At its May 28, 2019 stated meeting, the PCA Central Carolina Presbytery heard the report of its ad interim study committee appointed on November 12, 2018, “to explore the 2018 Revoice Conference and to report its findings to Central Carolina Presbytery and recommend any action that the Presbytery might take.” The Presbytery voted to “receive the committee’s report and commend the report to the churches and the denomination.
In July 2018, Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) hosted the Revoice Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Affirming the historic Christian doctrine of marriage, but also using the language of gay Christian, sexual minorities, and queer culture, Revoice proved controversial even before the conference itself, generating both commendation and criticism. With plans for another conference, a new advisory council, and continued advocacy from (and in support of) last year’s plenary speakers, Revoice is more than a one-time event. It is a burgeoning movement that deserves to be taken seriously and examined carefully.
On November 13, 2018 the Central Carolina Presbytery formed an Ad-Interim Study Committee “to explore the 2018 Revoice Conference and to report its findings to Central Carolina Presbytery and recommend any action that the Presbytery might take.” In keeping with the Presbytery’s instructions, the Moderator appointed seven members and one alternate to serve on the committee. Each of the following members voted in support of this report:
TE Dr. Bill Barcley (Sovereign Grace)
TE Dr. Kevin DeYoung (Christ Covenant)
TE Dr. Tom Hawkes (Uptown)
TE Dr. Blair Smith (Reformed Theological Seminary)
TE Mark Upton (Hope Community)
RE Bob Goudzwaard (Christ Covenant)
RE Tom Queen (Uptown)
RE Charlie King, alt. (Providence)
Blair Smith served as chairman for the committee and Bob Goudzwaard as secretary. We met four times in person from December – April and also exchanged papers, resources, and reflections over email. While this report was written to fulfill the motion from our own Presbytery, we have also kept in mind that our findings may be of interest to others in the PCA, and perhaps to the wider church. We have tried to write with these broader audiences in mind.
As members of the body of Christ we don’t get to choose the controversies of our age. We might prefer to be talking about the Trinity or the two natures of Christ—and we should talk a lot about both doctrines—but the fact is that if we are going to be faithful as pastors, as Christians, and as a denomination we cannot avoid talking about sexuality. Sexual identity is one of the main sources of confusion and contention in our world—a reality that likely will not change in our lifetimes. We must find a way to navigate these issues that is biblically sound, theologically robust, historically informed, linguistically careful, relationally compassionate, and pastorally wise.
This means we must be a people committed to truth. We appreciate Revoice’s commitment to biblical marriage. We commend them for their desire to help sexual strugglers stay rooted in Christ and in historic orthodoxy. At the same time, we are concerned that some of the principal voices in Revoice have not been careful enough with their labels, their theology, and their relational advice. Consequently, at present we do not feel Revoice is a safe guide in helping Christians navigate questions of gender and sexuality. We hope that within the PCA more attention will be given to the theology expressed in our Standards and to the doctrinal precision exemplified in the best of our tradition. We worry at times that some have traded a Reformed doctrine of sin for a therapeutic understanding of brokenness, or even for a Roman Catholic understanding of concupiscence. With a diminished view of sin comes a diminished role for repentance, a diminished understanding of the power of the gospel, and ultimately a diminished experience of worship itself. In a day where emoting comes easier than thinking, we must renew our conviction that truth does not get in the way of helping people; truth is fundamentally necessary if we are to be truly helpful.
Of course, truth is not all we must keep in view when thinking through these difficult issues. We must never forget that we are dealing with real people, flesh and blood human beings with hurts and fears and joys and hopes. While we disagree with important aspects of what was said and assumed at the Revoice Conference, in so far as the movement acts as a reminder for all of us to be welcoming, sympathetic, and hospitable, there are valuable things we can learn and necessary lessons to be appropriated. In the end, just as the Son came from the Father full of grace and truth, so we pray that we do not have to choose between the two. The same-sex attracted among us need what all of us need, and what can only be found in the church: the redeeming power of gospel truth and the transformational love of gospel people.