Let me make it clear, though, that Johnson and those who support him are on the wrong side of the battle line–there is nothing to appreciate about putting souls in eternal peril. For those who are taking a “wait and see” approach to Revoice, looking for clarity about what it is really about as the movement matures, I’d remind them that there is no neutrality in the battle for the Kingdom of God.
I noted in my previous piece describing the overtures to be considered at the Presbyterian Church in America’s General Assembly that at the top of the list was how it was going to deal with the Revoice movement. That certainly turned out to be the case. So I thought I’d do a deep dive here on the issue by running through the numbers on the votes.
For those who can’t wait until the end for a conclusion, the bottom line is that as many as a third of PCA elders in attendance at GA are strongly supportive of Revoice, with many more sympathetic to its aims. But the PCA is facing problems today that run far deeper than Revoice.
I’ve written about the details elsewhere, but basics are that while Revoice organizers acknowledge sexual activity is “restricted” by the Bible to within the confines of marriage, they also “support and encourage” the people they are engaging to identify as “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other same-sex attracted Christians” and flinch (“you [are] judging brothers for not repenting of something, … an attraction … that can’t be repented of”) when it comes to acknowledging sinful sexual desires, e.g., same-sex desire, as sinful.
This isn’t how Jesus talks about sinful desire, however:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28).
Unfortunately, much of Revoice’s language and teaching opens the door for people to remain celibate “LGBT Christians,” heterosexual adulterers, alcoholics, grumblers, etc. without their attractions, orientations, lusts, or ingratitude being acknowledged as sinful. Such teaching is not loving people, but is instead not healthy for their souls.
Now on to General Assembly.
Overture 4, which called for the GA to “declare the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood’s ‘Nashville Statement’ on biblical sexuality as a biblically faithful declaration,” was offered by Calvary Presbytery as a response to Revoice. This was approved 803-541, with much debate and opposition.
Some opposed the Nashville Statement because they don’t believe it is strong enough, some because they believe that the PCA should make its own statements on this issue (the Nashville Statement comes from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), and others because they believe the Westminster Confession adequately addresses the issue and we should proceed by applying it to this issue directly.
However, most of the 40% of PCA elders opposed to Overture 4 seemed to do so because they opposed Article 7 in the Nashville Statement, or its public affirmation:
- WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.
- WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.
This was certainly the case with PCA pastor Greg Johnson, as expressed in his speech from the floor of GA:
I knew I was gay at age 11 … that was the day I realized Christians hated gay people. … At this point I am 46 years old and still same-sex attracted. My orientation has not changed. … I love Jesus and I want to serve Him and I am willing to suffer for Him and yet, friends, when I read Article 7 of the Nashville Statement, it hurts, because Article 7 says it is a sin to adopt a homosexual self conception. And we don’t do that for any other people group. We don’t tell alcoholics that it is a sin to conceive of themselves as alcoholics because drunkenness is a sin. It is the beginning of learning to manage your alcoholism in obedience to Christ so that it doesn’t define you. We don’t tell paraplegics that they should conceive of themselves as able-bodied because that is God’s ideal. … Friends, I’m broken, I’m fallen and Jesus has washed me and saved me and my prayer is that you will consider the damage that will be done to people like me when Article 7 says that it is a sin to acknowledge our brokenness and our shame and the suffering and sorrow that goes with that. My prayer is that we will instead do the hard work of coming up with something biblically nuanced, theologically sophisticated, missionally sensitive, pastorally sensitive, so that people like me don’t have to go through all of the suffering I had because their pastors will be well equipped to love people who are broken and same sex attracted and waiting for glory.
We can’t know exactly how many of the 541 elders who opposed Overture 4 supported the position taken by Johnson, but we actually can get a pretty decent idea.
One indicator is that when Johnson finished his speech, he received applause from many of those in attendance. Johnson certainly believes he has widespread support in the PCA, as he indicated in this now-deleted tweet (NS stands for the Nashville Statement):
Last night NS won the battle, bit they lost the war.
- We had a seat at the table, That’s new.
- Notice the average age of the proponents and opponents. Big shift.
- About 40% of PCA leaders rejected NS.
- We got a study committee whose report will supersede NS in PCA.
The strength of those opposed to Overture 4 because they agree with Johnson (and disagree with NS Article 7–or at least with affirming it publicly) seems to be born out by the treatment afforded teaching elder Steven Warhurst, who on Thursday evening spoke in favor of the minority report on Overture 28 (the Overtures Committee had recommended not adopting Overture 28 from the Westminster Presbytery). Among other affirmations and denials, Overture 28 contained these:
- 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).
While speaking on the minority report, Warhurst said:
I want you to see the helpfulness of this document and how it would help people if you gave it to someone. If a parent comes to you said “My son just said this,” you can give them this document. It has affirmations and denials that make things clear for them and it has biblical texts, which is one of the complaints about the Nashville Statement. This has biblical texts that they can look at most of the texts that deal with this issue in the Scriptures. … (quotes Matthew 5:27-28) … If Jesus condemn the natural desire for a woman other than your wife, since it is a sin, adultery, how much more would he condemned the unnatural desire for a person of the same sex. So sexual sin is not limited to particular actions but it begins in the attractions of the heart. At the conference and in many places LGBT people are spoken of as sexual minorities and this is, I believe, an attempt to deceive us about this issue.
The minority report on Overture 28, which had the most direct (some would say most biblical) language on homosexuality among all the overtures, was voted down 210 to 967.
That wasn’t the end of the debate over Overture 28, however. On Friday morning, an elder raised an objection to Warhurst’s statement on the account it was intemperant because “the speaker improperly judged the hearts of Revoice speakers as ‘intending to deceive’” without having talked to those who had made the statements. The objection was supported by a vote of 450 to 408. In other words, because he espoused the belief that the gay community’s self-identification as sexual minorities is an attempt to deceive Christians about the sinfulness of homosexuality, Warhurst, in effect, was branded as intemperate by the Presbyterian Church in America. I’d encourage folks to watch or read Warhurst’s remarks to form your own opinion.