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 eighteenth 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.
2. Accounting for the controversial nature of Revoice and homosexuality
As the New Testament indicates, Christians, once converted, continue to struggle greatly with all manner of besetting sins, including sexual immorality. Why, then, has this specific form of sin (and this specific conference) been so controversial, even incendiary?
Because Revoice exists to call evil “good” and good “evil.” Among Christians, lying to cover up one’s particular choice of sexual immorality and browbeating others until they accept your lies is “incendiary.”
A number of factors, when taken together, give an account for the controversy, revealing that this issue (homosexuality) and the conference specifically (Revoice 2018) constitute a “perfect storm” for many corners of the American church today: a weak ecclesiology within the American church; challenges to a Christian anthropology presented by late modernity in gender and sexuality and the sexual revolution; a shallow and simplistic doctrine of sin; a very complicated, and ever shifting vocabulary of sexuality; the extremely important yet little known history of Christian ministry (especially parachurch ministry) to Christians who struggle with homosexuality.
Note that phrase, “extremely important.”
The men of Missouri Presbytery repeatedly indicate the church’s ignorance of the history of gays’ suffering at the hands of the church and parachurch ministries is the main reason Revoice is not trusted by the Church. Missouri Presbytery sees it as “extremely important” for these well-meaning but misinformed simple Christians who are angry to come to understand how these past ministries worked from the assumption that gays should be helped to affirm their manhood, and thus they have no idea how hurt and alienated Christian gays are from the Church.
What’s needed is for Missouri Presbytery to come alongside these simple Christians, explaining that gays don’t and can’t change their lust, affect, and effeminacy. They must explain the reason younger gays need Revoice is that it gives them a gay community that understands how hurt and oppressed they’ve been by the church calling them to repent and change such things so indifferent to one’s sanctification.
Missouri Presbytery moves on to its obligatory hissing at those who spoke a warning concerning Revoice’s sin and schism to these simple uninformed Christians:
Further, while social media is in and of itself a tool that could be used for good or ill, in the case at hand, it is the committee’s view that it has played far too negative a role.
“It is the committee’s view.”
Well of course, since most of the men on this committee created Revoice’s seedbed for years, and now support its work. We would expect Missouri Presbytery to view public criticism of Revoice negatively since that criticism now forces them to justify their errors.
Critics of Revoice “have played far too negative a role”?
That’s as deep as Missouri Presbytery’s Committee can think about criticism. Critics aren’t shepherds warning sheep. The man who blows the trumpet is not vigilant to avoid getting the sheep’s blood on his hands. Critics on “social media” are merely role-players.
It’s inconceivable to establishment men that any of their critics has serious motives. Keep in mind that these men of Missouri Presbytery are the establishment of the PCA. It is their job to defend the respectability of the PCA, Missouri Presbytery, Covenant Theological Seminary, and the large wealthy churches around the country whose pastors got their MDivs at Covenant over the course of the past quarter-century.
Taking in this formidable list of important factors, it’s little surprise that there is so much controversy around this issue and the 2018 Revoice conference and Memorial Presbyterian Church’s involvement. And yet precisely because of these challenging factors, the church has so much to gain by (i) seeking to address its weaknesses
The church is angry over the Revoice schism, so Missouri Presbytery responds by cheerfully announcing how much the simple churchgoers will gain if they will embrace the moment by coming to understand their own weaknesses that caused their anger.
Win-win, they say.
and (ii) seeking to welcome and walk with SSA Christians (and non-Christians) before a watching world, even as we stand with them (over and against the current sexual revolution) in affirming the beautiful sexuality ordained by God and faithfully attested throughout the Christian tradition. Indeed, what has been (and will continue to be) an occasion for controversy is in truth also an occasion for incredible missional opportunity: it is becoming evident that in very recent years more and more SSA persons are emerging who are wholeheartedly seeking to walk in faithfulness to Christ and sincerely trying to figure out how to do that. 1 In 2013, reviewing books by Wesley Hill and Sam Allberry, Tim Keller wrote, “I’m glad to see the beginning of something crucial here…. But this ‘movement’ is still very embryonic.”2 In 2015, Kevin DeYoung wrote that “more and more Christians who experience same-sex attraction are, in a powerful picture of God’s grace, choosing to live celibate lives.”3
Our win-win gets even better as Missouri Presbytery’s rolls out all their positive suggestions:
- Welcome Revoice.
- Walk with Revoicers.
- Stand with Revoicers.
- Join Revoice in affirming the beautiful sexuality ordained by God.
- Join Revoice in affirming the beautiful sexuality faithfully attested throughout the Christian tradition.
- Revoicers are wholeheartedly seeking to walk in faithfulness to Christ.
- Revoicers are sincerely trying to figure out how to do that.
- Revoice presents the Church incredible missional opportunities!
Such a wonderful opportunity we have. Stupid us saying Revoice was schism and heresy. Stupid us working to expose and oppose Revoice. What ship were we on?
Quite the opposite, Missouri Presbytery says Revoice is a critical moment for the church’s missional future and growth. Who is ready to jump on their bandwagon?
Then, another obligatory Tim Keller quote—this one in their footnote:
Tim Keller wrote, “I’m glad to see the beginning of something crucial here…. But this ‘movement’ is still very embryonic.”
Missouri Presbytery is glad Tim’s glad. Revoicers are glad Missouri Presbytery is happy about how glad Tim is. All of it makes Covenant Seminary, its profs and trustees, very happy also.
In 2017, Wesley Hill wrote, “There are so many of us, from such varied cultures, races, Christian denominations, and family backgrounds, who have come out as gay and Christian in recent years. And each of us is seeking to learn…how to flourish as we embrace intentional Christian singleness.”4 Furthermore, and perhaps to the surprise of many, “86 percent of people in the LGBT community reported a significant level of church involvement at some point in their childhood or teenage years.”5 Finally, this emergence of SSA Christians has not taken place in a corner but before a watching world, not least before the Millennial generation, for whom treatment of SSA persons is a matter of no small importance.6 And each of them seeking to learn how to flourish as they embrace intentional Christian singleness.
If you’re going to tell lies about sin, righteousness, and judgment, make them howlers. Tell lies so big that simple Christians will have trouble believing you could ever say it unless you meant it.
Take, for instance, that phrase “so many of us.” Simple Christians think there are “so many” gays, so help to confirm their error. If Americans believe about one-quarter of our population is lesbian, gay, transsexual, bisexual, or queer,” reassure that lie the media has fed them for decades. The lie is useful, so write text like this: “there are so many of us, from such varied cultures, races, Christian denominations, and family backgrounds.”
The lie is also useful to Missouri Presbytery in their work defending Revoicers, so they quote it.
But is it true that there are so many of them who have come out as gay and Christian? If no one will accuse us of being petty let’s do the numbers. From Gallup, “Americans Greatly Overestimate Percent Gay, Lesbian in U.S.”:
PRINCETON, N.J. — The American public estimates on average that 23% of Americans are gay or lesbian, little changed from Americans’ 25% estimate in 2011, and only slightly higher than separate 2002 estimates of the gay and lesbian population. These estimates are many times higher than the 3.8% of the adult population who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Gallup Daily tracking…
When simple Christians hear “so many of us,” they are thinking 23%, but in reality all the LGBTQ minorites together only comprise 3.8% of the population.
Finally, we arrive at our “Zooville Test” in which we replace the LGTBQ identities with other identities founded on other sexual perversions:
In 2017, Wesley Hill wrote, “There are so many of us, from such varied cultures, races, Christian denominations, and family backgrounds, who have come out as zoophile and Christian in recent years.”
In 2017, Wesley Hill wrote, “There are so many of us, from such varied cultures, races, Christian denominations, and family backgrounds, who have come out as pedophile and Christian in recent years.”
In 2017, Wesley Hill wrote, “There are so many of us, from such varied cultures, races, Christian denominations, and family backgrounds, who have come out as incestuous and Christian in recent years.”
After Missouri Presbytery has helped to calm our presently troubled waters, the slouch toward Gomorrah will soon be able to move on. Where and when?
If we not how the decline and fall of Biblical sexuality in the Church started with the removal of shame from women who defy husbands’ authority, then moved to removing shame from fornicators and adulterers and is presently focussed on removing shame from sodomites, lesbians, and the effeminate, our own prediction is that age of consent laws will next be changed to enable sibling-sibling love.
So many young souls in the Church who have had well-meaning adults work to turn their sexual desires from inside to outside the family. So much pain among those who have not seen those desires change. Such a long history of church and parachurch ministries determined to deny the fundamental nature of these good souls’ sexual longings.
(This is eighteenth in a series of close readings. For all Warhorn articles on Missouri Presbytery’s Revoice Report, see here.)
|↑1||From the broader historical and cultural perspective, Oliver O’Donovan, Church in Crisis: The Gay Controversy and the Anglican Communion (Cascade, 2008), p. 114, is probably right to speak of “one aspect of the gay experience, its novelty. The world has never seen a phenomenon like the contemporary gay consciousness…. And we need hardly to be surprised at this turn in history if we reflect on the extraordinary discontinuities that exist between late modern society, taken as a whole, and traditional societies. To understand contemporary homosexuality without achieving some understanding of late modernity as a civilizational phenomenon is out of the question.” Similarly, Denny Burk and Heath Lambert, Transforming Homosexuality (P&R, 2015): “There has never been a period of time in history in which the church has confronted such a challenge as this one.”|
|↑2||From “Christianity and Homosexuality: A Review of Books,” Tim Keller, 2013. Available here.|
|↑3||Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Crossway, 2015), 144.|
|↑4||Wesley Hill, in his Forward to Gregory Coles, Single, Gay, Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual Identity (IVP, 2017), p. 2. Hill begins, “Ten years ago—only ten short years ago—it was impossible to find a book like this. I know because I tried.”|
|↑5||Collins, Invisible, 18, citing A. Marin, Us vs. Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT Community (NavPress, 2016), 1.|
|↑6||“Among Millennials who no longer identify with their childhood religion, nearly one-third say that negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people was either a somewhat important (17%) or very important (14%) factor in their disaffiliation from religion.” From “A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues,” by Robert Jones, Daniel Cox, Juhem Navarro-Rivera (Public Religion Research Institute, 2014), p. 4. Available here.|