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List to our podcast conversation about Revoice 2021 here: Episode 273: Identity and Obedience in Revoice 2021
Revoice 2021 Together met in October 2021 in Dallas to encourage what they call “sexual minorities” within the church to obedience, to reach out evangelistically to LGBTQ people, and to minister to “sexual majority” Christians. The conference featured Eve Tushnet, Preston Sprinkle, Greg Johnson, Misty Irons, Greg Coles, and many other speakers, as well as panels on gender minorities, racial minorities, and women. With an emphasis on community support (reflected in the theme “together”), the speakers called the gathered assembly to be obedient to a biblical sexual ethic, as well as acknowledging the pain that the church has caused to those who identify as LGBTQ.
Revoice 2021 positions itself in the theological mainstream, as if the controversies surrounding the conference and movement are purely semantic. The wider evangelical church, for example, by policing the language of people who identify as LGBTQ, are said to erect artificial barriers for entrance into the kingdom of God, akin to those of New Testament era Judaizers. Revoice, as a movement, is prepared to forgive and reach out to those in the church who are complicit in this grave sin, but the church should repent and move on from these kinds of debates for the sake of mission and the witness of the gospel.
Rather than a purely semantic disagreement over whether or not to use the word “gay,” the language applied to self-hood and identity by Revoice points to underlying philosophical and theological assumptions that Christians should identify themselves by sexual behavior and inclinations, grounding this identification in a secular gender ideology rather than the Scriptures. Furthermore, by framing the semantic issues as Side A and Side B — referring to “Side A brothers and sisters” — they make the question of sexuality, both behavior and identity, to be adiaphora, a non-essential issue that Christians are free to disagree about. Rather than a “slippery slope,” both the ideology and language that Revoice is embracing will eventually take them over a spiritual cliff.
“The Gospel is for men as they are and as they think they are,” writes John Taylor in The Primal Vision: Christian Presence amid African Religion.1 He wrote in the middle of the last century, half a world away from the debates and controversies surrounding Revoice — an “annual gathering for Christians who are sexual minorities” seeking to “flourish in historic Christian traditions.”2 Taylor asks, “What has the Christian, present in such a world, to share or to learn about the self?” He posits one answer to that question — which is ours as well — with a line by Dr. J. H. Oldham: “The individual self has no independent existence which gives it the power to enter into relationships with other selves. Only through living intercourse with other selves can it become a self at all.”3 As if to take up that very work, Revoice’s 2021 theme was “Together.”4 That word encompasses, for them, the extraordinary communion they share because of their various sexual identities. Though they cannot engage in the actions associated with those identities5 — sex — experiencing sexual identity provides a deeper and richer sense of what it means to be human in relationship to other people. Their LGBTQ posture toward the world offers a baptism of affirmation to those of every sexual orientation.
With calls to be fabulous, to worship and adore Christ, but overall to be obedient, the speakers at Revoice, though at times defensive in their articulation of frustration and pain, positioned themselves as the new theological mainstream. Rather than continuing a protracted and contentious argument with critical voices in the church, they see themselves both as forging a way forward that reaches out evangelically to a world soaked in LGBTQ assumptions, and as uniquely called to minister to a too long ascendant Christian sexual majority culture.
I was by turns heartened and troubled as I watched the Revoice21 Together conference,6 the fourth conference since its founding in 2018.7 To stand publicly for sexual fidelity in celibacy and marriage and to proclaim the universal need for repentant belief in the gospel in a decadent time such as this is, to understate it, courageous. And, from that exposed and isolated position, especially when considering the grief represented in a room full of people who also feel rejected by other Christians, it is understandable that the leaders and speakers of Revoice would say that purely semantic matters of identity are settled. Continued disputes threaten to destroy the witness and mission of the whole church.
Nevertheless, I fear that rather than establishing a faithful path for Christians, Revoice is precipitating a grievous division in the American church. They do this first by grounding their reading of the Scriptures in secular ideology, second by insisting the disagreements about identity are purely semantic, and third by claiming to uphold a biblical sexual ethic while at the same time embracing those who reject this ethic, calling them Christian brothers and sisters.
If Revoice were to listen, however painfully, to what their critics are trying to say, it might be possible for the fissures to be mended and unity in the church to be restored. However, from the murky theological and philosophical assumptions articulated by many speakers, as well as the reference to people who call themselves “Side A Christians” (people who believe that God has created and blessed monogamous homosexual relationships)8 as “our Side A brothers and sisters,” I fear it will not be so.
I AM TRIGGERED BY MY OWN BODY
Bill Henson, opening the panel on “Gender Minorities,” explained that this would be “the first time our trans siblings are going to be heard at Revoice.”9 The purpose of the discussion wasn’t to offer a theological or philosophical framework for the transgender experience but rather to hear directly from those suffering excruciating gender dysphoria — both what it is like to live in a body that doesn’t agree with one’s sense of who one is, and the pain of being a Christian in a church that doesn’t know what to make of that experience. All of the testimonies were moving, but I found two particularly weighty. Lesli Hudson-Reynolds described (with chosen pronouns “they/them”) her experience this way:
My voice is one of my biggest triggers, and so hearing my voice on a zoom call, which we live on zoom six to seven hours a day, is incredibly difficult for me. I have one mirror in my entire house….Immediately after getting out of the shower I cover up. I don’t want to look at my body. If my dysphoria is too bad, I cut on my chest because that is typically what causes it. I have a safety team that I call….I’ve heard people say that it feels like having electricity — painful electricity going through their body, not like an energizing thing. I wouldn’t recommend having it.10
By the grace of God, she is no longer isolated and cast off, but has a community helping her live as a Christian in a body that will never feel comfortable or safe to her, and to minister in meaningful ways to those who have the same experience. Kyla Gillespie shared a similar, moving testimony:
And so in 2011 I did, I fully transitioned from female to male and I lived as Bryson for six years….My whole life fell apart. I saw God starting to strip away everything in my life. And then I remember one day being so desperate and broken I fell on my knees in my room and I was crying out to Him. I said, “God, what do you want from me?” And I heard Him say, “return to me Kyla.” And I said, “Can’t I follow you as Bryson?” and for me in my personal story He said, “No.”….And He said, “Will you trust Me?” and I said, “Yes.” And so for four years I’ve detransitioned and I’m just living in obedience for what He’s calling me to in my life. And in the little things He’s calling me to in obedience He’s transformed me.”11
In the final round of the discussion, Gillespie concluded this way: “When I think of the verses where it says, ‘you’re wonderfully made,’ and I’m like, ‘no I’m not,’ like, I don’t even love myself, but He loves me so much. So in that I was just able to accept His identity, and His love in my life, and I was able to surrender it”12 — “it” being a life lived as a man.
GNOSTICISM AND SUFFERING
The second and third centuries saw the early church afflicted by the Gnostic heresy. This beguiling false teaching tempted Christians to accept the prevailing pagan assumption that the body was a problem. The troublesome and corruptible flesh needed to be cast off so that the pure soul could shine through. For Gnostics, the body was not considered the glorious tabernacle of God through the indwelling of Holy Spirit. It would not one day be restored incorruptible and immortal, it was a prison. Transcending, escaping, or somehow undoing the body’s limitations was the way of salvation. A similar evocative idea is at the very heart of what many are calling the Trans Ideology.13
Although listening to the experiences of suffering people is not only necessary, but part of the kindness that leads to repentance, I was disappointed not to hear what self-acceptance might actually mean for a person who feels trapped in the wrong kind of body. What does unconditional love look like? Does Revoice accept the prevailing idea that a person can choose opposite sex pronouns? Do they think that the writers of the New Testament are calling the church to sexual maturity and sexual identity, as Elizabeth Delgado Black claims in her talk, “Growing Together Toward Sexual Maturity”?14 For a movement that positions itself within the orthodox mainstream of Christianity, crucial questions arise that lack substantial and satisfying answers.
HOW CAN I MORE FULLY ACCEPT MY SEXUAL SELF?
What is “self-accepting obedience?” This is the first of the many questions I asked myself as I watched, and then rewatched, Revoice21. The term comes from Eve Tushnet’s15 opening talk, “God’s Answers Deserve Better Questions.” “When it came to sexuality,” she said, “the people you looked up to in the church were simply unable to educate your desires and guide you into a self-accepting obedience” (emphasis added).16
To provide some context, the theme of self-acceptance, though not of obedience, is deftly traced by Carl Trueman in The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. A surprising number of Christians today are losing their footing in the disorienting cultural shifts of what it means to be a person. The western moral conscience has been deconstructed and reimagined by philosophers like Nietzsche, scientists like Darwin, psychiatrists like Freud, poets like Shelly, and artists like Salvador Dalí. The intellectual genealogy Trueman traces is critical for believers to grasp, because — and Revoice is a striking illustration — Christians unfamiliar with this history are vulnerable to culturally ascendant assumptions about selfhood and sexual identity that people two hundred, let alone a thousand years ago, would not have recognized. As we begin to look at what some claim is a purely semantic disagreement among people who all worship the same God and read the same Bible, we must weigh the emotional cargo the words we use carry and discern how once commonly shared notions of self and sex have been transformed. In the concluding pages of his book, Trueman writes, “To abstain from sex in today’s world is to sacrifice true selfhood as the world around understands it. It is to pay the price of not being able to be who one really is” (emphasis added).17
The speakers at Revoice assume that everyone has a sexual identity. A person is either straight — attracted to people of the opposite sex — or something else, meaning gay, bisexual, or trans with an assortment of variations in between. That the “straights” have enjoyed several thousand years of “majority” doesn’t make their sexuality less broken, as Misty Irons asserts in her talk, “The Church and the Gay Christian: A View from the Pew.”18 Nor does it mean that they have a corner on obedience or faithfulness to God, as New Testament scholar Preston Sprinkle claims in his talk, “Faith, Sexuality, and Gender.”19 And all of these assumptions and assertions find their yes and amen in Tushnet’s phrase “self-accepting obedience.”
What part of the self needs to be affirmed? And what does that have to do with obedience to Christ? It is a telling exercise to tally up the various descriptors applied to selfhood by Revoice. “Gay,” “Side B,” “Sexual Minorities,” “Same-Sex Attracted,” “Trans,” “Straight Siblings,” “Mixed-Orientation Marriages,” “LGBTQ,” and “Single and Celibate” emerge in a meme-like word cloud from the conference podium. And yet this panoply of sexual self-identities is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Scripture names sinful sexual activities and inclinations, in contrast to the singular good, God-ordained sexual expression that exists between a man and a woman in marriage (Gen. 1:27–28; 2:24; Matt. 19:6; Eph. 5:22–31). That is as far as it goes. Anything beyond that — homosexual inclinations, desires, and acts, in particular — is thoroughly condemned in both the Old Testament and New Testament (Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 6. 9–11; Col. 3:5; 1 Tim. 1:10; James 1:14–15; Jude 1:7).
How, then, do Christians who find themselves with sexual attractions and gender identities that God cannot bless find meaning for their lives? Obedience edges its way in between self-acceptance and sexual identity. In the view of Revoice, God does not call us to reject ourselves, but rather to lean into the various sexual identities we feel are most congenial and at the same time to obey His commands through and in our experience of our sexuality. The call, for Revoice, is to accept our sexual inclinations, whatever they may be, to cultivate what can be considered the “good” within them, and, at the same time, to abstain from lust and/or sexual relationships that are not within a marriage between a man and a woman. In the subtlest possible terms, obedience to God is subsumed into sexual-self-acceptance.20
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SELF? AND WHAT ABOUT DESIRE?
Sexual orientation indicates both inclination and active desire, and it is on that pin that all the semantic disagreements turn. The posture of a man who desires sexual intimacy with other men is spoken of in Scripture. It is not just a matter of having sex. “For,” writes the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” (Rom. 1:24).21 Revoice affirms this truth. To summarize the various voices of the conference, while we believe we must strip away the lust and remain obedient, we do not believe that we are required to repent of the deeper attractions or inclinations toward people of the same sex. These, in fact, bind us together in community and empower us to speak to the church. These inclinations, shed of active lust, form our identity. It is out of this identity, including its outward and visible markers of sexual-identity expression, that we call the lost to repentance.22
Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield, writing in Public Discourse about the question of these inner inclinations stemming from the fall (historically called concupiscence23), put the problem this way:
We Reformed Protestants believe that original sin, actual sin, and indwelling sin all condemn us. We know that for some of us, same-sex desire is Adam’s thumbprint on our lives. We do not believe that baptism removes original sin. Nor do we believe that redemption in Christ makes all effects of our sinful nature disappear. Redemption gives us ransom and Christ’s power and compassion to fight against our sinful nature, but until the final consummation we groan, struggling against indwelling sin and longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven (2 Cor. 5:2).24
Does a sexual inclination that does not give way to actual lust but that conflicts with the biblical teaching on sexuality constitute sin? Revoice says no.25 Only active lust is sinful.
The Scriptures, though spare, are clear. God created men and women either to life-long celibacy or to be joined together in marriage as a reflection of His coming redemptive work and Christ’s relationship to the church. Life-long marriage is normative for Christians, though God elevated celibacy to the highest realm, through the life and death of His Son. That celibacy, however, can be apprehended only through the gaping wound in Christ’s side who gave His life for His own Bride, the church. Christ had to die on the cross because the inclinations of all our hearts were always wicked continually (cf. Gen. 6:5). Those God calls to Himself repent not only because they have sinned, but because they are sinners: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51:5). The Christian must say that whatever inclination, indulged or not, that derives from the fall and the corruption of the flesh, that stands in conflict with the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, must be confessed as sin, not embraced as an identity. God does accept us, not on the basis of our various cobbled together, human-devised identities, but because of who His Son is. It is only in “hating,” as Jesus says (Luke 14:26), which is forsaking the self, that one can be joined into the mystical Body of the Son — the company of God’s faithful people. This is a hard, but essential, biblical truth in an age of self-love.
SUFFERING AND DEATH, MATURITY AND PRIDE
Nevertheless, I was encouraged to hear the speakers articulate a high view of suffering. If all the problems in the latter days of the Western Church could be distilled into one problem, it would be the tragic idea that Jesus died so that we could be happy and have more nice things. Though this was rarely said aloud until the prosperity gospel swept through the West and the church, it was, and too often is, the working assumption of many people. Having begun by grace through faith, too many of us continue in the Target aisle, spiritualizing our consuming desires. Revoice offers a correction to that idea. Every speaker admits that sexual behavior outside of marriage — the single most important commodity of our age — is off the table for the unmarried, and for those who are same-sex attracted to put it away forever is painful and a great sorrow.
While many of the speakers showcased the experiences of being lesbian, gay, and transgender, always marrying those experiences to the call for obedience, Elizabeth Delgado Black represented the bisexual experience. Her talk, “Spiritual Maturity as Sexual Minority Christians,” began this way:
I’ve just been thinking the past day and a half now how amazing it is to see all the fabulous haircuts, the button downs, the nice-fitted shorts, the ‘they/them’ labels and stickers and all the while worshiping God in such an amazing and powerful way….I would like to represent all my bisexual friends in the house here. We do exist. We talk about sexual minorities and gay people, well, you know we’re all a part of this. So, I’m speaking for you friends today….I have wanted to express myself in all my black and brown ways with whoops and hollers.26
Working through texts in Hebrews and Ephesians, Black called “sexual minority christians” to mature in their “sexual identity,” and prophesied that Revoice would become one of the “vital ligaments of the church.” She concluded, in agreement with other speakers, that it’s about “working to move beyond shame, self-loathing, self-pity, to grow in confidence and self-love, pride in how God is working in your identity.”27
Black, of course, was speaking to a friendly audience, and one inclined to understand her and give her the benefit of the doubt. A cursory glance at the Scriptures, however, show that pride and self-love are not biblical Christian virtues (Prov. 11:2; Prov. 16:18; 2 Tim. 3:1–5; James 4:6). Even more, the writer of Hebrews and the apostle Paul (if they are not one and the same) were eager for Christians in the early church not to become sexually mature, nor to find their own identities, but rather to bend their lives to resemble as closely as possible that of Christ (Heb. 6:1–2; Eph. 4:13–15).
WE’RE ABOUT TO LOSE A GENERATION
What better group of people, asks Greg Piken in his talk, “Uniquely Gifted for Mission,” to go out and preach the gospel than those who fundamentally understand the language, who look like those people, and who are able to translate the things of God into terms those people can understand? It’s the missional call — to go to unreached groups with the good news of Jesus.28
And the first thing you don’t want to do in that great work is get into a semantic fit about the word “gay.” “What if instead of lecturing them about their terminology and making them sign all kinds of forms before we’ll let them even lead a greeter ministry,” asks Piken, “what if we said, you guys are so important we need to raise you up and pour into you as missionaries because there are so many people out there that desperately need to know the hope of Jesus Christ?”29
In fact, he goes on, “Let’s go to that nation, and instead of telling them what to call themselves, let’s embrace them and love them and share the good news with them. Let’s contextualize the gospel for them.” Driving the point home, he asks, “What if we raised up gay and trans missionaries to reach the gayborhoods?” There isn’t time to wait because “people are dying.”30
Mission is essential to the Christian project. If people aren’t called to forsake themselves and believe the gospel, and given the tools to grow in their faith, the church will have failed in its obedience to Christ. That said, I don’t hear any Christians suggesting that we not learn the language of those people we seek to reach for Christ, nor that we go out in a condemnatory posture. But I do sense an alarming naiveté in Revoice’s call to send LGBTQ-identifying Christians into a broken sexual world. In the #metoo and #churchtoo age particularly, should gender-confused or young people struggling with same-sex attraction themselves be the primary mission of Christians who identify so closely with sexual brokenness?
When Christians go out to preach the good news of the gospel, what is the purpose of that going out? Consternation over a real crisis of identity among young people in the West is appropriate and good. The mental health of people in a changing and philosophically chaotic world should be upwards in the minds of any caring person. However, Christians are called to proclaim a singular message — your discomfiting body will die but your soul will continue to exist and eventually your body will be remade either to endure eternal torment, or to rejoice in eternal consolation in the presence of God in Christ. The church proclaims this message, and yet the church, according to many of those in pain, is the problem. The church is guilty of shutting the door to LGBTQ people.
CLOSING THE DOOR TO REPENTANCE AND ADORATION
The call to obedience was ubiquitous at Revoice. Christians, no matter their sexual desires, need to lead godly, pure lives characterized by love for Jesus — a call complicated by the reference to those who identify as “Side A Christians” as “our Side A brothers and sisters.”* But the church, claims Sprinkle, has not offered true repentance to self-identifying gay Christians. The church has preached a false message that to become a Christian, a person had to stop being “gay,” had to pray the gay away,31 had to keep repenting not just for their behavior, but for who they were. They were never invited to enjoy the warm embrace of familial Christian community.32 They had to live hidden lives, or at best lurk on the margins of the church. They have never had the opportunity to lead or participate in ministry because they were always having to cut off an essential part of themselves — not only their desires, but also the way in which they see the world, which, they claim, is fundamentally different from that of straight or “sexual majority” believers.
This is “unkind,” says Sprinkle. The church has not embodied the “kindness that leads to repentance” toward the LGBTQ community.33 The church should share the love of God instead of always telling this particular group of people, and all the individuals inside the group, that something essential to their identity was too wrong to know and love Jesus. The church should repent and begin to learn from the LGBTQ community. PCA Pastor Greg Johnson34 joined the call for the church to repent,35 while the cheerful, though frustrated Greg Coles (author of Single, Gay, Christian: A Personal Journey of Faith and Sexual Identity [IVP, 2017]36) asked, “What would it look like for the church to accept my adoration of Jesus?”37
To characterize the “church” as being “unkind,” as erecting a barrier to repentance and faith, is a grave and serious claim. What constitutes “kindness?” Before answering that question, it would be beneficial to trace some of the origins of this idea that “kindness,” which is really a matter of love, is something that can be used to measure the church. If a definition of kindness is taken from Scripture, of course it can and should be used as such a measure. The church should be judged by what the Bible teaches. Unhappily, that is not how Sprinkle is using the term. His definition of kindness is more akin to one given in 2016 by Misty Irons in an address to the Gay Christian Network. She quotes Robert Brault, saying, “Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.”38
JEW AND GENTILE, THE GAYS AND THE STRAIGHTS
“Hey, is my old pastor at Revoice?” asks Irons in sarcastic “surprise” that “following in the traditional Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality was now considered by Southern Baptists to be a product of the sexual revolution.” What “straight Christians” have done, she says, is pivoted to “perfecting arguments for why a Christian can’t identify as gay.” “We say,” she goes on, “it contradicts your identity in Christ. It’s like calling yourself a murdering Christian, or an adulterous Christian, or a lustful Christian.”39
She is alluding to an analogy that many Christians make. Identifying yourself as a Gay Christian is to identify yourself with an aspect of your sin nature. You might as well say, I am a thieving Christian or a lying Christian or a gluttonous Christian. It’s one I’ve made myself more than once.
Irons’ complaint isn’t new. A fuller explanation of her thought is found in a talk she presented at the Gay Christian Network Conference (GCN) in 2016. GCN was founded by Justin Lee,40 a self-proclaimed “Side A Christian” author and social activist, who has shared the stage with scholars like Sprinkle and Episcopal priest Wes Hill.41 At the 2016 GCN conference, Irons said:
I have heard some straight Christians say in a very sympathetic tone, “You know, we’re all sinners, and homosexuality is just another sin.” And then they would add, “Like murder.” Now, how does loving a person of the same sex even compare with taking someone else’s life? Or I would hear people say that they view the same-sex marriage issue just as they would any sexual sin, like adultery or fornication. And yet how are these valid comparisons when you consider that same-sex marriage is the formation of a committed relationship, whereas adultery is a betrayal of that commitment? Fornication is sex outside of marriage, whereas same-sex marriage allows for sex inside of marriage.42
Murder, she is saying, is a horrible analogy for someone who “loves” another person, whatever his or her sex or gender identity. People who believe that marriage can be enjoyed by two men together, or two women, are nothing like murderers or liars. Observe how subtly she shifts between perspectives. Are you really going to compare two people who love each other to murderers? Well, perhaps not. But liars? No Christian should self-identify as a liar, and yet the person who says that God blesses same-sex desire lies about the Scripture and the God who gave it. Is blasphemy worse than murder? Both are a heinous assault on the nature and law of God.
Revoice’s Statement on Sexual Ethics and Christian Obedience says this:
Marriage is ordained by God to be an exclusive, lifelong, and covenantal union of one man and one woman, which signifies the relationship between Christ and his Church, and involves two partners who are both similar (i.e., human) and different (i.e., opposite sex) joining together for the sake of mutual support and, ordinarily, for the generation of humanity. We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to be enjoyed exclusively within this marriage covenant, and that any inward cultivation or outward expression of sexual desire apart from the one-flesh bond between husband and wife is out of accord with God’s creational intent, and therefore against his good and gracious will. (Mal. 2:14; Matt. 19:4–6; Gen. 2:24; 1 Cor. 6:12–7:5; Gen. 1:28; Mal. 2:15; Gen. 2:18; Eph. 5:22–33; 1 Pet. 3:7; Col. 3:18–19; Gen. 2:25; Matt. 5:28; Matt. 19:9; Gal. 5:19–21)43
Is the question of sexuality essential or non-essential to Christian orthodoxy?44 Those who refer to “Side A Christians” as brothers and sisters seem to answer that question with a clear “non-essential.” Irons, at Revoice21, narrows the question to the use of the word “gay.” The arguments against identifying oneself with the sin nature —that calling yourself a Gay Christian is to contradict your identity in Christ — work, she insists, only “if we redefine the word ‘gay’ to mean someone who is either actively having gay sex or is in a continual state of lust or sinful desire. And when Gay Christians tell us that is not what they mean by gay, we rather perversely insist that we know better than they do what they mean. Now some try to explain that while their sexual orientation is fallen, the human experience of being gay is actually not too different from the experience of being straight. But our response is to be offended that they would compare themselves to us and accuse them of buying into secularism.”45
This claim aligns closely with Iron’s 2016 GCN advice to the church about how to approach the issue afresh:
I would suggest that the most helpful place for the conservative church to begin anew is by thinking homosexuality is simply sexual orientation. Because sexual orientation is something that doesn’t just apply to gay people, but straight people too. I have a sexual orientation, you have a sexual orientation. We differ in our respective orientations, but what we have in common is our human sexuality. Those of us who are Side B may believe that the existence of same-sex sexual orientation is a result of the Fall, whereas those who are Side A may believe that God created people to be gay. But whichever view you hold to, we should be able to agree that aside from differences in orientation, gays and straights both experience sexuality in the same way. That is why the best analogy you can use to understand homosexuality is not adultery, not fornication, not struggle or temptation. The best, most useful analogy you can use to understand homosexuality is heterosexuality.46
In other words, while blithely dismissing accusations of “secularism,” Irons adopts a view of sexual orientation given to the West not by Jesus, but by Freud. It is acceptable, she is saying, for Christians to contemplate their desires from the modern vantage point of romantic experience, and then go back to the Scriptures to try to figure out what God’s design in creation could possibly be.
We should ask if Irons’ thinking has shifted at all in the intervening years. There is no external indication that it has. On the contrary, her talk at the 2021 Revoice conference seems to represent an even more sophisticated articulation of her position in 2016 at GCN. At Revoice, she claims that Gay Christians remind her of “another group of people.” She says, “According to the Bible, the culture of this people was lawlessness. Their history was hostility to God and His people. And they are described characteristically as lustful, sexually immoral, hard-hearted, idolatrous, hedonistic, greedy, ignorant, and estranged from God.”47 In a word, the Gentiles. Those opposing the use of the term “Gay Christian,” she concludes, are like the Judaizers whom Paul excoriated for denying the gospel.48
First century Gentiles and Jews alike, claims Irons, divided the world into categories of ethnic identity in very much the same way that we think in terms of sexual identity. Jews and Jewish Christians were repulsed, viscerally, by Gentiles because they represented not only ritual and ceremonial uncleanness, but sexual immorality. They, for Jews of the day, were the “ungodly,” those whom God had set outside of the boundaries of His kingdom. To come into the kingdom of God, they needed to gain the external marker of covenant identity — circumcision — that would signal their full repentance, that they had gone from one kind of identity to the other. For Irons, that identity corresponds neatly to the various sexual identities people adopt today.49
It is a curiosity to me that Misty Irons, who self-identifies as both “straight” and “Side B,” would speak at both the Gay Christian Network and at Revoice. To the “conservative” church, Irons says, “You know what, we agree with you,”50 and to the Gay Christian Network, she says, “there is precedent for adjusting our understanding of Scripture rather than our understanding of what we observe in the world.”51
Is Sprinkle right that the church has been “unkind” to the LGBTQ community? And what of Irons’ claim that “conservative” Christianity is guilty of placing “impossible” demands on a whole identity group within the Christian family?52 How might we adjudicate these claims? Kindness, and ultimately love, have to be defined by the Scriptures themselves. Irons, a graduate of Westminster Seminary California (M.A., Biblical Studies), knows she has to make a case from the Bible:
The apostle Paul recognizes in the fourteenth chapter of Romans that there are certain issues on which Christians will take opposing sides, yet both sides are able to hold to their position in good conscience. He says the key to having a good conscience is faith. In Romans 14:22–23 Paul writes, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves…whatever is not from faith is sin.”53
She goes on:
Side A gay Christians believe God created them to be gay and that there can be nothing sinful in loving another human being. They seek to honor Christ by being in a loving, committed same-sex relationship. That also takes faith. There are gay Christians on both sides who have confided in me that they wonder if it’s really the other side that is correct, yet both Side B doubters and Side A doubters put themselves in God’s hands, trusting that he will lead them in the right path. That is yet another expression of faith.54
By framing the issues in the way she has, Irons renders human sexuality to be a matter of adiaphora, a non-essential issue that Christians are free to disagree about. Indeed, she explains in the aftermath of this Gay Christian Network address, “Yes, I am Side B. No, I do not advocate celibacy for all gay Christians.” Rather, “The entire point of my GCN keynote was this: ‘Yes, I am Side B. But I believe Side A gay Christians should be accepted in the church in an “agree to disagree” fashion according to the principles of Romans 14. Now, allow me to explain why I think the conservative church has been too blind in the past to see this truth, and how being obedient to Scripture can lead us out of this mess.’”55
This is deeply troubling.56 Faith, for Irons, is a matter of personal conscience. “Gay Christians on both sides” wonder aloud if the “other side is correct.” Irons is there to help them. And yet, how would she help anyone navigate the painful maze of personal desire to find Christ when she doesn’t offer the gospel itself? The gospel is not that “doubters” put themselves “in God’s hands” as “yet another expression of faith,” but that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Rather than that clear and sufficient answer, employing the time-tested hermeneutic that revisionist Episcopalians and other mainline denominations have embraced,57 Irons invites her listeners to measure Scripture by their own experience: “So, in spite of living at a time when so much exposure to the stories and perspectives of gay people ought to make you think twice, many straight Christians will still automatically compare gay relationships with these heavyweight sins because the Bible seems to do it.”58 Does Irons frame the issue this way to exalt Christ in the Scriptures? Unhappily, no:
How can you possibly justify putting more weight on fallible human testimony versus the infallible testimony of Holy Scripture? Here’s how. Because when you start listening to the stories of gay people and forming meaningful friendships, the real dilemma you run up against is much worse. The dilemma is not the testimony of gay people versus the testimony of Scripture. The real dilemma is the application of Scripture versus the testimony of Scripture.59
For Irons, how you apply the Scriptures is determined not by a coherent reading of them, but by the experiences of the people who come to them for help. Pastoral care, then, may be in conflict with biblical doctrine. We believe the Bible says not to engage in homosexual sex, goes this way of thinking, but pastorally it is better that you do engage in homosexual sex. To prevent adultery or fornication, we will offer you homosexual “marriage.” It won’t be the truth about God’s love and the gospel that transforms our lives, rather, our own experiences and preferences become the measure by which we discern whether or not we are being loved and being loving. Love for others is, for Irons, the defining measure for the application of all Scriptural testimony. Irons has taken one idea in Scripture (loving others) and uses it as a canon within a canon: that is, she uses that one teaching to read the entire Bible through the lens she has picked instead of reading the Bible as a coherent whole. She states:
Both the Old and New Testaments teach that the way you love your neighbor is by being as concerned for him or her as you would be for yourself. Leviticus 19:18 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke 6:31 Jesus reiterates the same teaching when he says, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” By wording these commands in this way, the Holy Spirit is instructing us to use our own standards for how we would want to be treated as the reference point for how we should relate to others.60
Irons believes that conservative Christians are cynical about the question of love, and, out of fear, “withhold the full-measure of empathy” from friends and family so as not to “get sucked into their perspective.”61 “We” conservative Christians, she claims, “stockpile an arsenal of protests and arguments to unleash upon our own minds whenever we feel that dangerous empathy come over us. The empathy that could derail us from the truth.”62
The call to the church to repent, by Revoice, is predicated upon a human oriented conception of love, borne out of human experience, matured in the discipline of self-acceptance. Irons casts the motivations of “straight Christians” this way:
I think that many straight Christians know, deep down, when they are withholding from gay and lesbian people the full measure of Christ’s love, but they do it out of devotion to God’s Word, to shield it from being questioned, from being possibly wrong, and it seems like a noble and justifiable reason. What it boils down to is, they are afraid to obey God’s command to love fully because they fear it may open the door to discrediting God’s Word.63
I always shy away from imputing fear as a motivation for other people’s behavior. Setting that aside, when two passages of Scripture appear to conflict, the answer is not to favor one and revise the other, but rather to harmonize them. God breathed out the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16) and every word of God in the Bible is true (Matt. 5:18). In this circumstance, since God has revealed that homosexual relationships are sinful, leading those who embrace and practice them unrepentantly into eternal darkness apart from God’s presence, love requires that we not rejoice in wrong doing, but instead in telling the truth. In trying to open the way to “Side A Christians,” Irons, rather ironically it must be noted, intolerantly divorces love from truth. “We evangelical Christians,” she asserts, “believe in objective truth. We are desperately interested in knowing the truth, presumably so that we can obey it. But perhaps God is showing us how much we have made an idol of pursuing truth, and the proof is that we seem to be more interested in being right than in being obedient.”64
HERESY, HETERODOXY, OR A SLIPPERY SLOPE?
Revoice, as we have seen, positions itself as theologically orthodox and within mainstream Christianity. Ungrudging obedience to a “biblical sexual ethic” means marriage is between a man and a woman, with celibacy for everyone who cannot bend to that institution. On the basis of these affirmations, the intruding concern that those associated with Revoice are traveling down a heterodox “slippery slope” is blithely dismissed. That phrase, many insist, is overused, and smacks of fear mongering.
Having endured a front row seat to the tragic demise of the Episcopal Church in the 90s and early 2000s, I can affirm that falling into apostasy is not so much a journey down a gentle slope, unless one marks the incline over three or four decades, so much as falling off a spiritual cliff. The trouble is that it is possible to be a believing Christian in a confessionally orthodox denomination one day, and the next day find oneself beating a hasty retreat from a body that has formally blasphemed marriage and denied the Scriptures.
In the near history of what some, cheekily, call “The Anglican Wars,” heterodox teaching on the nature of the person and the sufficiency of Scripture crept in over decades under the noses of “Bible believing” Christians who were faithfully serving God, loving their neighbors, and innocently accepting the assurances of committees making word changes in the Prayer Book, and alterations to the canons. And then suddenly, General Convention was plastered with “Ask me about Gene” buttons65 — the naïve and heretical conviction that if you just learn more about the experiences of LGBTQ people, you will see the “fruit” of their “love” and be able to accept them.
In the spirit, then, not of suspicion but of wisdom, I want to pose a few more questions. Dan Chappell used the phrase, “Side A brothers and sisters,” at the conference. The same or very similar language has been used by both Revoice Advisory Council member Wesley Hill and the president of Revoice, Nate Collins. What does “Side A brothers and sisters” imply about the nature of the sexuality debate? I could posit some answers to my own questions, in good faith taking what they say at face value, but because these issues pertain to the gospel itself, I welcome Revoice to take up the painful work of clarifying their position. It’s possible to go down a gentle incline and still turn around and climb back up to the top. But, once having fallen over a precipice, especially when tape was stretched over the wide expanse warning you not to go over, it is much harder to scale a sheer cliff face. One might even be dead. Of course, God raises the dead, and nothing is impossible for Him.
What does “Side A brothers and sisters” mean? If “Side A” and “Side B” are not technically interchangeable terms, what is the differentiation between the two? How would you — or would you — refute the claims of someone like Justin Lee that these issues are debatable and we can agree to disagree within the pale of orthodoxy? What does “unconditional love” practically look like for “our trans siblings”? How will the church guard against Gnostic understandings of the self? What is the theological grounding of the term “biblical sexual ethic”? What does the “image of God” mean precisely? What does “self-acceptance” practically look like in terms of sexual identity? Does Revoice agree with Misty Irons’ GCN 2016 talk? What is communicated by promoting “Side A” people as Christian with whom one can have non-essential disagreements? What does it mean to share the stage with them?66 Does referring to “Side A brothers and sisters” elevate sexuality to a non-essential issue of Christian orthodoxy? Why does Revoice embrace and promote speakers who blur that line?67 Will Revoice clearly repudiate and speak out against the teachings of those speakers who cross that line? Regardless of what kind of answers Revoice might give, every Christian in every church must ask if they are willing to receive as mainstream the idea that sexual practice and identity are not essential issues pertaining to the gospel and, therefore, need not divide us.
CHRIST IS NEVER CONGENIAL ANYWHERE
“Self-acceptance” as a term is as troubling to me as “Gay Christian” or “sexual minority.” The Scriptures don’t point Christians to themselves, to consider their own identity, but always and everywhere point to Christ. People should not be called “straight Christians” any more than they should be called “Gay Christians.” Revoice’s embrace of those categories sets them at odds with the Bible’s teaching on identity and with the historic expression of orthodox Christian faith. We are not arguing over a nebulous, semantic word-cloud. The disagreements that Christians throughout the West are articulating with regard to Revoice point to the very heart of the Christian faith.
This is what critics of Revoice are trying to say when they disagree with the term “Gay Christian.” Not because some people are “gay” or same-sex attracted, no matter how you understand those terms, but because the biblical conception of the self does not bid a person to be self-accepting in the sense meant by our culture today. Nor does the Bible have a category for “Gay Christian.” It is the death, the loss, the relinquishing of the self into the hands of Jesus that leads to eternal life. That encompasses sexuality, but even more, it encompasses everything. To an unbelieving world this looks not only like hatred and bigotry, but like an impossibility. But letting go of the self isn’t hatred, it is what it means to follow Christ — it is worship. It is to be caught up by the One who created all things, who knows whereof they are made.
“Christ,” writes Taylor in The Primal Vision, “is never congenial anywhere, or he would not be Christ. For he asserts that the way into life is the way of the death of self, and that, God knows, is best taught not by speaking but by death.”68 That line from Taylor — that “Christ is never congenial anywhere, or he would not be Christ” — rattled around in my mind as the last notes of Revoice died away. We all want a congenial Christ, a middle way with the world, a mission to the lost that doesn’t have to tell the whole truth about the self and all its wrong desires. That is why Christ came to us — to pull those who believe back from the precipice of self-destruction. We can trust Him, because He knows whereof we are made, that we are dust that will live forever.69
Anne Kennedy holds an MDiv and is the author of Nailed It: 365 Readings for Angry or Worn-Out People (Square Halo Books, 2020). Anne blogs about current events and theological trends at Preventingrace on Patheos.com.
Originally updated with corrections February 8, 2022. Further updated December 29,2022 with Letter to the Editor, Editors Response and updated footnote.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that speakers at Revoice21 made “repeated” and “regular” reference to people who call themselves “Side A Christians” as our “Side A brothers and sisters.” There was one explicit reference in the talks, as indicated in the note marked with an asterisk below.
* Dan Chappell claims that “Modern Christianity has tended to overlook and undervalue the incarnate reality of Jesus, a man who stood out for his differences, and challenging the status quo of the day, even among Jews. The truth is, we’ve been witnesses, all of us in this room, to brave and bold leadership from those from the poor, from women, from people of color, from sexual and gender minorities — not just our Side B brothers and sisters, but our Side A brothers and sisters as well” (emphasis added). (“Session 4 / Dan Chappell / “Unlikely Places: What the Marginalized Teach Us about the Future of the Kingdom,” https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:1/videos/dan-chappell-session4.) Both Nate Collins (founder and president of Revoice) and Wesley Hill (Revoice Advisory Council member) have used the term “Side A Christian.” With respect to Collins, see note 43 below. In 2015, in a friendly two-hour conversation with Justin Lee, Hill said, “Can I as a gay Christian have a non-sexual intimate relationship? I just want to underscore how vital that question is. It’s something that you and I agree very deeply on. Justin’s ministry, in part, I mean, you exist to support Side A Christians and Side B Christians. And I locate myself on the Side B side of that debate. But this is a question that I and my other Side B gay Christian friends are asking ourselves all the time. If we in fact believe that God is not calling us to marriage, if that is off the table for us, does that mean we’re simply asked by the church to sort of white-knuckle this thing called life? And just sort of silently struggle and wake up at sixty-years-old living alone without meaningful community and meaningful friends? So, I think this is an absolutely vital question. And one of the great discoveries for me is realizing that the Christian tradition actually has a long history of celebrating precisely nonsexual intimate same-sex friendships. That’s a vital part of Christian history.” (Emphasis added.) (“How Do We Love? A Thoughtful Dialogue on Sexual Differences,” with Wesley Hill and Justin Lee, YouTube, May 11, 2015, https://youtu.be/x9sRFdckyeg.) Any person struggling with the question of same-sex attraction who watched this discussion between Hill and Lee would come away thinking it was no more an issue of disagreement among Christians than drinking wine or infant baptism.
Letter to the Editor:
To the Editor:
I have concerns about the recent article on Revoice21. I write both as a personal friend of the executive director of Revoice and as someone concerned about accurately portraying the conference that the article evaluates since I attended the conference as well.
There are a number of leading questions in the article, suggesting ill motives or beliefs on the part of Revoice organizers. One question is particularly concerning. The author asks, “How would you — or would you — refute the claims … that these issues are debatable and we can agree to disagree within the pale of orthodoxy?” Both the author and the director of Revoice are founding members of The Pelican Project, which is explicit in its answer to this very question. The author knew exactly how the director of Revoice answers this.
I appreciate CRJ’s correction to the author’s original misstatement referencing “repeated” and “regular” statements to “Side A Christians” and “Side A brothers and sisters” at Revoice21. However, I am concerned that this wasn’t caught before the article was published. Many who read this article when it was first posted online will never see this correction. And the questions at the end of the article STILL sound as if this was language used throughout Revoice21. I hope CRJ will correct that as you did the original misstatement.
In the very first paragraph of the article, the author refers to the conference title, “Together,” with this description – “That word encompasses, for them, the extraordinary communion they share because of their various sexual identities.” This view of the conference title is not reflected in any of the conference’s actual advertisements or language. According to Bekah Mason, executive director of Revoice and Revoice21 organizer, the theme was ”Together for the Kingdom of God,” pointing attendees away from self and toward the unifying work of the cross in submission to King Jesus. This misrepresentation of the theme taints the rest of the critiques in the article.
In the second paragraph of the opening synopsis, the author also sarcastically accused the Revoice movement of being “prepared to forgive and reach out to those in the church who are complicit in this grave sin” of rejecting Side B Christians. This is not language that Revoice uses in their documents or conferences. This too is the author’s sarcastic projection of motives onto Revoice. Such sarcasm, which shows up several times in the article, seems ill fitting for an apologetic research article.
More criticisms of the article could be made, but the final one that I’ll make here is that the author makes the accusation that any language Revoice used around self-acceptance was compromising with secular ideology. That is wrong. Gnosticism is the false belief that our bodies do not matter to our spirituality. It is good and right that the Revoice panel, particularly in the discussion of gender dysphoria, encouraged folks who felt out of place with their bodies to submit to the bodies God gave them and accept the biological sex their Creator bestowed on them. They did this with compassion for the very real mental anguish that those experiencing true gender dysphoria feel (using they/them pronouns but never opposite sex pronouns) while holding to an orthodox understanding of biological sex. I expect that it is not CRJ’s position that folks experiencing gender dysphoria should NOT accept the body God gave them. If “self-acceptance” in this context is a problem, that is concerning.
As noted elsewhere, the author of this article and the director of Revoice were friends and had open communication by email, text, and phone. It seems disingenuous for the author to end this article with questions that the author could have asked and had answered any time, even more disheartening with questions to which the author already knew the answer.
For the good of the Body of Christ, and to honor God’s own explicit instructions on communication with others, I hope that CRJ removes this article from the CRI website. This subject requires good faith communication and has no room for the sarcasm, bias, and misrepresentation found in this article. Faithful apologetics is impossible without first accurately acknowledging the views of those you are critiquing.
Saint Matthews, South Carolina
The Editors reply:
As Anne Kennedy indicates, a Revoice21 speaker referred to “our Side A brothers and sisters,” and “the same or very similar language has been used by both Revoice Advisory Council member Wesley Hill and the president of Revoice, Nate Collins.” These remarks and others contextualize her questions as well as justify her concerns that some Revoice leaders or teachers might, after all, believe that basic elements of biblical sexuality are adiaphora — non-essential issues about which orthodox Christians are free to disagree. Moreover, we discern that Kennedy’s characterization of Revoice21’s theme comports with the Revoice21 milieu itself. Furthermore, we agree with Kennedy’s assessment that Revoice21 compromises biblical teaching by partaking of secular gender ideology. Finally, we see no authorial sarcasm, bias, or misrepresentation in the article. As a tree is known by its fruit, it is telling that Revoice21 speaker and board of directors member Pastor Greg Johnson and his congregation at Memorial Presbyterian Church in December 2022 departed from the Presbyterian Church in America (see updated endnote 34 below). Kennedy’s article is more than 11,000 words with detailed documentation in 69 endnotes, we encourage readers not to merely skim the endnotes but to read through or listen to each source documented. And to understand why biblical sexuality does not constitute adiaphora, see the following two articles: Matthew M. Kennedy, “Marriage Is about the Gospel: Clarifying the Boundaries of Christian Orthodoxy, (https://www.equip.org/articles/marriage-is-about-the-gospel-clarifying-the-boundaries-of-christian-orthodoxy/) (Christian Research Journal 45.02/03 (2022):16–23; and Fr. John Whiteford, “Moral Heresy: Is There Such a Thing?” Christian Research Journal 43.03 (2020):12–16. (https://www.equip.org/articles/moral-heresy-is-there-such-a-thing/).
- John Taylor, The Primal Vision: Christian Presence amid African Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 65.
- Revoice, https://revoice.us/revoice21/ and https://revoice.us/. All URLs cited in this document were last accessed January 30, 2022.
- Taylor, The Primal Vision, 65–66.
- Revoice 2021 Together, October 7–9, Dallas, Texas, https://revoice.us/revoice21/.
- The expressed mission of Revoice is “to support and encourage gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other same-sex attracted Christians — as well as those who love them — so that all in the Church might be empowered to live in gospel unity while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” “Our Mission, Vision, and Values,” Revoice, https://revoice.us/about/our-mission-and-vision/ and https://revoice.us/revoice21/.
- All General Sessions from Revoice21 are available to watch here https://revoice.us/revoice21/. This directs you to their REVOICE\Digital Resource Library here https://watch.revoice.us//. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- For helpful assessment of the July 2018 Revoice Conference in St. Louis, see Joe Dallas, “Homosexuality and Modern Ministry: Examining Old Approaches and Assessing New Ones, Part Two: Identity, Terminology, and the Revoice Conference,” Christiaan Research Journal, December 10, 2018, https://www.equip.org/article/homosexuality-and-modern-ministry-examining-old-approaches-and-assessing-new-ones-part-two-identity-terminology-and-the-revoice-conference/.
- As developed within “Gay Christianity,” neither Side A nor Side B categories comport with biblical teaching. Rosaria Butterfield explains that Side A “sanctions same-sex marriage and believes that homosexuality is just one of many forms of diverse sexuality that the church should welcome.” Side B “believes that homosexuality is not a morally culpable issue, although it is a consequence of the brokenness from the Fall; Side B teaches against homosexual sexual practice, but only for the sake of Christian tradition.” Butterfield continues, “While Side B seeks to uphold biblical sexual standards, because it sees sexual orientation as an accurate category of personhood (i.e., there is such a thing as a gay person — that gayness describes who someone essentially is), their theology in no way allows for an understanding of why homosexuality, even at the level of desire, is sinful and needing the grace of repentance. To the Side B Christian, homosexuality is a sexuality — one of many.” Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, “What Is Wrong with Gay Christianity? What Is Side A and Side B Anyway?” https://rosariabutterfield.com/new-blog/2018/2/14/what-is-wrong-with-gay-christianity-what-is-side-a-and-side-b-anyway.
- Bill Henson, “Session 3 \ Panel \ Gender Minorities,” panel discussion presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:4/videos/panel-gender-minorities-session3. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- Lesli Hudson-Reynolds, “Session 3 \ Panel \ Gender Minorities,” panel discussion presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:4/videos/panel-gender-minorities-session3. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- Kyla Gillespie, “Session 3 \ Panel \ Gender Minorities,” panel discussion presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:4/videos/panel-gender-minorities-session3. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- Gillespie, “Gender Minorities,” Revoice21 Together.
- Adam Drakos, “The Gnostic Roots of the Trans Movements,” ThinkingWest, January 17, 2022, https://thinkingwest.com/2022/01/17/gnostic-roots-of-trans-movements/.
- Elizabeth Delgado Black, “Growing Together Toward Sexual Maturity,” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:3/videos/elizabeth-black-session2. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content. On the Revoice21 website, this talk is also titled, “Spiritual Maturity as Sexual Minority Christians” (see Schedule, October 8, 2021, https://www.revoice21.com/).
- Bios for all the speakers at Revoice 2021 are available on the website without having to pay to view the conference. Click each session and hover over the picture, a box pops up to the right (https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1). To access different sections, use the drop-down menu to access “Opening Session,” “Session 1,” and so forth.
- Eve Tushnet, “Opening Session \ Eve Tushnet: God’s Answers Deserve Better Questions,” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:6/videos/eve-tushnet-opening-session. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- Carl R. Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 391.
- Misty Irons, “Session 1 \ Misty Irons: The Church and the Gay Christian — A View from the Pew,” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:2/videos/misty-irons-session1. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- Preston Sprinkle, “Session 1 \ Preston Sprinkle: Faith, Sexuality and Gender,” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:2/videos/preston-sprinkle-session1. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- Eve Tushnet’s questions in her talk lay down the steps for this work. “Opening Session \ Eve Tushnet: God’s Answers Deserve Better Questions,” Revoice21 Together.
- Christ says, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matt. 15:19–20). And James warns, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15). All Scripture quotations that are provided by the author are from ESV.
- See talks presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://revoice.us/revoice21/, especially “Opening Session \ Eve Tushnet: God’s Answers Deserve Better Questions” (https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:6/videos/eve-tushnet-opening-session); “Session 1 \ Ray Low: Ministering to the Majority as a Minority” (https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:2/videos/ray-low-session1); and Preston Sprinkle, “Session 1 \ Preston Sprinkle: Faith, Sexuality & Gender,” https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:2/videos/preston-sprinkle-session1. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content. See also “How Do We Love? A Thoughtful Dialogue on Sexual Differences,” with Wesley Hill and Justin Lee, YouTube, May 11, 2015, https://youtu.be/x9sRFdckyeg.
- See Article IV of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Anglican Church.
- Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield, “Learning to Hate Our Sin without Hating Ourselves,” Public Discourse, July 4, 2018, https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/07/22066/.
- In this way, Revoice aligns themselves with the Roman Catholic position on concupiscence. For the Reformed Protestant members of Revoice (including PCA Pastor Greg Johnson and PCA Member Mistry Irons), this must constitute grave theological confusion.
- Black, “Growing Together Toward Sexual Maturity,” Revoice21 Together.
- Black, “Growing Together Toward Sexual Maturity,” Revoice21 Together.
- Greg Piken, “Session 4 \ Greg Piken: Uniquely Gifted for Mission” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:1/videos/greg-piken-session4-1. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- Piken, “Uniquely Gifted for Mission,” Revoice21 Together.
- Piken, “Uniquely Gifted for Mission,” Revoice21 Together.
- Joe Dallas provides an excellent rebuttal to that claim in his article, “Whoever Said You Can ‘Pray the Gay Away?’ A Film Review of Netflix’ Pray Away,” Christian Research Journal, September 13, 2021, https://www.equip.org/article/whoever-said-you-can-pray-the-gay-away-a-film-review-of-netflixs-pray-away/.
- The Revoice website makes the sweeping claim that “Evangelical Christian culture has been widely shaped by ‘ex-gay theology’ and a variety of ministries which promote the pursuit of orientation change as a chief measure of sanctification for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other same-sex attracted Christians.” The website does not include links to data or other analysis of this point. “Statement on Public Posture and Christian Witness,” https://revoice.us/about/our-beliefs/statements-of-conviction/statement-on-public-posture-and-christian-witness/.
- Sprinkle, “Faith, Sexuality, and Gender,” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:2/videos/preston-sprinkle-session1. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- In an op-ed in USA Today, Greg Johnson talks about being a “Gay Christian” and a pastor in a theologically conservative denomination — Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Greg Johnson, “I’m a Gay, Celibate Pastor of a Conservative Church. Here’s a Trick for De-escalation,” December 22, 2021, https://news.yahoo.com/im-gay-celibate-pastor-conservative-120126716.html. Update: As of December 6, 2022, Pastor Greg Johnson and Memorial Presbyterian Church of St. Louis have withdrawn from the Presbyterian Church in America. See “Missouri Presbytery Explains Actions Regarding Memorial Pres,” By Faith, December 7, 2022, https://byfaithonline.com/missouri-presbytery-explains-actions-regarding-memorial-pres/.
- Greg Johnson, “Session 4 \ Greg Johnson: Still Time to Care,” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:1/videos/greg-johnson-session4. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content. The Christian Research Journal also reviewed Johnson’s book of the same title. Joe Dallas, “Is It Time to Change Ministry to LGBTQ People? Book Review Still Time to Care by Greg Johnson (Zondervan, 2021),” December 22, 2021, https://www.equip.org/article/is-it-time-to-change-ministry-to-lgbtq-people-book-review-still-time-to-care-by-greg-johnson-zondervan-2021/.
- Joe Dallas reviews Coles’ book in “Wrestling with the ‘Gay Christian’ Label,” Christian Research Journal, November 7, 2018, https://www.equip.org/article/wrestling-with-the-gay-christian-label/.Editors’ Note: See also Anne Kennedy, “Spiritual Friendship: Temptation or Belonging?,” Christian Research Journal, November 9, 2022, https://www.equip.org/articles/spiritual-friendship-temptation-or-belonging/
- Greg Coles, “Session 2 \ Greg Coles: The Stability of Scandalous Adoration,” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:3/videos/greg-coles-session2. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content.
- Misty Irons, “What’s Next for the Conservative Evangelical Church?” 2016 Gay Christian Network Conference, 20, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-upeCwMJqfCS2NMLUctVmRVcjQ/edit?resourcekey=0-cO2OqQCfDat-wU2nsAN-fQ.
- Misty Irons, “The Church and the Gay Christian: A View from the Pew,” talk presented at Revoice21 Together, Dallas, Texas, October 7–9, 2021, https://watch.revoice.us/revoice21-talks-1/season:2/videos/misty-irons-session1. A paid subscription is needed to access Revoice content
- Justin Lee’s biography is available here: https://geekyjustin.com/about/. Here is a statement about his formal departure from the Gay Christian Network in 2017: https://geekyjustin.com/statement-on-gcn/.
- See, e.g., “How Do We Love? A Thoughtful Dialogue on Sexual Differences,” with Wesley Hill and Justin Lee, YouTube, May 11, 2015, https://youtu.be/x9sRFdckyeg.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 8.
- Statement on Sexual Ethics and Christian Obedience, “Creation and Design,” Revoice, https://revoice.us/about/our-beliefs/statements-of-conviction/statement-on-sexual-ethics-and-christian-obedience/ and archived July 16, 2019 at https://web.archive.org/web/20190716180836/https://revoice.us/about/our-beliefs/statements-of-conviction/statement-on-sexual-ethics-and-christian-obedience . Nate Collins, founder and president of Revoice, in a recent interview states, “There is this undercurrent of, who do Side B people feel more connected to or in solidarity with?…Do people have more shared ground with Side A people who are Christians or with the old ex-gay approach?” Kathryn Post, “Traditional ‘Side B’ LGBTQ Christians experience a renaissance”, Religious News Service, Nov. 5, 2021, https://religionnews.com/2021/11/05/traditional-side-b-lgbtq-christians-experience-a-renaissance/
- Revoice21 predominately brought in evangelical speakers, the two notable exceptions being Eve Tushnet, who is Roman Catholic, and Greg Webb, who worships in the Orthodox tradition. Revoice as a movement is not limited to Protestants or evangelicals.
- Misty Irons, “The Church and the Gay Christian,” Revoice21 Together.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 10–11.
- Misty Irons, “The Church and the Gay Christian,” Revoice21 Together.
- Misty Irons, “The Church and the Gay Christian,” Revoice21 Together.
- Misty Irons, “The Church and the Gay Christian,” Revoice21 Together.
- Misty Irons, “The Church and the Gay Christian,” Revoice21 Together.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 15.
- “They were being asked to do something humanly impossible.” Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 8.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 2.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 3.
- Misty Irons, “Yes, I Am Side B. No, I Do Not Advocate Celibacy for All Gay Christians,” More Musings on Christianity, Homosexuality, and the Bible, January 28, 2016, https://moremusingson.blogspot.com/2016/01/yes-i-am-side-b-no-i-do-not-advocate.html and archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20210212210738/https://moremusingson.blogspot.com/2016/01/yes-i-am-side-b-no-i-do-not-advocate.html.
Irons works out her dialogue between Side A and Side B. Misty Irons, “Side B, with Qualifications,” More Musings on Christianity, Homosexuality and the Bible, November 22, 2011,https://moremusingson.blogspot.com/2011/11/side-b-with-qualifications.html and archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20210212210311/https://moremusingson.blogspot.com/2011/11/side-b-with-qualifications.html. See also Irons’ “Review of Justin Lee’s Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate,” More Musings on Christianity, Homosexuality and the Bible, November 6, 2012, https://moremusingson.blogspot.com/2012/11/review-of-justin-lees-torn-rescuing.html and archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20210212211004/https://moremusingson.blogspot.com/2012/11/review-of-justin-lees-torn-rescuing.html.
- Joe Dallas has written an excellent, short evangelism article that lays out the issues well. “Answering the Gay Christian Position,” Christian Research Journal, vol. 23, no. 1 (2000), https://www.equip.org/article/answering-the-gay-christian-position/.
- Troy Perry founded the Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 to advocate for a theologically gay affirming position worldwide (congregations are now in 37 countries). https://lgbt.fandom.com/wiki/Metropolitan_Community_Church.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 13.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 15–16.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 16.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 17.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 17.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 18.
- Irons, “What’s Next,” Gay Christian Network, 21.
- Here is a firsthand account of the Episcopal Church’s 2003 General Convention where the Church voted to affirm the election of its first openly gay bishop, and mention of the “Ask me about Gene” buttons: RW Holmen, “Cast of Characters: Gene Robinson,” Spirit of a Liberal, http://www.theliberalspirit.com/cast-of-characters-gene-robinson/.
- Justin Lee, “Can You Be Gay and Christian?,” YouTube, June 14, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBYmbfefWfA. Justin Lee, “Why I Talk about Being a Gay Christian So Much,” YouTube, August 4, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQG0HT8zEuc&t=3s.
- On his podcast, Revoice Advisory Council member Preston Sprinkle re-airs Misty Irons’ full Revoice21 talk, “The Church and the Gay Christian—A View from the Pew.” He starts the podcast episode with a more than 20-minute introduction to her talk and ends his introduction by saying, “Misty, you’re brilliant…Your talk gave a biblical basis for the term gay than I think I have ever heard. It’s a brilliant piece.” Sprinkle provided a link to her talk on his podcast on his website and social media accounts. “Gay Identity, Gentile Christians, and Revoice: Misty Irons,” Episode 916, Theology in the Raw Podcast, https://open.spotify.com/episode/75eEixuX6IBzHehdK4fFog.
- Taylor, The Primal Vision, 65–66.
- For the biblical basis for why the Christian Research Institute evaluates the public teachings of public Christian leaders, please see my 2020 article “Naming Names: Why It’s OK (and Necessary) to Call Out False Teachers and Fugitives from Church Justice by Name,” https://www.equip.org/article/naming-names-why-its-ok-and-necessary-to-call-out-false-teachers-and-fugitives-from-church-justice-by-name/.