A Brief Review of the Missouri Presbytery Committee Report on Revoice and “Gay Christians”

The Committee to Investigate Memorial Presbyterian Church for Hosting the Revoice 18 Conference only found errors in poor judgment; they found nothing erroneous that “strikes at the vitals of religion.”

All sins are heinous, but some sins are more heinous than others.  Homosexual desire is no less forgivable, but it is more pernicious.  If there is no resignation of ordained PCA officers who claim to be gay homosexuals who practice celibacy, then there will be no hope of peace and unity in the PCA.  

 

An Ad Hoc Committee of Missouri Presbytery of the PCA has come to the defense of one of its own ministers who has just recently and publicly confessed that he is a “Gay Christian” who practices celibacy. Written before his “outing,” this report was discussed and received at a called meeting of Presbytery on May 18, 2019; it pertains just to issues surrounding the Revoice Conference.

The Committee to Investigate Memorial Presbyterian Church for Hosting the Revoice 18 Conference in July 2018 only found errors in poor judgment that originate from such things as imprudence and neglect in both the Pastor and the Church. They found nothing erroneous that “strikes at the vitals of religion.”

The Committee, after numerous interviews with participants in the Conference, found that most of the critics of the Revoice Conference had either misunderstood or misinterpreted the statements made by the participants.  One area where they appear to show some sentiment with the critics is in the area of “aesthetic beauty attraction” as being something “underneath or behind” homoerotic attraction. They seemed to conclude that such a concept was not helpful at all in the conversation.

It appeared to me that the most poignant and troubling issue to the Committee was the confusion that comes from the definition of words and terminology between the speakers at the Conference and the critics.  In the mind of the Committee, this generally has been caused by a generation gap between those 30-somethings and those 60-somethings. The meaning of terminology surrounding the issue of sexuality is constantly changing, and what has been the rule-of-thumb for the last 50 years is no longer the standard by which we should judge some of the most controversial terms used in this discussion.

The Committee concludes that the definition of words and phrases such as “gay,” “gay Christian’” “sexual orientation,” and “same-sex attraction” are fluid, and the main problem with the critics is that they do not understand how the terms were being used by those in the Conference.  If the speakers had been clearer in their definitions, and if the critics has taken the time to understand the changing definitions, then there would have been less noise and more light.

For example, the older generation understands “gay” in terms of bath-houses and gay-pride parades.  Also, in the view of the older generation, homoerotic desire cannot be separated from the act of consummation.

The newer definition of a phrase like “gay Christian” in the so-called Side B Community only refers to the homoerotic desire without acting upon that desire.  Thus, with a proper understanding of the newer definition, the Committee sees no inherent problem with the descriptive terms used by the newer generation to identify Christians if they are used with great care.  Yes, homoerotic desire is sinful (it is rooted in the Fall and not in Creation), but this should not void the use of adjectives like “gay” to categorize specific identities of Christians.  The Committee believes that the major blind-spot in this dialogue is a lack of communication between the two parties. The important issue is to help those with sexual brokenness.

In my mind, one issue that the Committee failed to deal with is the issue of how “gay Christians” can avoid falling into fornication (which here I define as consummation of the sexual act).  For heterosexuals the Apostle Paul implies that, unless one has the gift of celibacy, the only way to avoid fornication is for a man to have his own wife.  No special outpouring of the Holy Spirit here, just the practical step of taking a wife.  Would not the same solution be true for homosexuals?  Or do all “Gay Christians,” who do not act upon their homoerotic desire, have the gift of celibacy? This is a puzzle to me.

Another issue in this debate that needs to be pursued is the relationship of sin and perversion.  By perversion I mean a perversion of the created order.  All perversion is sinful, but not all sin is a perversion. The fornication of a man against his wife is sinful, but it is not considered a perverted sin.  The fornication of a man with another man is not only sinful, but it is a perverted sin.  There is an added degree of vileness to homosexuality (including pedophilia and bestiality) that does not exist in other sins, and such dominating sinful natures should disqualify these men from holding office in the church.  Paul assumed that this creation order was existent in officers in the church when he says that an elder must be the husband of one wife.

All sins are heinous, but some sins are more heinous than others.  Homosexual desire is no less forgivable, but it is more pernicious.  If there is no resignation of ordained PCA officers who claim to be gay homosexuals who practice celibacy, then there will be no hope of peace and unity in the PCA.

The Committee recommends that the General Assembly appoint a special study committee to examine the issue (especially the use of sexual terminology) for greater clarity.  They believe that the process of a trial should not be pursued.  They want to avoid a statement on the issue by what they call “judicial fiat.”

This is my first reaction to my first reading of the Report.  The Report is 143 pages long.  It is not easy reading.  Since Missouri Presbytery received and approved the Report, I know that many in the PCA with another perspective will be utterly disappointed.  There is great trouble in Israel!

Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.

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