A Closer Look at a New Way of Addressing LGBT Questions
In case you aren't familiar with the "Revoice" conference, you need to be. It's rapidly becoming very influential in evangelical churches. It's proposing to be a "third way" to deal with the questions surrounding the LGBT issue. It's trying to present a middle position between the historic Christian position and the New Reformation position. But before we get into all that, let's start with some definitions.
Traditional/Historic position: The traditional position asserts that being gay means engaging in certain lifestyle behaviors, it involves choices and behaviors. The way out involves repentance (changing our minds about our sin), struggling to resist temptation (turning away from sin), cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit to transform desires from unholy to holy (sanctification). Transformation is a key distinguishing trait for this position.
New Reformation position: This view asserts that being gay is inborn, that "God made me this way." Advocates of this position say that people should accept and embrace being gay as a true core identity. This view encourages people to pursue same sex romantic relationships, even marriage. This is the view advocated by Matthew Vines and Jen Hatmaker and other Progressive evangelicals.
Revoice position: This brings us to the proposed "third way." What do we do about Christians who want to be full disciples of Jesus, who believe that God’s ideal is heterosexual marriage (one man, one woman), BUT they still experience same sex attraction and don’t get transformed or healed? That’s where the “Revoice” conference comes in. This view attempts to “de-sin” same sex attraction (SSA). Many of these people actively choose celibacy because they say they aren’t attracted to the opposite sex, but they still desire holiness.
Now, the Revoice Conference has some pretty heavyweight people backing it. Here is a brief survey of some of those people and entities.
The conference is organized by a grad and former faculty member at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Nate Collins.
It is hosted by leaders in the Presbyterian Church in America, but not officially by the PCA itself.
Revoice is also promoted by some prominent Southern Baptist leaders, such as Matt Chandler, Karen Swallow Prior, including the ERLC (an official entity sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention).
Preston Sprinkle and Wesley Hill are among its advisors. The last conference was co-sponsored by Intervarsity Press.
When you read the summary of the Revoice view on their web site, it sounds quite orthodox. Here is just one highlight from the “Statement on Sexual Ethics and Christian Obedience” on their web site.
We believe that sin entered the world as a result of the rebellion of Adam and Eve and now permeates every aspect of creation, including human sexuality. Along with every form of sexual desire apart from the one-flesh bond between husband and wife, we believe that same-sex sexual desire experienced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other same-sex-attracted people is a product of the Fall; that same-sex sexual desire was not a pre-Fall reality; and that same-sex sexual desire will not exist in the new creation, after the return of Christ. (Gen. 3; Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10–19; 1 Cor. 6:9–10; Matt. 22:30)
One critical difficulty I have with all this is that the "Revoice" representatives seem to advocate a view that affirms homosexual orientation is fairly fixed. You’ll hear Revoice speakers use the designation that being gay or lesbian or bisexual as a label that the Christian can adopt as part of their identity. Phraseology of a “Christian who is gay and celibate” is all over the web site. So, rather than encouraging people who experience same sex attraction to be set free from these desires, the Revoice model advocates celibacy because there is little or no expectation that the gay desires will change over time because being gay is inborn.
For example, here are a couple of workshop titles from last year’s conference:
“Redeeming Queer Culture”
You will also hear Revoice speakers talk about "gay Christians" living in ‘mixed orientation’ marriages. This is the term that’s been developed to describe Christians who still identify as gay but choose to be married to an opposite sexed person. Again, keep in mind that being gay is seen as essentially fixed and unchanging. So these couples have somehow found a peace with this knowledge of their marriage with one spouse being attracted to the other, and to people outside the marriage of the same sex.
The Revoice conference is having a HUGE impact in certain sectors of conservative churches. So, what are conservative Bible-believing Christians to make of all this?
I appreciate Revoice’s commitment to biblical marriage. I commend them for their desire to help sexual strugglers stay rooted in Christ and in historic orthodoxy. But I do want to make 5 points.
Are same-sex desires sinful, or are they merely disordered desires that become sinful when acted upon? The Revoice position reframes the concept of sin into “brokenness” or “disordered desires.” This shift in phraseology moves us away from the wording of original sin. The fall does not simply make us broken and disordered, it condemns us before a holy God. All too often, a diminished view of sin brings with it a diminished role for repentance. I believe that people who struggle with same sex attraction should do just that: struggle.
I have an issue with the “gay Christian” phraseology. I don’t think it’s wise to make a sin into a person’s identity. It becomes a label of resignation that one particular sin can now define the core person.
Christians and churches should have intentionality to include single people –– whether same sex attracted or not –– into our families and communities.
We know that in the new creation there will be no same sex attraction. All of these so-called “disordered” –– I would call them sinful –– thoughts and feelings will finally fall into perfect alignment with God’s original design and plan for us.
While Revoice is premised upon a rejection of same-sex sexual relationships, many of the speakers don’t seem to reject those sexual desires outright. For this reason, I do not feel Revoice is a safe guide in helping Christians navigate questions of gender and sexuality.
And here’s why. I think the Bible teaches transformation. I can’t find any scriptural support for the idea that homosexuality is a fixed part of our core identity. Personally, I take the view that people who struggle with same sex attraction should actively explore the causes of their disordered emotions and feelings. They can ask the Lord to heal them. Sometimes that happens. After all, sometimes God intervenes and heals cancer. Other times, He does not. So even when healing doesn’t come, SSA brothers and sisters in the Lord should be encouraged to fight against these urges and trust the Lord to work with them to bring their desires into greater levels of freedom and holiness over time. It takes effort to turn away from temptation, and faith for change.
The bottom line that conservative Christians must wrestle with is this: Is being gay a behavior that results from desires that can potentially change over time under the power of the Holy Spirit or is it a fixed orientation and part of a person’s identity? How you answer that question differentiates the Revoice position from historic Christianity.