Revoice Conference Reveals Church’s Failure to Address LGBT Issues

Robert* grew up in a strong Christian family and attended a large, conservative evangelical church. In high school, he was active in his church’s youth group. and after graduating, attended a conservative Christian college and got involved in ministry.

By all appearances, Robert was a well-adjusted and healthy, young Christian man. Yet during college, Robert confessed to his family and Christian friends that he struggled with attraction to other men.

Robert’s family and Christian friends responded with love and compassion. His parents didn’t shun or shame him, but instead expressed support. Similarly, Robert’s friends continued to include him in their social group. And his church responded with open arms, allowing him to serve in leadership, so long as he resisted acting upon his same-sex desires.

Yet no one seemed to know how to help Robert.

His parents sent him to a secular therapist, who helped Robert recognize some unhealthy relational patterns in his family and process an incident of sexual abuse from middle school. Robert found this helpful, but it didn’t lessen his same-sex attraction.

The leaders at Robert’s church tried to be sympathetic to his struggle. And in an effort to show they were listening, they went with Robert and a family member to a conference sponsored by the Gay Christian Network (GCN)– now Q Christian Fellowship. But this conference only convinced Robert that his same-sex attraction was immutable and encouraged him to embrace gay identity.  Soon after the conference, he did. And shortly after that, he began engaging in gay relationships.

“There was a time when the majority of conservative, evangelical churches believed that healing was possible for sexually broken people . . . But now all the church seems capable of offering is a sympathetic ear.”

Robert’s church leaders didn’t condone Robert’s behavior and urged him to resist his same-sex desires. A few times, Robert repented of his homosexual behavior and vowed to stop. But after three years of struggle, Robert gave in. He began living openly as a gay man and left his church. His parents left too, and began attending a gay-affirming, mainline church.

Robert’s story is heartbreaking, but it is also increasingly common. There was a time when the majority of conservative, evangelical churches believed that healing was possible for sexually broken people, even if very few knew how to administer that healing. But now all the church seems capable of offering is a sympathetic ear. Few offer any hope of deliverance. Few believe in supernatural power. All that’s left is handwringing and the ineffectual repeating of biblical prohibitions. It’s no wonder conservatives are rapidly losing ground when it comes to LGBTQ issues..

The Revoice Conference & the Church’s Failure

This sad state of affairs in the church is on full display this summer as conservative Christians debate the upcoming Revoice Conference. This conference at the end of July has been endorsed by several leading evangelicals and is being held at a church in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) – generally regarded as a more conservative, biblically-faithful denomination. Revoice organizers also state on their website that they “believe that the Bible restricts sexual activity to the context of a marriage covenant, which is defined in the Bible as the emotional, spiritual, and physical union of a man and a woman that is ordered toward procreation.”

Yet as several conservative Christian leaders have rightly noted, Revoice crosses a line that biblically-orthodox Christians should not cross – that is, it claims that LGBT identity is compatible with Christianity. The Revoice website openly states, “We envision a future Christianity where LGBT people can be open and transparent in their faith communities about their orientation and/or experience of gender dysphoria without feeling inferior to their straight, cisgender brothers and sisters.”

“Revoice crosses a line that biblically-orthodox Christians should not cross – that is, it claims that LGBT identity is compatible with Christianity.”

As Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently noted in a podcast, this language is significant – and problematic. “What is implied in that language?” he asks. “Well, at least a part of what’s implied . . . is that this kind of sexual orientation or sexual identity gets right to the very being of an individual.”

Embracing gay identity clearly contradicts Scripture. As the apostle Paul makes abundantly clear in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, believers root their identity in Christ, not their sin tendencies. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh . . . ” Paul writes. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Yet as Revoice shows, embracing gay identity is becoming increasingly popular among Christians. In fact, it is a hallmark of two of the four major views in the church regarding LGBTQ issues. And sadly, among the two other views, only one proclaims any hope to those struggling with same-sex and transgender issues.

The Four Main Views on LGBTQ Issues

As the graphic below produced by Portland Fellowship illustrates, there are four schools of thought within the church regarding LGBTQ issues. The “revel” school encourages both embrace of gay identity and behavior. The “resist” school encourages embrace of gay identity, but not behavior. The “renounce” school rejects both gay identity and behavior, but is silent or opposed to any efforts to heal sexual brokenness. And only one school, labeled “rebuild,” proclaims hope and healing to those struggling with same-sex and transgender issues.

(Click on image to display in full screen.)

The Revoice conference falls squarely within the “resist” category. Though it’s commendable that those within this camp reject gay behavior, their embrace of gay identity is tragic.

But Revoice organizers go even further. They actually suggest that LGBT identity can be a virtue. As presenter Grant Hartley states, “Christians have often discarded the virtues of queer culture along with the vices . . . So questions that have until now been largely unanswered remain: what does queer culture (and specifically, queer literature and theory) have to offer us who follow Christ? What queer treasure, honor, and glory will be brought into the New Jerusalem at the end of time (Revelation 21:24-26)?”

That Christians would suggest that “queer culture” has “virtues” or a “glory” that might be included in the “New Jerusalem” is shocking, and I appreciate that leaders like Mohler, Owen Strachan, Kevin DeYoung, Richard D. Phillips, and others have addressed these glaring problems with the Revoice conference.

Yet pointing out these problems is not enough. If the church is going to effectively address LGBTQ issues, it must offer hope of sexual redemption. But many conservative Christian leaders are afraid to do so. They land squarely in the “renounce” camp – quick to renounce error, but slow, or even unwilling, to offer any solution. This must change.

“If the church is going to effectively address LGBTQ issues, it must offer hope of sexual redemption. But many conservative Christian leaders are afraid to do so.”

Two weeks ago, I spoke at Hope 2018 – a conference hosted by Restored Hope Network (RHN), a network of Bible-believing, Holy Spirit-empowered ministries offering precisely the kind of gospel-centered transformation that Scripture describes. At the conference, I heard testimonies from numerous people who have been liberated from same-sex desires just as 1 Corinthians 6:11 suggests.

The conference didn’t promise instant liberation, nor that God would make everyone straight. But it did proclaim the gospel – that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave is at work in us, and that no brokenness, including sexual brokenness, is beyond God’s redemption.

This is the message every church should be proclaiming, but few do. Sadly, RHN and other ministries in the “rebuild” camp have been marginalized in the church. They’re often dismissed as “ex-gay” ministries that simply advocate that same-sex attracted persons “pray the gay away.”

But this is a gross caricature of the deep soul care and healing ministry that those in the “rebuild” camp offer. Yes, these groups believe in the power of prayer – and how sad that many in the church apparently do not. But they are often led by people who have walked the difficult road to sexual wholeness and understand what’s required to do so.

What they advocate is not easy, but it is biblical. It’s what theologians have long referred to as progressive sanctification – the doctrine that as a believer walks with God, he becomes progressively more holy or Christlike. This process is not limited to one’s sexual desires, but it certainly includes them. And it’s stunning that many otherwise-orthodox Christians are shrinking from openly advocating this doctrine as it applies to same-sex and transgender issues.

Christian leaders need to understand that when we fail to proclaim the full gospel, we invite heresy and unbiblical solutions. As Paul David Tripp and Timothy S. Lane write in How People Change, what happens when people turn to the church for help crucially impacts their view of the gospel:

Their experience will either encourage them (and others) to see the power of the gospel or convince them that the gospel is not enough to deal with life’s problems. If the latter happens, the local church becomes a place of confusion. The impact and influence of the gospel is weakened significantly, or totally replaced by another message and method of change.

This is precisely what has happened in the evangelical church. We have failed to apply the full gospel to the LGBT issue, and as a result, people are confused and are embracing non-gospel centered solutions. This is why Revoice is happening. This is why the gay Christian movement is gaining momentum. And this is why people like Robert, who struggle with same-sex attraction, are finding no help in our churches, and are defecting.

If we truly love people like Robert, and truly believe the gospel, we must move from simply renouncing error to proclaiming the hope of transformation. Yes, this is counter-cultural and will meet with resistance. Yes, this is risky and puts our faith on the line. But this is the way of Christ and the only way to successfully address the LGBTQ issue at this critical moment in the life of the church.

*Not his real name.


 

I discuss these issues further in “Redeeming the Feminine Soul: God’s Surprising Vision for Womanhood,” available at Amazon.

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9 thoughts on “Revoice Conference Reveals Church’s Failure to Address LGBT Issues

  1. Rob

    Hey Julie thx for the info but it left or didnt address a couple of Spiritual facts.
    First by Grace we have been Saved, are the professing homosexuals truly
    saved and sealed with the Holy Spirit.
    If they are, they were and have been convicted of their Sins and are driving past
    the warnings. Unless they have allowed their conscience to be seared. We can go
    to the Scriptures which I will below also IF they are
    Saved then everytime they commit these acts or live this behavior they will
    Grieve the Spirit.
    Losing or diminishing the attributes of the Spirit which comes from being
    allowed in the Presence of the FATHER through the Lord JESUS.
    So just as a believer who engages in Fornication or any immorality outside of
    marriage is pricked in the heart and miserable after sinning these homosexual
    believers should feel and think the same! Having the same results desiring the
    help of the Spirit through the Scripture to be delivered
    Dont miss both verse 11s………..blessings
    1 Cor 6:8-11
    9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
    NKJV
    Is it a battle without a doubt everyday you must so no to your flesh
    If your not in a battle your NOT Saved and SEALED
    In the Mighty Name of JESUS
    2 Cor 4:7-12

    But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
    NKJV

  2. I find it hard to believe most churches aren’t preaching the gospel and teaching sanctification. If they aren’t preaching the gospel and teaching sanctification I wouldn’t consider them to be churches.

  3. Clarke Morledge

    Wow, Julie. There are so many problems with this taxonomy of positions, it is hard to know where to start.

    Your critique of the “revel” school is consistent with 2,000 years of biblical teaching, so that’s all well and good. But you have some serious problems with your understanding of the “renounce” and “resist” schools.

    With respect to “renounce,” do you really think that folks like Rosaria Butterfield are “silent or opposed to any efforts to heal sexual brokenness?” Have you really read her books? That assessment is a complete misrepresentation of her work. She is opposed to reparative therapy, but she is fully committed to rooting out our indwelling sin.

    With respect to “resist,” I would just encourage your readers to seriously engage Preston Sprinkle and Nate Collins in their writings. To put it in short form, without much exposition, Sprinkle and Collins argue that same-sex attraction and same-sex lust are not necessarily the same thing.

    The main difference between the “resist” and “renounce”/”rebuild” schools is that the latter both believe that same-sex attraction, the mere presentation of same-sex desire are inherently sinful; thus making same-sex attraction and same-sex lust unavoidable by definition.

    Al Mohler’s cautionary words, that you cite, though firmly rooted in the “renounce” school of thought, carry more nuance than you are willing to grant in your post.

    On a more positive note, it is worth saying that sometimes the “rebuild” school gets thrown under the bus too often. There are some success stories here, that are worth celebrating. I have heard some good things regarding Andrew Comiskey’s work. So, you are right to highlight the positive elements of the “rebuild” school.

    My point here is that there is no uniform experience for those wrestling with same-sex attraction.

  4. Clarke,

    I cannot vouch for everything in the graphic produced by Portland Fellowship. I believe the explanation of the four views is accurate and helpful. However, whether Rosaria Butterfield belongs in the renounce or rebuild camp, I cannot say. Certainly, her story shows transformation/change is possible. However, I have never heard her advocate intentionally pursuing healing or advocate healing ministry. Have you?

    As for Mohler, I didn’t put him in any camp. Some of what he says indicates support for transformation. I especially appreciate that in his podcast, he said: “I did not say that coming to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ results in any kind of immediate transformation of sexual desire. What I am arguing is that holiness and sanctification as revealed in the New Testament means that progressively whatever sinful desires mark us should become less a part of us and we should seek to identify with them in a lesser way, not in a greater way, by the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts and in our lives in sanctification.”

    I hope Mohler is in the rebuild camp. I certainly think it is consistent with his theology. I would love to see some folks from RHN or similar ministries invited to speak at SBC/ERLC conferences. So far, the main invites seem to be from the renounce camp.

    As for the debate over whether same-sex attraction is sin/lust… The more pertinent question seems to be whether same-sex attraction is morally neutral or even a “virtue” (as many in the resist camp argue) — or whether it originates from our sin nature and should be completely renounced. I think only the latter position is biblical, and arguments otherwise offered by many in the resist camp are indefensible.

    I agree that people’s experiences with ssa vary, but theology does not. Christians today place way too much value on experience and way too little on truth imho.

  5. Clarke,

    I emailed the graphic to Rosaria and she replied, “I think it characterized me appropriately.”

    • Clarke Morledge

      Julie, Thank you so much for your conversation on this.

      I should clarify that Rosaria probably would be fine with the graphic. However, I do think she would take issue with the statement, that she would be “silent or opposed to any efforts to heal sexual brokenness.” Rosaria is an advocate of the teaching of the Puritan John Owen, on “The Mortification of Sin.” When believers mortify sin, that very process would necessarily imply the healing of sexual brokenness, if we understand same-sex attraction to be a form of “indwelling sin,” that needs to be mortified.

      I am pretty much with you on many points, including saying that we can not be “morally neutral” regarding sexual temptations. On that score, some of the Revoice folks can fairly be pushed back on that.

      However, I must regretfully differ on the understanding of flatly identifying same-sex attraction with same-sex lust. That is far too oversimplified. Same-sex attraction can lead to lust, but not necessarily. In the same way, generally speaking about sanctification, while there can be temptation, that in and of itself is sinful, and which can therefore lead to further sin, not all temptation is sin. Those who would reduce same-sex attraction to be inherently sinful, risk conflating all temptation with sin, which is clearly NOT Scriptural, per Hebrews 4:15.

      Thank you again for interacting on this vitally important dialogue within the church.

      • Clarke,

        I always appreciate thoughtful dialogue and am happy to reply to objections as time allows. The phrase “silent or opposed to efforts to heal sexual brokenness” is in the graphic under the “renounce” camp. So I would think if someone is okay with the graphic, she would be okay with that statement.

        That being said, I am a fan of Rosaria’s and love her book. And I wholeheartedly agree with her teaching that mortification of sin leads to the healing of sexual brokenness. Healing and spiritual maturity are in many ways synonymous, and as we confess, repent, and receive forgiveness, God heals us.

        But I also think there are developmental and relational roots to ssa for many, and to ignore those does them a disservice. During my years serving in a healing ministry, I never once heard someone with ssa tell their story and then thought, “I have no idea how you ended up with this condition.” I’m not saying that’s not possible, or that we can assume something about someone simply because they are attracted to the same sex. But there are often deep wounds that need to be addressed in addition to mortifying sin for someone to break free.

        In my book, “Redeeming the Feminine Soul,” I talk about a co-dependent relationship that I found myself in when I was in my 30s. The emotional intensity of that relationship was like nothing I had ever experienced before because it tapped into a profound deficit from my childhood. I will forever be grateful for the wise and compassionate leaders schooled in pastoral care and healing ministry who encouraged me to face those deficits and helped me break free of that dysfunction. That was nearly 20 years ago and I haven’t struggled with co-dependency since.

        As for the same-sex attraction/lust issue… I am not saying that attraction and lust are the same thing. Attraction is temptation; lust is volitional sin. However, both arise from our sin nature, which those in the “resist” camp seem to deny. In fact, they imply, and sometimes openly assert, that attraction is a virtue or benefit. Nothing arising from our sin nature is good. It is depraved and evil, and as noted earlier, must be mortified.

  6. M. Brenn

    I’d like to share a book titled: “Coming Out Straight: Understanding Same-Sex Attraction, RICHARD COHEN, M.A.,” Third Edition, as quoted by Charles Socarides, M.D., Author, “Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far,” “This book is a testament to a heroic and successful struggle to regain one’s heterosexual identity. It gives hope to many.”
    After reading this book, I had a greater understanding of same-sex attraction which I, too, feel is a long misunderstood subject. It’s true that “SOMEONE YOU KNOW NEEDS THIS BOOK!

  7. Thank you, Julie, for correctly dividing the WORD. GOD does not make mistakes; however, through the fall we are all living with different areas of sin brokenness in our lives. For me it is porn, lying, stealing, etc. JESUS delivered me from those enslavements: Praise HIM!!!!! Only HIS power working in me freed me (1 Corinthians 5:17). The SPIRIT has always led me to witness my own brokenness first when I speak to others about JESUS, as it shows that I am also broken and not better. Not everyone who proclaims to be a CHRISTIAN is one. Our pews are full of tares. When we approach another soul on the same level, they will be able to hear us better((1 Corinthians 6:11). I cannot fix them, heal them or be responsible for their actions, yet when we see brokenness we should never enable those behaviors (Matthew 18: 15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:5). Love is the key, but not how the world loves, because their idea of enabling is just what Satan wants. It leads to destruction not to salvation (Ephesians 6:12). We must always speak the TRUTH in love and grace, through our witness and actions that are rooted in the WORD and the SPIRIT’S power. As Ravi Zacharias rightly proclaims,”if you cut off someone’s nose they cannot smell the rose.” This loving witness is how the LORD opened Rosaria’s heart. “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation,” 1 Peter 2:12. GOD bless your ministry…

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