The teachings of the 2018 Revoice Conference may soon split the Presbyterian Church in America. If the errors in their teaching are not addressed, churches and possibly presbyteries will leave our denomination. Overture 28 is an effort to address the errors of the Revoice Conference and to commend a better way of helping those who struggle with sexual sin. Our hope is that the purity and peace of the PCA can be preserved at the 2019 General Assembly.
The Revoice Conference speakers repeatedly affirmed homosexual orientation as a legitimate part of their identity; something that should not be condemned or changed.[i] Ray Low condemned those who recommended counseling to help change his orientation.[ii] Greg Johnson expressed skepticism about whether sexual orientation could change[iii] and rejected the possibility of repenting of attractions.[iv]
What is this ‘sexual orientation’ that the Revoice speakers think is a legitimate part of a person’s identity and needs to be affirmed? Grant Hartley (a speaker who sought to define his terms) adopted the American Psychological Association’s definition of sexual orientation which says: “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.” [v]
In order to determine whether homosexual orientation is legitimate, we must determine if homosexual attraction is legitimate, for according to the APA definition, homosexual orientation is an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to the same sex. If we find that God condemns the attraction, then we must conclude that He would also condemn the orientation.
Romans 1:26-27 says, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
Scripture clearly teaches that homosexual attraction is a vile passion. When Paul speaks of God giving men over to vile passions (πάθη ἀτιμίας), the first example of a vile passion is homosexual attractions. The apostle goes on to say that this attraction is ‘against nature’. When men are sexually attracted to men they ‘leave the natural use of a woman,’ and when women pursue women, they do ‘what is against nature.’ Thus homosexual attraction is a dishonorable passion that is not only sinful, but is against nature. If God condemns homosexual attraction as sinful and against nature, then He also condemns homosexual orientation, which is simply the enduring pattern of this degrading passion.
We know that some speakers at Revoice tried to make a distinction between homosexual attraction and homosexual lust, condemning lust while affirming attraction, but this is a distinction without any substantial difference. If it is argued that homosexual attraction is merely aesthetic attraction that recognizes the beauty of someone of the same sex, this is a misuse of the word homosexual.[vi] Can we honestly call people who recognize and admire beauty in a person of the same sex homosexuals? The homosexual has romantic or sexual attractions to the same sex, not innocent aesthetic attractions.
Furthermore, the attempts of conference speakers to separate homosexual actions from homosexual attractions (condemning the action but affirming the attraction) are simply Pharisaical maneuvers. Jesus condemned this way of thinking in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” If Jesus condemned the natural sexual desire for a woman other than your wife, how much more would he condemn the unnatural sexual desire for a person of the same-sex? Sexual sin is not limited to actions but begins in the heart, so homosexual attraction must be condemned as contrary to the 7th commandment.
No speaker at Revoice called his listeners to repent of their homosexual attractions. Same-sex attraction was universally affirmed, as evidenced in the use of the phrase ‘Gay Christians’. [vii] While commendable that conference speakers condemned homosexual sex, the affirmation of homosexual attraction and homosexual identity is a serious error.
Some Revoice speakers also referred to people who struggled with unnatural sexual attractions as ‘sexual minorities.’[viii] This is an accurate description in that most people do not struggle with same sex attraction—they are a numerical minority—but it must be made clear that being a sexual minority is not virtuous. People who struggle with incestuous attractions, bestial attractions, and homosexual attractions are all sexual minorities. God, however, condemns all these perverse attractions.[ix]
I fear this is an attempt to dupe believers into becoming champions of ‘Gay Christians,’ by identifying them with ethnic minorities. Gay, however, is not the ‘new black’. LGBT identities are not analogous to ethnic identities. Ethnic identity is immutable and has nothing to do with unlawful attractions or desires. LGBT identities are mutable (1Cor.6:11) and center around unlawful attractions and desires. Race is benign; unlawful sexual attraction is sinful. Do not be deceived. The champion of ‘sexual minorities’ is the champion of sexual sin.
Another disturbing facet of the Revoice Conference was that several speakers were portraying homosexuals as an oppressed minority, victims of persecution in the evangelical church.[x] The faithful church is not persecuting homosexuals when it disapproves of homosexuality (from its origin in the heart to its manifestation in effeminacy, gender confusion, and physical sex). The church is also correct in denying membership and church office to those who insist on identifying as homosexuals.[xi] Homosexuals are welcome to attend. They should be loved and ministered to, but they cannot join the church until they repent of their sinful attractions and turn to Christ. Refugees from homosexuality are welcome, apostles of homosexuality are not.
Furthermore, it should be noted that homosexuals are no longer a persecuted minority in American culture. Homosexuals are a powerful force with which to be reckoned. Homosexuals drag Christian bakers and photographers into court for refusing to promote LGBT causes. The LGBT community is no longer an oppressed minority, but a persecuting minority.
Finally, speakers at Revoice opposed efforts to help people change sexual orientation.[xii] While it may be true that most of them are not completely set free from same-sex attraction, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is in the business of cleansing His people of all unrighteousness, including the sin of homosexual attraction. Paul knew Christians who once identified as homosexuals but were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God (1Cor.6:11). The Spirit of God can put to death sinful attractions and sanctify believers. While we acknowledge that same-sex attraction can be an unwanted and tenacious attraction that appears early in life, it is not the same as ethnic identity, which cannot be overcome by the Holy Spirit.
Also, Christians struggling with same-sex attraction are not unique in having unwanted and tenacious desires. All Christians have unwanted sinful desires that feel like they are part of their very person, because they originate in their sinful nature. Romans 7:22-23 says, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” The Spirit-born Christian, who alone can delight in God’s law (Rom.8:7-9), will still continue to struggle with sinful desires. Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” All Christians struggle with sinful desires and will war against them until their final day.
The way to wage this war against sinful attractions will be the subject of “Responding to Revoice: The Case for Overture 28 (Part Two).” Meanwhile, we commend Overture 28 to the 2019 PCA General Assembly. Articles 1 to 6 address the errors outlined above.
WE AFFIRM that homosexual attraction, homosexual orientation, and homosexual acts are against nature and sinful. (Rom.1:26-27)
WE DENY that homosexual attraction is part of the original creation order, since God created man in His image male and female for one another. (Gen.1:27-28; Gen.2:18,21-24; Mt.19:4-6)
WE AFFIRM that homosexual attraction is a vile, degrading, and dishonorable passion, and those who condone homosexuality invite the further judgment of God. (Rom.1:26-32)
WE DENY that unrepentant homosexuals will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Cor.6:9-10)
WE AFFIRM that Jesus condemned both sinful sexual attractions and sinful sexual actions. (Mt.5:27-28)
WE DENY that scripture permits homosexual attraction and orientation. (Rom.1:26-27)
WE AFFIRM that those with homosexual attractions, incestuous attractions, and bestial attractions are ‘sexual minorities’ in the church.
WE DENY that there is any virtue in being identified as a ‘sexual minority,’ because all of these dispositions are sinful. (Lev.18:6,22-23; 20:13,15-16)
WE AFFIRM that God by His grace can change an unnatural sexual orientation. (1Cor.6:11; 1Jn.1:9)
WE DENY that unnatural sexual orientations are fixed, permanent, and unchangeable. (Col.1:21-23)
WE AFFIRM that many people having a homosexual orientation do not desire this orientation.
WE DENY that unwanted vile passions are natural, neutral, or good. (Rom.7:21-25)
Steven Warhurst is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Westminster PCA in Kingsport, Tenn.
[i] Revoice 2018 General Session 1 Eve Tushnet: 19:40 as an adult convert coming from atheism to genuinely know and trust that God loved and cherished me and that my sexual orientation did not separate me from him or from his love…23:36 they began to realize that some of the longings and desires that they have always felt separated them from God and from other Christians and from their churches may actually be places where God is working very deeply…
Revoice 2018 General Session 2 Ray Low: 01:58 … after decades of you know just LGBT people being kicked out of their churches, who better to bring about this change than someone who understands in a position of leadership…Someone who would never judge or condemn you for being attracted to the same gender…” Nate Collins: 22:52 “I’m tired of feeling burdened by shame because I think my orientation makes me less human…
[ii] Ray Low: 08:51 “They even went as far as to ask if I would consider … going to counseling for my attractions and I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t agree to it, I couldn’t compromise myself…”
[iii] Christianity Today, I Used to Hide My Shame. Now I Take Shelter Under the Gospel. “Mike Rosebush, former director of Exodus International’s Professional Counselors’ Network, has said that he has yet to identify a single instance in which same-sex attraction disappeared.”
[iv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb5yk2IdGpc. If you go to the timestamp 50:40, Rev. Johnson says the following: What I’m hearing is you judging brothers for not repenting of something that can’t be repented of. You can resist it. But you’re assuming it’s volitional. … You can’t repent of an attraction.
[v] Revoice 2018 Redeeming Queer Culture: An Adventure
01:10…Grant Hartley defines sexual orientation according to the APA definition
[vi] Nate Collins seems to be making this case: “As we’ve already seen, it isn’t sin merely to experience an internal pull to someone of the same gender…One of my main arguments in this book is that being gay (understood as an aesthetic orientation) is not sinful in itself… All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality (p. 303). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
[vii] Revoice 2018 General Session 1 Eve Tushnet: 37:22 “If you know yourself to be a part of this community, the community of Gay Christians…” General Session 2 Nate Collins: 25:47 “those of us who are great tradition gay Christians.” General Session 3 Wesley Hill: 23:08 “If you’re a Gay Christian you are called to love people of the same sex…”
[viii] Revoice 2018 General Session 2 Nate Collins: 37:06 “Is it possible that gender and sexual minorities who live lives of costly obedience are themselves a prophetic call to the church…” “Redeeming Queer Culture Grant Hartley: 01:57 “A synonym for sexual minority could be a person who experiences same-sex attraction.”
[ix] In case proof is need. Leviticus 18:6 ‘None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am the LORD. Leviticus 18:22-23 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. 23 Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
[x] Revoice 2018 General Session 2 Ray Low: 01:42 You would think that the idea of an LGBT pastor would be a wonderful thing after decades of you know just LGBT people being kicked out of their churches… 09:49 “I think for me the greatest sorrow of an LGBT Christian is seeing the continued mistreatment of the LGBT community at the hands of the church… Nate Collins: 23:03 I’m tired of people saying I’m using the wrong words…I’m tired of hearing about gay people who have unsafe homes…verbal abuse from coworkers. 39:40 “Injustice is real and for us that means injustice against gender and sexual minorities is real…”
[xi] Revoice 2018 General Session 2 Ray Low: 03:38 “Somebody told me in another church that on paper I was the perfect candidate but my sexuality made it difficult for them to hire me…”
[xii] Revoice 2018 General Session 2 Ray Low: 04:25 “The one thing I couldn’t change about myself became the very thing that disqualified me in their eyes…” 08:51 “They even went as far as to ask if I would consider it if I would consider going to counseling for my attractions and I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t agree to it, I couldn’t compromise myself…” Nate Collins 34:24 “There are some thoughts and opinions about our experience of orientation that are heavy burdens right. Bad shepherds give us those burdens…” Johanna Finegan 06:16 “It seems to have been used more as a way of fudging the reality that orientations didn’t change much…” 14:02 “We can’t speak plainly about the realities…these realities include the fact that most people do not experience orientation change. The church keeps tiptoeing around this with half-truths…”