By Todd Pruitt
There is a great deal of discussion going on among Christiains these days about the moral status of homosexuality and homosexual desires.
In my own denomination, the PCA, the latest dustup is swirling around the Revoice conference being held in St. Louis at Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA).
The stated purpose of Revoice is: “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can experience the life-giving character of the historic Christian tradition.”
Not surprisingly, this is causing a great deal of division and confusion within the PCA. The confusion is quite understandable. People inside and outside the PCA are wondering if the historically conservative denomination is now embracing homosexuality. However, the organizers and speakers of Revoice profess fidelity to the biblical position on sexual intimacy – that sexual intimacy is a gift of God legitimately experienced in marriage between a man and woman.
So, to those wondering if the PCA is in the process of embracing homosexuality let me say that to my knowledge there are no pastors within our denomination promoting the acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage. May the Lord be merciful in granting us perseverance and courage to remain faithful.
Rather, the debate in the PCA is over the moral status of homosexual desires. The debate extends to the legitimacy of sexual orientation as a category and whether homosexuality is a fixed albeit broken marker of human identity. There are some in the PCA who are comfortable with using terms like Gay Christian to describe Christians who have homosexual desires but choose in obedience to Scripture to remain celibate. However, there are others who believe it is vital that terms like Gay Christian or Queer Christian must not be used in the PCA; that we must not adopt the world’s understanding of sexual orientation and identity.
I have no reason to believe that the organizers of Revoice are anything other than brothers in Christ who are sincerely seeking to reach those struggling to remain chaste. My quarrel is not with their hearts or their motives. I am not in a position to judge either and I am happy to take them at their word.
But I am deeply dismayed at their insistence on using worldly and ungodly categories and language to describe human identity and sexuality. For instance, the category of sexual orientation is deceptive. It is the fruit of 19th century radicalism. It suggests that people are possessed of various sexual proclivities none more valid than any other. The church cannot retrofit the gospel or biblical Christianity onto the notion of sexual orientation because it is fundamentally out of accord with biblical anthropology.
Then of course there is the language of Gay Christian, LGBTQ Christian, Queer Christian, and sexual minority. Is it possible that the PCA hosts, organizers, and speakers of Revoice were unaware that such language would vex and confuse a great number of their brothers and sisters in Christ? It stretches credulity to believe the present controversy surprised them.
Eve Tushnet, one of the speakers at Revoice, stated the following on her Twitter account: “What’s better than St. Louis in July? St Louis in July but SUPER GAY.” On the site Patheos, Ms. Tushnet promoted Revoice by writing, “This July, Come to the Big Gay Christian Extravaganza!”
One of the teachers at Revoice who is also a ministerial candidate in the PCA and serving on staff of a PCA church states of himself:
“I believe my same-sex attractions are broken, but I do not believe they are sinful. It is not a sin for me to be attracted to another man, in the same way it is not sinful for you to be attracted to a woman.”
In fairness to this brother I want to be clear that he maintains that sexual intimacy must be confined to marriage between a man and woman. I am grateful for that. I have corresponded with him briefly and I believe he is sincere in his desire to get the gospel to homosexuals. But I do believe that his understanding of sexuality identity and homosexual desire (an understanding embraced by an alarmingly high number of pastors in the PCA) is fundamentally flawed. In fact, I believe that once a church adopts the notion that homosexual desire is a fixed category of human identity, that is not inherently sinful; once the church grants ontological status to homosexuality it is only a short leap to finally blessing homosexual behavior.
This is the way it seems to happen with pastors and churches who abandon the truth:
1) Belief that homosexuality is a fixed identity.
2) Belief that homosexual desires can be pure so long as the homosexual remains chaste.
3) Adoption of the language of Gay Christian, Queer Christian, and sexual minority.
4) The realization that it is pastorally cruel to tell homosexuals that their sexual orientation is basic to their identity and not inherently sinful but that they must not ever act upon it.
5) Blessing of homosexual marriage and relations.
This trajectory has been followed by former PCA churches which are now aligned with denominations who embrace homosexuality.
This ought to concern every pastor, elder, and layperson in the PCA: The philosophical and linguistic foundation for ultimately approving of homosexuality is already being laid in the PCA.
The following are 3 examples of sessions taken directly from the Revoice site:
Possibility Models in Queer Theory and Literature: An Adventure
Presenter: Grant Hartley
For the sexual minority seeking to submit his or her life fully to Christ and to the historic Christian sexual ethic, queer culture presents a bit of a dilemma; rather than combing through and analyzing to find which parts are to be rejected, to be redeemed, or to be received with joy (Acts 17:16-34), Christians have often discarded the virtues of queer culture along with the vices, which leaves culturally connected Christian sexual minorities torn between two cultures, two histories, and two communities. So questions that have until now been largely unanswered remain: what does queer culture (and specifically, queer literature and theory) have to offer us who follow Christ? What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the New Jerusalem at the end of time (Revelation 21:24-26)?
How To Be A Straight Ally
Presenter: Preston Sprinkle, PhD
What does it mean to be a straight ally for gender and sexual minorities? Join speaker, author, and New Testament scholar Preston Sprinkle as he shares about his journey of learning from LGBT people and the way they experience the world around them. Topics covered will include learning how to own the weight of the straight white evangelical tradition and its sins against gender and sexual minorities, how to show genuine compassion to LGBT people, and how to advocate for them so that they are empowered to thrive in their local faith communities.
Coming Out in the Shadow of the Cross: Queer Visibility as Redemptive Suffering
Presenter: Jack Bates
The LGBTQ culture at large tends to stress the personal nature of coming out: it’s up to you to determine how and when and whether you come out. The queer Christian, however, can derive some of the contours of her or his coming out from Scripture and tradition. The particular manner of one’s coming out should be determined according to practical wisdom and oriented toward preservation and reconciliation of Christian fellowship, insofar as that is possible. Further, there is a presumption in favor of coming out for the Christian, in light of the possibilities for suffering on behalf of the other that being out in a Christian context provides. The prospect of coming out can be particularly difficult for the Side-B Christian, but the sufferings of visibility offer redemptive possibilities that the closet cannot offer.
In response to the many concerns and complaints being expressed about Revoice the pastor of the host church who will also be speaking wrote a thoughtful piece affirming his commitment to biblical sexual ethics and the intention of the organizers to reach people for Christ.
His response was clearly heart-felt, and I believe, sincere. But in many ways he was responding to a complaint that is not being made. The debate is not whether the church should be committed to reaching homosexuals for Christ. I do not know of one pastor in the PCA who does not share that goal.
The pastors I know, myself included, minister weekly to former homosexuals and those who fight daily against homosexual desires. We love these precious souls. Each Lord’s Day we labor over them through preaching and prayer. Like all those struggling against sin we seek to help them walk in holiness in this sin-sick world. Calling them Gay Christians, Queer Christians, or sexual minorities undermines not only their ability to fight for holiness but the very way they are to understand themselves as new creations in Christ who have been washed clean.
What the organizers and speakers of Revoice do not seem to understand is that those of us raising concerns are not doing so because we are opposed to reaching out to homosexuals with the good news of the gospel. We are doing that with heart and soul every week. Rather, we firmly believe that their approach and the language they are using are counter-productive to that goal. Indeed, many us of believe that by adopting worldly and ungodly categories for human identity the promoters of Revoice and all those embracing Gay Christian lingo are failing to love those fighting against homosexuality.
So for the love of God, for the love of his truth, and for the love of those fighting against homosexuality let us reject the world’s twisted notions of human identity and sexuality. Let us reject their language. And let us fight for the souls of those precious men and women whom the enemy is seeking to devour.
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