I mentioned last week I would speak to the Revoice Conference happening in St. Louis in late July. (It’s relevant for us because it’s happening at a PCA church.) The basic facts are these: 1) the organizers hold to the Bible’s historic ethical position regarding homosexual practice as sin, so 2) it seems odd that their mission is “supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians.” I find the problem in the fact that Christians would take on same-sex attraction as an identity. Before getting into it, I’d like to comment on the danger of having this discussion in an abstract, conceptual framework.
Relationships change us, and should change us. We all know part of the misery of the Internet is the hostile language that emerges when people are alone with a screen and a keyboard. We speak and act differently when in the presence of others, especially those with whom we disagree. So it’s wise to imagine having this discussion in the presence of a believer who sincerely wrestles with same-sex attraction. Once love no longer governs our discourse and interaction, that interaction can no longer be said to be Christian.
There’s a lot to this discussion, but let me try to be narrow and brief: when it comes to God’s design in sex, human beings are intentionally and fundamentally either male or female. Genesis 1:27: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” You can hear the parallelism of the second and third clauses in that verse: to bear the image of God is to bear the identity of male and female. This is Genesis 1, so we’re talking about an identity that is established prior to, and apart from, any ethnic, tribal, or personal distinctions we may bear (those begin later in Gen. 11 with the Tower of Babel).
The next thing that happens (v.28) is God blesses “them” and tells them to “be fruitful and multiply,” suggesting, again, the fundamental nature of male and female. Finally, in the next chapter, the answer to man’s loneliness is woman, and the two (further bearing the image of a triune God who is both three and one) become one flesh. The chapter ends with an obvious sense of the rightness and wholeness of all this.
For this reason (sticking to the fundamentals of biblical identity) there are no “homosexuals” in Scripture, that is, no human beings who cease being either a man or a woman and become something else. I don’t mean to be dismissive of feelings and drives, which are obviously powerful, but our sexual identity, in the language of Scripture, is settled long before our passions begin to move us. This is why, when Paul does reference homosexual practices, he writes, “men…gave up natural relations with women” (Rom. 1:27). He doesn’t write, “men…became homosexuals” because there was no change in identity, just a change in behavior. Men remained men; women remained women.
When the conveners of the Revoice Conference use the language of “gay Christian” or “other LGBT Christians,” they are speaking in a way the Bible itself does not speak, so the ensuing conversation becomes confusing. For starters, it’s a huge difference if this conversation is about someone you are, not just something you do. Male/Female identity may seem too narrow a critique, or even trivial, but it’s not. It’s the loss of this fundamental truth that permits a host of other confusions to enter in.
In Scripture, there are no “gay Christians,” there are just male and female Christians. As such, we do some things that are right and other things that are wrong. The question about homosexual practice remains whether it is right or wrong. If it is wrong, as the leaders of the Revoice Conference affirm, then the conversation must be about how to avoid it — how to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24). It would be the same if this conference were about any other sexuality-related behavior offensive to God: pornography addiction, pedophilia, adultery, and so on.
Revoice is, I fear, lost in a middle ground, wanting to affirm the goodness of LGBT identity while denying accompanying practices. I’m not sure how long they can hold out. If I were to affirm my identity as a “polyamorous man” while remaining committed to “holding fast [to my] wife” (Gen. 2:24), and became part of a like-minded community, I doubt I would last very long. For this reason, we should pray that some at the conference would have a clear, biblical vision—and the courage to steer it back to solid ground.