scripture speaks of in parallel construction with sodomy. These are other sins equally perverse and shameful as sodomy, and Scripture condemns these sins in the same breath as it condemns sodomy:

You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion. 

Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. Leviticus 18:22-24

If Scripture deals with these sins together, the language, nuanced explanations, and appeals for tender treatment Revoice and Missouri Presbytery use in connection with sodomy and the same-sex identity should work with these other perversions and the identities arising from them.

“The Zooville Test” is an exercise that takes the language of zoophilia, the “sexual disorder involving an erotic attraction to animals,” and inserts it in exchange for the language of gaydom or same-sex attraction. Let us see, then, whether changing the sin in Revoice and Missouri Presbytery’s verbiage from sodomy and same-sex attraction to zoophilia and beast-attraction makes sense, or renders Revoice and Missouri Presbytery’s verbiage nonsensical?

Scripture warns that sodomy and zoophilia (bestiality) defile a nation. If it is acceptable for the Christian man to identity himself as “same-sex attracted” or “gay,” it must also be acceptable for the Christian man to identify himself as “beast-attracted” and “zoophilic.”

Now the, the Zooville Test:

Allegation #4: On the Legitimacy of a Beast-Attracted or Zoophilic Identity

Allegation: It is alleged to be a crucial error contradicting Scriptural teaching to claim a condition, like being beast-attracted, or animal-oriented, or being “zoophilic” as, in any sense, a feature of one’s “identity,” since such a condition is sinful. This is a fundamental betrayal of “who a Christian is” by virtue of being in union with Christ. In addition, terms like “zoophilic Christian,” “bestiality Christian,” “LGBTQZ,” and “sexual minority” necessarily attach identity language to the term “Christian” in ways that undermine a believer’s identity as one who is united with Christ.

Judgment: We reject the allegation that Christians cannot legitimately claim something intrinsically related to sin as in any sense a part of their “identity,” as in any sense a part of “who they are.”

At the same time, we do not believe this is a carte blanche license for “beast-attracted” Christians to do as they please in the way they think about who they are. What we regard as crucial for us all is what we do with the multi-faceted picture that defines who and what we understand ourselves to be. Any part of “who we are” that is the result of the Fall and sinful must be mortified, and all aspects of our identity must be seen through the lens of our primary identity as those who are made in the image of God and restored to that image through our union with Christ.

To restate our conclusion from allegation two, we believe that the language of “zoophilic Christian” (and attendant language such as “bestiality Christian” or “LGBTQZ Christian”) poses a particularly challenging problem for both the ZooNoise (Revoice) project and its critics. We encourage ZooNoise 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.

All of us blush at this Zooville Test. Even (and maybe especially) same-sex attracted Christians. The exchange of sins above renders Revoice and Missouri Presbytery’s defense of Revoice so utterly shameful.

Sin blinds us, rendering our thinking irrational and our speech and writing done towards self-justification of that sin nonsensical to those not sharing that sin with us. This is the real reason the flock of God was scandalized by Revoice and now is scandalized by Missouri Presbytery’s 143-page document justifying Revoice. It’s not that the flock of God lacks charity and understanding for those struggling against bestiality or adultery or same-sex temptation. It’s that the flock of God has not drunk the homosexualist Kool-Aid Covenant Theological Seminary has been feeding its students and Missouri Presbytery pastors have been promoting in their congregations, thus giving birth to Revoice.

The flock of God sees through all the tender language Covenant Seminary and Missouri Presbytery pastors have taught Revoicers to use in connection with their own sins of effeminacy and sodomitic lust and practice. The flock of God views that language with horror and can’t figure out how it came about that men with the MDiv from their own denominational seminary are speaking and writing documents filled with such irrational and sacrilegious statements.

Open any page anywhere in the 143 pages of Missouri Presbytery’s Revoice Committee Report, run the text through this Zooville Test, then note whether replacing the sin of sodomy with zoophilia renders the text irrational?

Let’s run the next few allegations through the Zooville Test:

Allegation #5: On the Issue of Zoophilic Friendship and Romance

Allegation: It is alleged that the leaders of ZooNoise, speakers at ZooNoise 18, and many in the Celibate Zoophile/beast movement generally, teach and defend the view that quasi-romantic, more-than-friends kinds of relationships between beast-attracted believers and their goats is acceptable before God, as long as they refrain from explicit sexual engagement with their pets.

Judgment: In print ZooNoise leadership has entertained the possibility of “celibate zoophile” that must be (i) conducted under the oversight of pastoral authority; (ii) explicitly defined in terms of zoophile/beast companionship vs. romantic or sexual and (iii) non-exclusive (i.e., never indefinitely limited to one zoophile with one specific beast). Yet in its recent “Statement on Sexual Ethics and Christian Obedience,” published after the conference, ZooNoise celebrates only those relationships that are “ordered according to the patterns and principles of spiritual kinship that exist within God’s family,” encouraging “the pursuit of intimate, rich platonic zoophile/beast relationship [as]…consistent with the biblical witness and Christian tradition,” further stating that “Christians should seek wisdom and prudence when entering any relationship with a particular animal marked by greater intimacy…and believers must exercise care and resolve to avoid all forms of temptation.”

In our judgment, it is understandable that any given conference may not explicitly forbid all forms of illicit zoophile/animal companionship. But it is also our judgment that, to the extent that ZooNoise even entertains the possibility of “celibate zoophile/animal companionship” (even within the limits expressed above), it has erred in offering unwise, unedifying relational arrangements to Christians who know beast-attraction (cf. 1 Cor. 6:12). In our judgment, to entertain the possibility of such companion animals stands in tension—perhaps even contradiction—with their public Statement (as cited above).

As for Memorial Presbyterian and TE Johnson, while as a Session they have made no official statement regarding celibate companion animals or romantic coupling with companion animals, TE Johnson, in his Revoice workshop, publicly warned about the danger of animal companionship morphing into zoophile/beast romances and stressed the importance of boundaries. On one hand, it is our judgment that they have not erred in not having adopted an official statement on the question of romantic, nonsexual zoophile/animal “partnerships,” yet we also believe they are open to the danger of a preoccupation with technical boundaries on physical limits in these companionships to the neglect of the deeper inner dynamic involved in zoophile/animal romantic coupling, and the way it mimics the longing and the personal pull toward the other person that draws a man and woman together toward an exclusive intimacy that is designed by God to move them toward marriage.

Horror.

Allegation #6: On the Question of Creating Zoophile “Spaces”

Allegation: It is alleged that ZooNoise makes too much out of the social identity of believers who are beast-attracted, and too easily justifies them segregating themselves off into their own groups, barnyards, or “spaces,” thus making it difficult for all Christians to see with clarity the biblical truth that the primary community of belonging for all followers of Christ is the Church.

Judgment: This allegation is difficult to judge with finality. We recognize that so much of the conservative/orthodox church, even into the present, has poorly loved people sexually drawn to animals; but we are also grateful to the Lord that his Spirit has been at work in many congregations, inspiring repentance, breaking down dividing walls, softening attitudes of superiority and contempt, and bringing new energy for gospel-centered community that honors unmarried Christians as well as families. Beast-attracted believers are still being hurt by the church, something that must be faced honestly; but many in our time have been welcomed and encouraged and sheltered by the church. We believe that the great challenge for beast-attracted brothers and sisters in Christ in our secular age is to foster a deep and abiding Christ-like love for those who identify as zoophiles and live that out to the full, while also standing squarely with the church as their primary community of belonging, growing in grace and in the knowledge of God, and humbly challenging the church to grow in grace as well.

We believe ZooNoise will feel a pull in two directions, with the result that to whatever extent it fosters a community of beast-attracted Christians which celebrates being zoophilic, cultivates a sense of pride in the experience of beast-attraction, and morphs into a community that de facto becomes a substitute for the church, undermining the foundational role God intends the church to play in the life of believers—we believe such a community undermines Christian spiritual formation and is in serious theological error.

However, to whatever extent ZooNoise encourages beast-attracted Christians to lament the fallenness of their sexual desires even as they learn to live more and more in the freedom from shame won for them at the cross of Christ, preaches the gospel which liberates sinners from guilt and self-condemnation, provides support and encouragement in the burdens of life which must be carried, empowers them to flourish in the joy of the Holy Spirit as they live out their gifts and callings that are faithful to Scripture, and helps them prioritize their church community—we believe such a ministry will contribute much to the spiritual life of local churches by being a source of healthy, Christ-focused discipleship and encouragement. A community moving in this direction is not in theological error.

Critics will contend that the community ZooNoise cultivates is primarily the former, while supporters are more likely to describe it as the latter. The committee feels is it too early in the life of ZooNoise as an organization to pass judgment on this question but encourages their ministry to take active steps to embody the latter model and to be cognizant of the concerns of good-faith critics.

More horror.

For the next allegation, let’s change the sexual perversion from zoophilia to pedophilia.

Allegation #7: On whether there will be “Man-Boy Love Treasure” in Heaven

Allegation: It is alleged to be a serious doctrinal error to teach, on the basis of Revelation 21:24-27, that there will be “man-boy love treasure” in the eternal Kingdom of God.

Judgment: It is our finding that this allegation of grave doctrinal error is false. In the [Revoice] workshop in question, the main purpose was to challenge Christians to a nuanced assessment of “man-boy love” or “pedophile” culture, sifting out the sin from what is genuinely good. The speaker’s presupposition was that this culture is like every other human culture of Adam-descended men and women—like ancient idol-worshiping Egypt, for instance, where the blasphemous sin of bowing down to a lifeless image that marked that community had to be distinguished from “the wisdom of Egypt” (Acts 7:22), something good, which Moses was praised for learning. The task is not to execute a wholesale rejection, but to sift and weigh with Spirit-inspired discretion, since all that is good in a person, or a community of any kind, belongs to God. Nevertheless, we do believe there was an error of imprudence in [Revoice] titling of this workshop “Redeeming Pedophile Culture: An Adventure” and in allowing it to go forward as titled, since it needlessly alienated many people in the wider church, the church that the pedophile community identifies with and professes to need.

The people of God have no trouble seeing the horror of these exercises, but God has blinded the eyes of seminary professors, elders, and senior pastors.

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(This is fourteenth 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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