For several years now, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has been roiled by controversy over whether to admit to her ministry men who are same-sex attracted but celibate (i.e., the so-called “Side B” approach). The debate has centered around a the so-called Revoice movement which openly celebrates “Gay Culture” and has come to focus upon the Rev. Dr. Greg Johnson, pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church, St Louis. His views have been investigated by his Presbytery. The Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA ruled that Presbytery followed the correct process. NB: To the best of my knowledge, the SJC has not ruled on Johnson’s theology nor has it rendered a decision on the Revoice theology and rhetoric.
One might think, in light of the angst and grief generated in reaction to Revoice and to his rhetoric, e.g., his 2019 speech on the floor of General Assembly, and the serious concerns that have been raised across the PCA, in multiple presbyteries about the Revoice theology and the very idea of a same-sex attracted man serving as a minister in a confessional Presbyterian denomination, that the Rev. Dr. Johnson’s posture might be that of a grief-stricken penitent. One might think that his apparel might be sackcloth and his attitude one of gratitude for the privilege of being able to continue in the service of Christ and his church despite his self-professed handicap of being immutably same-sex attracted. The PCA, however, awoke this morning to a diatribe published, in all places, in USA Today (HT: Presbycast) implying that he has been vindicated by the courts of the PCA and giving advice to other homosexuals on how to deal with their uptight relatives at Christmas. I kid you not. You should read the article for yourself.
You can imagine how fun denominational gatherings can be. Me with a couple thousand mostly older white, churchgoing, Southern, heterosexual religious conservatives with children and grandchildren and seersucker suits. One of us is not like the others.
As before, he suggests that by not acting on his sexual orientation, he is making a sacrifice:
And while you might be forgiven for assuming that my willing celibacy and lifetime of sexual sobriety might make me acceptable in such conservative religious spaces, it’s not always so. I’ve been investigated by church authorities, both formally and informally, because of my sexual orientation.
Remarkably, he claims:
After a recent investigation, I was exonerated in January 2020. Then exonerated again. Finally, this October, our denominational supreme court cleared me.
That ruling can’t be appealed. So I kid you not, my critics are now trying to change our denominational constitution to get rid of me, barring from ministry anyone who is honest about not being heterosexual.
Even 49-year-old virgins who are saving themselves for Jesus.
Here is his characterization of the concerns being debated by the PCA:
How can I love family members who seem at times so blind to their own failings? To their own insensitivity? When they seem to be making bad decisions motivated by fear and suspicion? When they don’t think I belong?
Again, you should read Johnson’s essay for yourself.
What some in the PCA and elsewhere do not seem to understand is that same-sex attraction is inherently corrupt and corrupting. It would not appear, from this latest essay, that Johnson appreciates this truth. He writes as if, by not acting on his sexual proclivities, he is doing the PCA a favor. Perhaps it will be useful to consider what the PCA confesses about the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”
Q. 138. What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
A. The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.
Q. 139. What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and dispensing with unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them; entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage; having more wives or husbands than one at the same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.
Chastity is a duty not a work of supererogation, i.e., something beyond what God requires. Chastity arguably entails not hosting a conference celebrating “Gay Culture.” It certainly entails repenting of and mortifying “all unnatural lusts.” Same-sex attraction is one of those unnatural lusts. It is inherently concupiscent, i.e., it is inherently corrupt and corrupting. I stand by what I wrote about his 2019 speech on the floor of GA:
There are several serious problems with Pastor Johnson’s reasoning here. First, his speech was highly biographical, emotive, and even prejudicial. He implied that anyone who disagrees with his position “hates” homosexuals. It equates traditional Christian sexual ethics with anti-gay bigotry. Second, he assumes that, except for his commitment to Christ, he might have taken a same-sex husband and had a family and that by not violating God’s natural and moral law thus he has made a great sacrifice for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. He even invokes Matthew 19:29 to that end. Giving up sin is not a sacrifice. It is required of us who have been bought by the blood and grace of Christ. When our Lord commanded us hyperbolically to cut off our offending right hand (Matt 5:20) there is no hint that we are treasure it. Paul says “such were some of you” (1 Cor 6:11). He assumes that SSA is natural or so innate that it is irrevocable. This is an assumption that is a gratuitous and false as it is essential to his argument. His argument would be much more credible had Johnson bothered to find any of the numerous believers whose sexual orientation has has been changed by the grace of God.
He confesses that he has often been curled up on his office floor in tears of sorrow. In context it seems that his sorrow is over what he regards as persecution by the PCA. How delightful it would have been for him to be utterly clear that his tears and sorrow were over his same-sex attraction but, instead, we are left to wonder. The essay strikes one as one sophisticate writing to other sophisticates about his backward and backwater family.
Presbyteries are still debating two constitutional revisions intended to address the question of whether same-sex attracted men should be permitted to hold office in the PCA. Obviously, judicial bodies need to make decisions on principle and not in regard to persons. Nevertheless, Johnson’s revealing rhetoric illuminates the questions facing the PCA and thus is relevant to the debates and votes yet to held in the presbyteries.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
Note: In the original version of this essay I referred to Dr Johnson as “Mr.” Though it has long been Presbyterian custom to refer to ministers as “the Rev Mr Smith,” I did not realize that he had earned a PhD and I would have used his academic title had I realized he held one. That mistake has been corrected.
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Dr Clark, thank you for that – It might be illuminating to ask what the attitude of the church should be to heterosexuals who are attracted to people thay cannot lawfully marry. Is the additional factor that SSA is also against Nature sufficient reason for it to be treated any differently? Of course both propensities have to be mortified, not sacrificed.
Another subject comes to mind from one of your quotations, “lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays”. One person I knew understood this to mean that ALL stage plays were forbidden. Do you understand this in the same way?
If a heterosexual minister or candidate for ministry said, “I’m immutably prone to want to have sex with women who aren’t my wife and I’m never going to change and in fact, mortification of this desire is impossible” then, yes, the PCA would be entirely justified in removing that man from office or refusing to admit such a man to office.
Yes, same-sex attraction is distinguished from heterosexual attraction since the former is contrary to nature.
Evidently, it did not mean all stage-plays etc since Theodore Beza wrote a place based on God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. That play was staged, in London, I believe, in English. Doubtless there have been those who were opposed to all stage plays, cinema etc and there have been some good reasons for that opposition (e.g., the earliest cinema was unregulated and some of it was as pornographic as anything one can find today) but I don’t think that there has been a consensus against them and I’m unaware of any ecclesiastical legislation that would forbid either attending stage plays or the cinema.
I’m hopeful this ongoing dialogue might have some real conclusion, but it will require Rev. Johnson’s critics to accurately represent him. It appears you are attempting to quote or paraphrase Rev. Johnson’s view of his sinful desires by analogy, but there are errors here that bear mentioning: Reverend Johnson would not call his desires immutable. Rev. Johnson would not say that he cannot mortify his desires. He would say that he mortifies his desires daily. If your point is that these are his views by reasonable inference, despite his public statements contrary, then charity demands that we state them as such. All of these views are now a matter of public record, by the work of the Church courts. Clarity on these issues will be nearly impossible without a closer regard for the accurate reporting of one’s opponents.
Dear James (if I may),
Please call me Scott.
1. I attempted to represent Rev Johnson accurately. I’m certainly not trying to hide anything. I linked to his article and to the video of his floor speech precisely so readers can read and hear him for himself. I exhorted the reader to read Johnson’s essay for himself not once but twice.
2. I don’t know how else to interpret his claim, versions of which he has made before, that he, like 600K other people, have tried not to be gay but they just can’t help it. That’s an immutable characteristic or tendency is it not? What’s the point of publicly, repeatedly identifying as “gay” or of modifying his profession of faith with the qualifier “gay,” if it’s not an immutable characteristic or orientation or identity (or all of them)? I don’t see how I’m misrepresenting him here.
3. Why does Revoice or why does Rev John consistently overlook Rosaria Butterfield & co?
4. We might have different definitions of mortification. To mortify is to put to death. He cannot say, as I understand him, that his same-sex attraction is both immutable and that he’s mortifying it. That’s incoherent. Not acting on it is only half of mortification. He keeps (e.g., in his CT article) asking for credit for not acting on his impulses (whether it’s watching porn or having gay sex) but that’s not how this works. That’s not mortification as I understand or as the Heidelberg Catechism explains it.
5. This isn’t the only essay in which I’ve engaged with Rev Johnson and/or the Revoice theology. Please see the resources below the post.
Greg Johnson | “I Used To Hide My Shame. Now I Take Shelter Under The Gospel” | Christianity Today (May 20, 2019).
Greg Johnson | “I’m a gay, celibate pastor of a conservative church. Here’s a trick for de-escalation” | USA Today December 22, 2021
Our Presbytery holds our vote next month. Thanks, Scott; this article is indeed relevant. Pray for us.
On the part of the Revoice people, and on the part of the pro-Confession people, there can be a resolution or movement toward a resolution when we realize that not all attractions are sexual. Both terms, “same sex attraction” and “heterosexual attraction” suffer from (very Freudian) lumping all attractions as sexual or inextricably sexual.
I’m attracted to a beauty of a sunset. There are some Christian men, to use a closer example, who are afraid to say “nice tie” to a another man, and similarly Christian women to other women, to other women, in some kind of Freudian fear of it being inextricably sexual.
Attraction-to-have-sex-with is a much more narrow focused idea. Upon this, more of both sides can agree, since both pro-Confession and Revoice positions can much more easily agree, that being attracted-to-do-sin is an evil to be shunned and avoided, and those who pre-allow such attractions should not lead the church.
Larry: Both sides know what they are talking about: homosexuality. There is no misunderstanding between the two sides, word salads notwithstanding.
I was there in Dallas to hear his 2019 speech on the floor. I am still horrified that he is still insisting on identifying with his sin and denying the possibility of the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
I have heard Mr. Johnson on a couple of interviews he has done. Presbycast has shared some of those interviews as well, where it is Mr. Johnson who has misrepresented things and assigned impure motives to people who oppose his position.
Thank you for your excellent analysis. Folks in the PCA, other than Johnson’s hard-core supporters, continue to be horrified at his very public conduct and trashing of the PCA and its officers. He’s a homosexual, period. He’s said it so many times that only the incredibly tone deaf can miss it. His public statements routinely contradict his sworn testimony, the latter given when his position in danger. He testifies that his homosexual desires are sinful, yet publicly says that it’s OK to be homosexual, offers no call to repentance, and even advises on how to handle that in family situations. Johnson offers anxiety drugs without mentioning prayer. Although he claims in sworn testimony to believe in progressive sanctification, he routinely and publicly asserts that he expects no change in his homosexual desires and ignores the testimony of those to whom the Spirit has granted the fruit of repentance.
As you point out, the SJC did not exonerate Johnson. He wasn’t even a party in the case! The SJC violated its own manual in how they handled the case, introducing new testimony beyond the record of the case upon which the manual says they must base their decision. The published dissenting opinion clearly lays out the SJC’s errors. I’m sure that the National Partnership is proud of their domination of the SJC through their almost two decades of secret work in the background.
In this case, though, the progressive National Partnership picked the wrong poster boy. I suspect that the blow-back will be significant. I pray that the Lord will turn the coal into gold for the confessional officers and members in the PCA.
Thank you again for your love for your brothers in the PCA.
Dr. Clark, I want to thank you, both for this reflection, and for you gracious interaction with commenters here. I particularly want to thank you for your gracious interaction with TE James Kessler above:
His comment: https://heidelblog.net/2021/12/johnson-to-the-pca-merry-christmas-here-is-a-lump-of-coal-for-your-stocking/#comment-520582
Your response: https://heidelblog.net/2021/12/johnson-to-the-pca-merry-christmas-here-is-a-lump-of-coal-for-your-stocking/#comment-520585
Learning even more about how to winsomely persuade that the mission of Christ might advance is something we all can unite around, yes?
So if we read everything Greg Johnson says and substituted the word “perjurer” or “bank robber” or “patricide,” who would take it seriously? He really has nothing in his corner but the current vogue and chicte of homosexuality in the wider culture. No other sin would be treated with kid gloves this way.
Dr Scott, while echoing Reed DePace’s commendation and zeal, I would springboard a bit from Bob Mattes. I wish you had expanded your first paragraph’s ending NB comment slightly, maybe another sentence or three. Not only did the SJC not exonerate Greg Johnson. Not only did it violate its own rules. For all practical purposes, the SJC made procedure rather than scripture the final authority. It allowed a lower court to endorse (obvious) error simply because that lower court’s examination/decision process matched procedural requirements. It bypassed the absolute necessity of weighing whether the appeal against that court’s decision had any biblical basis for its concern.
The Greg Johnson case may be decisive in evaluating the future of the PCA (think here the fates of presbytery votes on constitutional revisions). I think the SJC’s procedure even more decisive.
I’m a minister in the URCNA. I have read the PCA’s BCO but I’m not qualified to comment on the internal procedures of the PCA.
I can say, however, that Rev Johnson’s suggestion that he was exonerated by the SJC is not accurate.
It may be splitting hairs to say that the SJC did not exonerate TE Johnson. The Missouri Presbytery did, in fact, exonerate him and the SJC found that they did not err. This is a de facto exoneration by the SJC. An interesting question is if overtures #23 and #37 are ratified, will they take precedence over the findings of the SJC?
When a court of appeals rules on procedure they don’t re-try the case. A court (e.g., a presbytery) can use a correct procedure and reach an incorrect conclusion. A procedural decision is not a decision about the material issue before the original court. That has yet to make it to the SJC.
Dr. Clark: I agree. However in this case the SJC didn’t follow usual procedure. They created a new record by taking testimony from TE Johnson to see if his views had evolved. So, effectively they assumed original jurisdiction. At this point, their procedural irregularities are water under the bridge. The status of the overtures is preeminent. It is interesting that while the NP is working to defeat the overtures, they have to spend time rehabilitating TE Johnson’s image after he gives provocative interviews like the USA Today article. I have a feeling the NP may be getting nervous if their leader feels the the need to defend TE Johnson in this forum.
“[E]ffectively” is, as they say, doing a lot of work here. If they didn’t formally assume original jurisdiction, then the SJC can’t be said to have ruled on SSA and the other material issues.
“For all practical purposes, the SJC made procedure rather than scripture the final authority.”
Yes. And for those of us old enough to remember, this was the beginning of the end for the old United Presbyterian Church in North America (Northern Presbyterian Church.) Their whole decision-making process came to be dominated by the Book of Church Order, and Scripture became secondary at best. And the rest, as they say, is history as the PCUSA, the successor denomination, sinks into nonexistence.
3-4 out of 100….
My ordained friends would find that extremely encouraging for 3-4 out of 100 to believe and repent and live a life of obedience.
I recall reading somewhere that 1 in 100 makes the angels rejoice.
Great and fittingly to-the-point response, Scott. I think you completely hit the nail on the head here: “The essay strikes one as one sophisticate writing to other sophisticates about his backward and backwater family.” The only thing I would add, without trying to be abrasive, is that the sin of narcissism (which invariably and evidently attends ‘sophistication’ in the sense used in your reflection) is as much a temptation as any other particular sin for the cultured despisers of “backwater family” members.
In the new book by Johnson, Still Time to Care, he quotes the RPC,ES study related to homosexuality. He says on p.14, ” The report spoke affectionately of ‘our homosexual brothers and sisters.’ ” Five times our report said “brothers and sisters” but NEVER added in “homosexual” as an adjective. Four of the five appear in a section titled, “The Repentant Brother-and-Sister in our Congregation.” In that section title it failed to include the adjective. “homosexual.” In the fifth instance, “brothers and sisters” appears in a subsection titled “Call to Obedience” which opens with, “The repentant homosexual brother or sister has to be encouraged to join the rest of us to follow Jesus …” It would be unnecessary to keep repeating “repentant.” Now note this sentence; we said in 1980 “Obedience is essential to our growth. It will begin with refraining from acting out our desires. It will not rest until ultimately even our sinful desires are transformed into restored humanity at Christ’s return.” The Side B folk want us to believe that such restoration is delayed and then occurs all at one in a theological big bang at the coming of the Lord. Instead we said that obedience does not rest now and wait hopefully for the end. When we switch to the singular as in brother and sister, that combination appears in the 1980 report three times, and two of them modify the nouns with “repentant.” Johnson shopping for support clings to the solitary example of “homosexual brother and sister” in a later section, titled “How Our Congregations Might Be of Help.” His representation of the RPC,ES for the past two years has been misrepresentation. I have never seen him misquote before his recent book, he could have been recalling from memory and garbled it slightly. BUT in the big picture of what that report was saying he is way way off.
Thanks for this background. It’s valuable.
Isn’t it accurate to say that homosexuality conflicts with God’s natural revelation (of His creation as revealed to mankind)? And that is a primary reason man has an innate sense that it is unnatural and abominable?
I’m assuming men and women who harbor such desires will argue that a lack of social acceptance or the generally relative infrequency of such proclivity is not evidence this inclination is unnatural, unacceptable, and/or worthy of condemnation, and more importantly, forsaking and mortification.
The implications of accepting SSA is not only an affront to God’s natural revelation and perfect design but also sound theology and the heinousness of sin. Not to break the bruised reed or forgo support to the conscious struggle, but to deny the power of justification and sanctification and that all good things are found in Jesus Christ, the savior and deliverer (from all evil and perversion). He delivers us from ourselves.
So, it would appear, that GJ has low view of God. If God reveals Himself in design and creation, not only should a non-believer refrain from what is unnatural, but how much worse is it for a man of God to identify with what is an unnatural abomination?
Dear Dr. Clark,
While I appreciate much of this article and am thoroughly in agreement with yourself and the many critics of “Side-B” about the need for all Christians who identify and/or sympathize with “Side-B” must repent and change their ways or else lose their identity with Christ, I must point out that men and women such as Rosaria Butterfield, Christopher Yuan, Sam Allberry, etc. have written very clearly that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but holiness (Yuan, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel, 52). They have also quite clearly pointed out that a life of singleness may be God’s calling for many Christians who struggle with unwanted homosexual desires. A Biblically faithful marriage is possible, but we should not hold out a Biblically faithful marriage, as well as a holy desires of the opposite sex, as the goal of our message. We should hold out the hope that their union with Christ will grow and be prized by them even more as a result of dying to their desires and focusing on Christ. The church needs a more robust theology of faithful single Christian living as well as calling all Christians struggling with unwanted homosexual desires to a life of obedient Christian living.
I find that many of the critics of “Side-B” within the PCA that are writing their objections to “Side-B”‘s theology, and possibly yourself, are arguing that the main problem is that “Side-B” denies sexual orientation change is possible. However, this is a false binary and gives “Side-B” too much credit. A simple reason is that the category of sexual orientation does not belong in a Christian anthropology. A more theological reason is that marriage on this earth is not the goal of the Christian life. Marriage with Christ as a member of the church is the goal of the earthly institution of marriage on earth.
“Side-B” has some valid criticisms of the “ex-gay” movement, namely that the “ex-gay” movement’s eschatology was focused on sexual orientation being a valid expression of Biblical teaching and heterosexual potential in all its forms was blessed by God. However, this valid criticism is a shared criticism between “Side-B” and writers such as Rosaria Butterfield, Christopher Yuan, Sam Allberry, etc.
While the possibility of new and holy desires leading to marriage is possible for the men and women who follow men like Greg Johnson, Wesley Hill, Nate Collins, and Greg Coles we need to remember that our eschatology includes single people who will not be married during this life, but are faithful to Christ. Men like Greg Johnson, Wesley Hill, Nate Collins, and Greg Coles, according to a charitable reading of their works, are not walking faithfully with Christ with respect to this issue, and we should not validate their false characterizations of the Gospel by making the issue of if someone’s desires can do a 180°, or if that 180° change is actually a good change, the point of our disagreement them.
Thanks for this.
A couple of responses:
1. It seems that you’re (unintentionally) omitting half of my argument. There are two categories here: nature and grace. In nature, in human sexuality, heterosexuality is the antithesis of homosexuality. This is an empirical fact. In grace, yes, holiness is the antithesis of homosexuality but that would true for any sinful habitus/proclivity/disposition. Classically, the Reformed spoke of “chastity,” specifically relative to the 7th commandment.
2. Regarding singleness, amen. I just finished LD 41 in my commentary and there I addressed the honorable estate of singleness but I couldn’t address everything in one essay.
3. I persist in wondering why Side B advocates like Johnson continue to ignore Rosaria and Christopher. I’m not sure where Sam is now, on this issue. See the resources on LGBTQ/Revoice linked above. I read Sam’s first book and interviewed him for Office Hours. Since that time, however, he has allied with Side B organizations in the UK, before immigrating to the USA. Chris and Rosaria are friends and Chris and family recently joined our congregation in Escondido. I’ve benefited from Chris’ work.
4. I’ve spent a fair bit of time reading Side B essays, including Johnson’s. It seems clear to me that several of them and especially Johnson, who has emerged as a primary spokesman for the Side B position within NAPARC, denies the possibility of change.
Again, I think your analysis omits the category of nature and is therefore defective.
“Some criticisms.” That’s more than understatement. The Side B folks regularly deride or ignore folks like Rosaria. As I recall, they did it at Revoice. I remember discussing it with her when she was here for the AGR conference in 2019.
Are there abusive approaches to dealing with homosexuality? Yes but I don’t see Johnson or the Side B folks acknowledging any place for pastoral counseling or other therapeutic approaches to SSA. I’m convinced that it is necessary and useful. Johnson is implying (without saying it outright) a biological causation but the evidence for this simply doesn’t exist as far as I know. My experience as a pastor tells me that people on the LGBTQ spectrum are almost always victimized in some way and reacting to it in much the same way alcoholics/addicts medicate themselves to address their issues. The argument, “I don’t remember a time” simply doesn’t wash as an adult explanation for what happened. I am not accepting a 7-year old’s explanation for why a person has SSA etc.
What’s at stake here is not whether people with SSA can be Christians. What is at stake here is whether “Gay Culture” and a “Gay identity” should be adopted or celebrated or used to qualify one’s profession of faith. Such a qualification is fundamentally wrong. More precisely, what is at stake here is whether those with SSA are qualified for pastoral ministry?
1. I readily accept the two categories of nature and grace, but the way you frame how human sexuality is lived out in nature is in Freudian categories which both the non-Christian and the Christian ought to reject for similar, if different, reasons. Butterfield writes about this in Chapters 4 of Openness Unhindered and Yuan covers it in Chapter 9 of Holy Sexuality and the Gospel. They both advocate abandoning the terms because it confuses who we are with how we are. Heterosexuality is the correct general direction for human sexuality, but heterosexuality by itself has nothing to say about chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage to both the Christian and the non-Christian.
3. With regards to Sam Allberry, I take it that you are referring to his past association with Living Out ministries and especially the writings of Ed Shaw. My understanding from Denny Burk is that Sam has both taken responsibility for those writings that were posted while he was still working with Living Out and has rejected them. His public explanation given on April 01, 2019 with Jonathan Leeman was very difficult for him to do, but his work since then has shown that he fully embraces the Nashville Statement and he played a key role in the most controversial, but important, Article VII.
Consider that when Wesley Hill first published Washed and Waiting in 2010 many people who would now reject Hill’s views praised him because the book was the first of its kind but also because Hill was vague at key points in his thinking and many wanted to assume good intentions. However, between 2010-2014 Hill made it clear though his writings and public addresses that he concluded that his understanding of his sexual desires were that they simply were not going away and that he must try to live with them, but he believed they were able to be sanctified as long as he didn’t commit the act of sodomy. Men and women either continued following Wes, quietly backed away, or are still unaware of where he intends to lead them. It is my understanding that Sam Allberry thought he was “on the same page” as Ed Shaw and others at Living Out, but as time went on Sam realized that Ed and others wanted to go a different way than Sam. Sam’s latest book about the importance of the physical body takes more than a few silent jabs at “side-B” without demanding the reader to know anything about “side-B”, much like Yuan’s Holy Sexuality and Butterfield’s Openness Unhindered.
I am as interested as you in giving the man or woman who deals with these sins hope that God will give them grace to fight against their original and indwelling sin patterns and give them peace in both this life and the life to come, but I would make a distinction between the need for a person living with unwanted homosexual desires to live a holy life and the same person developing holy desires towards the opposite sex leading to marriage. Jesus said, in John 7:17, “[i]f anyone is willing to do the Father’s will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or [myself separate from the Father]”. Jesus promises peace and understanding as a result of following His commands. That peace and understanding will be a holy life, it may include new affections for the opposite sex, etc., or it may not. A holy life may take many forms, but we should not confuse, or bind, the fruit of the Spirit to the change that Jesus will bring into a person’s life.
1. Freud? What rubbish! I learned to distinguish nature and grace from Calvin and Reformed orthodoxy and they inherited it from the Great Christian Tradition.
2. It seems to me that you’re still ignoring nature as a category of analysis. We don’t disagree, I don’t think, about the outcome of the work of grace re holiness.
3. Yes, I was referring to the “living Out” materials. Of course Sam is responsible for what he wrote but has he publicly repudiated what he wrote publicly?
4. I am not talking as much about the outcome of sanctification, although the goal is clear, as much as I am about the Side B/Revoice etc rhetoric. In defense of Johnson the PCA progressives (e.g., National Partnership) have attacked the traditional Reformed view of sanctification as “perfectionism.” The leader of the NP was in this very space, in my opinion, operating with a different definition of mortification than I understand the Reformed to confess. Revoice is a celebration of the/a “Gay Identity” and “Gay Culture.” As the Gospel Reformation fellows have written, our identity is in Christ. Homosexual desires are inherently concupiscent and need to be mortified, not celebrated. I would like to see Johnson et al mourning their sinful inclinations just as I would require of a heterosexual who has persistent desires to fornicate or to commit adultery or to commit incest etc.
As a matter of doctrine, confessional Reformed folk must push back vigorously on the notion that the Spirit cannot or will not change a person’s affections and we need to push back vigorously against the notion that it’s perfectionist or fundamentalist (or pick a pejorative) to hope for that and to say to candidates for ministry, “just as we would not admit someone to ministry who talks about giving up heterosexual adultery or incest as some great sacrifice”—and the Side B guys speak this way—”so too we should not admit to the ministry men who speak as if they might be married to a man and have a “family” but that they’ve given it up in service of the Lord.” This is a completely unacceptable way to think and speak.
As I keep saying (see the resources above) we need to love Christians who struggle with SSA or other attractions or queerness on the LGBTQ spectrum but as much as we must affirm them as image-bearers and (at least potential) recipients of God’s grace, we need also to call them to walk with us, in union with Christ, as we each and all, by grace alone, through faith alone, seek to die to sin and to live to Christ.
After the controversial decision handed down by the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission in the case of the Missouri Presbytery/TE Greg Johnson, we have more evidence of the extent of the influence of the National Partnership. In the most recent issues of By Faith which is the PCA’s denominational magazine, there was a two-part article by TE David Coffin arguing against the ratification of overtures #23 and #37 which forbid the ordination of self-identifying SSA candidates. The interesting part is that TE Coffin is a member of the SJC. If these overtures are ratified, there is the very real possibility that cases bearing on these overtures will be brought before the SJC and TE Coffin will be expected to render impartial judgment. So now we have the NP, a member of the SJC, and the denominational magazine working against the passage of these overtures.
Don’t you think that TE Coffin might recuse himself, since he has taken a public position on the issues before the court?
Dr. Clark: I wish I could be confident that he would.
If these matters came before the SJC and a member had taken a public position on them and failed to recuse himself, that would be cause for a complaint. No presbyter or assembly or commission is above the law.
Agree, Scott, would be a legitimate cause of complaint as conflicting with his role as a judicial member. I believe we do a disservice to our fellow Reformed brothers when we doubt they have integrity ruling on judicial matters. I see this far too often in the secular arena when courts hand down unpleasant decisions; it should not occur among brothers in the Gospel.
Amen. We can disagree with Rev Coffin without calling his integrity into question.
A presbyter who takes a position on a legislative matter (e.g Overtures 23 and 37) is not taking a position in a judicial case that has not been formulated much less heard. It is specifically allowable for an SJC member to speak to matters before a presbytery or the Assembly as a matter of legislation. I myself do this regularly – I have written a short article linked in ByFaith and made a video in which I argue for the passage of the overtures.
Dr. Coffin is doing the same thing, just on the opposite side. I disagree with his conclusion (and I have told him so personally, because we are friends) but I VIGOROUSLY support his right to speak to these matters. He does not need to be revised, as the overtures are not about a case, but the constitution. And SJC members swear an oath to rule only according to the constitution.
To say otherwise is to impugn Dr. Coffin’s character (and ironically, mine).
Thank you for the correction.
I’m glad to help. For the record, I’m a Reverend, not a Doctor (unless a J.D. counts!) 😂
Fred, well, maybe you’d accept (someday) an honorary doctorate, say, “Dr. BCO” 😉
Fred, my late mother (sick for the exam) got 3rd class honours in Psychology (Birkbeck, London), which at the time made her a qualified teacher, but what enabled her to be paid on the Burnham Scale was her previous D.Jur. from Prague, and at school she was always referred to as Dr Rokos. So yes, as far I am concerned, your J.D. jolly well counts.
I believe the only doctorates that don’t count in university circles are honorary ones (and, ironically, qualifications to practise medicine short of a Doctorate), and even they are used extensively in society these days (even, or perhaps especially, in cases in which they were simply bought, in some cases “with the tops of cornflake packets”).
Greetings from the backwaters,
How anesthetized must we have become to the gay agenda that we don’t recoil at a statement like this one?
“I’m just a gay atheist kid who fell in love with Jesus in college.”
I’m assuming that Johnson is using the present tense here only with regard to his being gay, since he acknowledges Jesus in some way and is no longer an atheist. Interesting that his god could so easily and even miraculously overcome his unbelief and not even begin to undo his unnatural desires.
No one so far, and I think I’ve read all the comments, has queried which Jesus it is that Johnson has fallen in love with. It certainly isn’t a Jesus that would condemn celibate homosexuality. It is a Jesus who would praise him for his sacrifice of an alleged loving relationship so he could be in ministry. Here in the backwater, I’m searching my Bible for that Jesus and can’t find him. Shouldn’t we be even more concerned about Greg Johnson’s theology which permits him to construct a god that approves of his unnatural attraction?
Brethren, I would suggest that we have, even in our Reformed churches, become numb to the success of the homosexual agenda. We are so far from feeling any shame concerning homosexuality that we have accepted its social normalization. Now we have faced the next step, which is the demonization of anyone who so much as criticizes homosexuality. Not only that, but anyone who does not wholeheartedly affirm the goodness and positivity of homosexuality can be canceled, and even lose their employment. As usual, the church is following the culture, if only at a slower pace. Even as recently as the 1960s, there was such a thing as “the closet” that homosexuals were kept in because of shame. Not only has the shame vanished, it is turned on its head. Now we are the ones who are supposed to be ashamed and Johnson can publish any brash thing he pleases to the applause of folks, some of whom we call brethren.
This verse sticks in my head, from the first chapter of Romans:
“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
When exactly is it that they deserve to die? And at whose hand? Is it only God who can carry out that penalty? Where is this righteous decree? See particularly, “they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” What’s that say for any sort approbation by Christians for any part of the LGBTQIA+ agenda?
A bit of personal history here, if you’ll suffer an old guy going into the weeds for a minute: I joined the United States Navy in 1969 a few days after my 17th birthday. In bootcamp, assigned to the barracks, we had to familiarize ourselves with the Uniform Code Of Military Justice, originally a part of the 1920 Articles of War. The following was part of that code:
a. Text of statute.
(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with an- other person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.
(b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall by punished as a court-martial may direct.”
Note the phrase “unnatural carnal copulation.” Even the US Military recognized God’s description of what was unnatural!
This article has slowly been eroded because of the success of the gay agenda in the courts, particularly with the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which made unconstitutional that state’s sodomy law. Now that article only forbids kidnapping and all consensual sex amongst humans is considered a civil liberty and only bestiality remains condemned. One could not be chided for wondering out loud, “how long?” Texas, in a bit of regional passive aggression, as of the 2019 legislative session still has not repealed that law.
As we continue down this path of nationally affirming all deviance and condemning all virtue with the church no longer only following along by “slouching toward Gomorrah” but racing headlong toward it, perhaps even reveling in its city center in some cases celebrating with the Sodomites. Robert Bork, whose book bears the that title, wrote in 1996:
“If all traces of taint are removed, if homosexuality is made to seem completely normal, a matter of indifference to anyone else or to society, young men and women uncertain of their sexuality will be that much more likely to be drawn into a homosexual life.”
Not only is the taint removed, but now we suffer “gay pride” parades and designated months supported by corporate America and local elected officials, where even God’s covenant sign of the rainbow has been appropriated. Have we not arrived?
What about that righteous decree? Could this be it from Leviticus 20:13?
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
I understand that this is a law for Israel under the Mosaic covenant, but if that decree was righteous then, and it is part of the commentary of what constitutes violations of the seventh commandment, is it unrighteous now? Was the Texas law unrighteous? Was the UCMJ unrighteous. There were penalties of imprisonment attached to those laws.
We are here in this forum arguing about how precisely to define a sin because our nation no longer sees homosexual sex as criminal.
What if those laws, now declared unconstitutional, were actually more conformable to that admonishment in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 19?
“IV. To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”
Consider the damage by the searing of our national conscience, and the destruction to families, and the devastation of the lives of children done by legally affirming homosexuality and its “liberty.”
My personal ministry has taken me to Kenya now five times, with a sixth coming in a few days to celebrate with my brethren there the publication of a new Swahili version and publication of the Three Forms of Unity. Kenya is a country where Article 162 of the Penal Code makes “carnal knowledge…against the order of nature” punishable with up to 14 years in prison. Article 165 makes “indecent practices between males” punishable by up to five years in prison. I have preached the gospel in a Kenyan prison. While humane, western prisons are like the Hilton in comparison. Overall, this law is a deterrent and keeps the behavior shameful in the eyes of the nation. We are the barbarians, not them, because we allow this “liberty” to destroy our country, and we fail to preach against it out of fear. I wonder if the members of the venerable Assembly would find our laws concerning homosexuality or Kenya’s more generally equitable?
A few years ago, then President Barack Obama, who had a Kenyan father, visited the country. He chided Uhuru Kenyatta for his record on LGBT rights, “If you look at the history of countries around the world, when you start treating people differently, not because of any harm they’re doing anybody but because they’re different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode.”
Uhuru, maintaining his composure and diplomatic demeanor, said that despite the U.S. and Kenya sharing some values such as “love for democracy, entrepreneurship [and] value for families…the fact remains that this issue is not really an issue that is in the foremost mind of Kenyans.”
We are continually being spoon-fed that homosexuality does no harm, in fact that we are the ones doing the harm. Here’s Leviticus 20 again, in verses 22, 23:
“You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.”
Is it possible that this land of ours could vomit us out?
With all due respect to TE Greco, here’s an article discussing this very case and whether it is allowed by the Standing Judicial Commission Manual for a member of the Commission to publish his opinion on these overtures. The author presents a compelling case for why it is not permitted by the Manual. https://theaquilareport.com/a-response-to-david-coffin-concerning-overtures-23-and-37-part-two/
I’ve read the article. The author is wrong. I hate to be so blunt (but I am Italian after all) but that is a novel interpretation that was not the intent of the drafters of that provision (both Dr. Coffin and I were involved in the drafting), nor has it been interpreted that way ever (there have been several instances), nor is that the practice. Every year almost half of the SJC serves on the Overtures Committee arguing, amending, and persuading about overtures. Every year SJC members *draft* overtures for adoption (which is far more than simply arguing). I myself both draft overtures and this past year substantially amended overtures in committee.
It has never been suggested that an SJC member cannot be involved in the drafting, amending, or adoption of an overture. In fact, OMSJC 2.5 was adopted *specifically to allow* SJC members to act as other presbyters in the courts of the church.
TE Greco: Can you understand why, from a layman’s point of view, that it would be desirable and wise for a SJC member to refrain from issue advocacy during his term on the court?
Rev. Greco wrote: “I hate to be so blunt (but I am Italian after all)”
Blunt isn’t bad, Rev. Greco! We need more paisanos in the Reformed world. There seems to have been a dearth of Italian Reformed people for the last five centuries or so.
After all, it was our Italian missionary ancestors who brought the Christian faith to places like Friesland, the Netherlands, and Germany fifteen centuries ago, risking their very lives to preach in a howling wilderness of people who were Arians at best and not uncommonly pagans. It took more than a bit of bluntness to tell tall blonde people with sharp swords and sturdy axes that the pagan trees they worshipped needed to be hewn down and that the “barbarians” who had recently overrun the Roman Empire needed to worship the God of the people they had conquered.
Back to reading, and sorry for the ethnic detour, but as a short black haired token Italian who grew up in the Dutch heartland of West Michigan, I couldn’t resist responding to your Italian comment.
One aspect of this to the present debate is that not only is a stated softness on one kind of sin a disqualification from leadership, but a stated softness on any kind of sin. The purveyors of “pretty good righteousness” may have different sins held behind their back, but lead us astray, and therefore should not lead. Protestantism has some teeth to it.
In one sense, yes, but ultimately no. All you would need to do is look at the list of moderators, OC members, and watch the floor to see how often SJC members participate in GA. And I have felt free to advocate for O23 and O37, knowing that regardless of the outcome of the Presbytery ratification votes, I will keep my SJC vows.
TE Greco: Thank you for my response. The situation with SJC members is clear to me now.
Hello Scott, After over 40 years in the PCA, I have left this denomination or rather it has left l me. I am schooled in its theology as I hold and MBA and an MA from Reformed Theology Seminary. I retired after 40 years in Information Techology, and served in international student ministry and other Ministries over many years as a layman. What I find astounding is how elders and churches are waiting around for procedures and votes of various sorts to determine if Revoice and its influence on the PCA has already disqualified this denomination as a true branch of the church of Jesus Christ. Does God need to win an election here? Is God’s Word merely God’s campaign strategy, or is it the final authority on faith and practice needing votes by committees to prove its ultimate truth? That is when I had enough. The PCA is equal to the PCUSA in this as long as churches continue to remain in this denomination and Revoice men especially coming out of institutions like [censored] are ordained. That is a total disregard for confession and church discipline. Calvin clearly taught the three marks of a true church are the preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments, and church discipline. How do you have in a denomination where the church polity is connectional, and Revoice men are ordained or not removed, and still maintain discipline? The answer is you can’t and don’t. Calvin is right on this. You must heed Calvin at this point and conclude the PCA is now apostate or its local churches must run not walk from this denomination, or members must resign their memberships and find another church that is true to God’s Word and is a branch of the church of Jesus Christ.
Is it really true to say that people are “waiting around for procedures and votes of various sorts to determine if Revoice and its influence on the PCA has already disqualified this denomination as a branch of the church of Jesus Christ?”
First, a strong majority spoke clearly at GA against the Revoice theology and in favor of the two revisions to the BCO to prevent SSA ministerial candidates. Further, there are attempts now and there likely will be more attempts to address Greg Johnson’s ministerial status and public comments. GA adopted the Nasvhille statement before that.
So, though I understand your frustration, it is not as though no one is doing anything about Revoice/Johnson/SSA in the PCA. Are you aware of the Gospel Reformation Network?
Second, you are entitled to your opinion about whether the PCA is part of the true church but no denomination with which it is in fellowship has made any such determination. Indeed, none of them, to my knowledge, has denounced the CRCNA, which is much farther along the way toward becoming affirming not only Side B Christianity as no longer a part of the true church. This would seem to mean, by your reasoning, that the URCNA, OPC, RCUS, RPCNA, KAPC, KPCA etc are also no longer part of the true church.
As for “waiting around” if you’ve been in the PCA for decades then surely you know that presbyterial polity is intentionally slow and cumbersome. It’s meant to prevent the church from rushing into anything. We’re not Baptists or Pentecostals. We deliberate. That’s why we were so slow to move West during the Second Great Awakening and why the Baptists and Methodists beat us to the frontier. We didn’t send out hordes of semi-literate laymen to confuse people for decades—a mess that we are still cleaning up more than a century after the end of the Second Great Awakening. Our pastors and missionaries were in seminaries, sitting, deliberating, studying and becoming prepared for ministry. That’s why you were able to get such an excellent education at RTS, because some Presbyterians sat and deliberated. They weren’t hold tent meetings with altar calls.
“The PCA is equal to the PCUSA….”? Does it really matter what qualification comes after a clause like that?
If you are concerned about institutions in the PCA then what are you doing about it? Are you serving as a ruling elder, going to presbytery and GA and voting? Are you helping More in the PCA get more REs to GA?
It is true that discipline is a mark of the true church. Amen! Isn’t the PCA going through the disciplinary process right now? It may be that the PCA will fail to discipline Johnson et al and it is true that there seems to be an active movement in the PCA to prevent that very thing but the process is not over yet and, in some ways, it seems as if the middle of the PCA is just becoming aware of the state of the question.
I believe there may be confusion about “attraction” vs. “lust”. I notice attractive women who are not my wife. It is something that happens in an instant and it is my reaction to that instant that determines if I will savor that attraction, perhaps entertaining it in some way, that turns it into lust. This occurs while watching TV (I have fast-forwarded movies at times, to my wife’s amusement), walking around a store, in church, etc. It is my understanding that our reaction to that instant is where mortification occurs or does not. I have listened to video clips of the PCA speakers at Revoice because a relative is in a homosexual relationship, and I am hoping she could find support for an abstinent lifestyle when she tires of it. Not one of those PCA speakers seem to be advocating for the entertaining/lingering lusting that is explicitly forbidden in the Bible. They admit to the instant of attraction, and long for it to be gone. I guess I wonder if their local church couldn’t deal with even that instant of attraction that they experienced, even though the rest of us experience instants of sinful thought we need to mortify on a daily basis or even more frequently. In a well-known chapter on homosexuality, Romans 1, a large number of serious sins are listed: “28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” How many of the above sins do we entertain for an instant and then mortify. How often do we entertain gossip, slander, haughtiness in our hearts beyond that first instant. How often do we go beyond that lingering consideration and move on to the act of gossiping about that person in our midst battling a less respectable sin? How does that instant of same-sex attraction, quickly mortified, compare to those other sins in terms of law breaking? I take Greg Johnson at his word that he is held accountable in this area of his life, based on his weekly meeting with an accountability partner. I think he has allowed his disappointment at the sins of the elder brothers among us to cause him to say a few things that are unfortunate. But I have seen a lot of other comments online by other PCA ministers and church members on the other side of this debate that are unfortunate as well. Just some thoughts to consider.
I don’t think there is confusion except in the euphemism that the Side B proponents use. The “attraction” in SSA is a euphemism for sexual desire.
Dr Johnson has admitted his strong sexual attraction to other men, i.e., his desire to have sex with them.
The only reason we’ve been talking about “attraction” is Revoice’s use of the euphemism.
This is why I’ve been talking about “desire” and “lust” because this is what is at issue here. It is an inherently concupiscent (i.e., corrupt) desire.
I think the question to ask is what Dr. Johnson does when he has an instant of attraction. How does it differ from an earlier stage in his sanctification? That is difficult to assess from the outside. That is why he meets with an accountability partner weekly and also gives that person access to every website he accesses from his devices. All of us who are Christian men know that we must not linger on any sexual thought that reduces some woman not our wife into an object for our selfish gratification. Most of us will admit to not always handling our thought life entirely correctly. We seek accountability partners, ask God’s forgiveness, avoid temptation, and move on. I note that you have not addressed the other sins worthy of death from Romans 1 that I mentioned. I think it is important to realize how far we ourselves are from perfection in those other very serious sin areas before we judge Dr. Johnson’s attraction, which apparently is being watched over in his local area.
Your comment posits a false equivalency. Unlike heterosexuality, homosexuality is contrary to nature and has no valid use or purpose in creation. One may sinfully misuse heterosexuality, but then one is misusing one of God’s good gifts. The same is not true of homosexuality, which is totally against God’s created order. While none of us is free from sin, GJ’s homosexual lust is a no-brainer to judge as contrary to nature, hence unredeemable, and therefore must be renounced, mortified daily, and turned away from and to life in the Spirit – mortification and vivification. GJ talks about mortification, but shows no outward evidence of repentance or vivification. Instead, he writes and speaks constantly of his sin, both in a book that contains serious errors concerning sanctification, interviews, and in USA Today. That’s not what the fruit of repentance looks like.
Thanks for your comment Bob. I do not believe in the equivalency of all kinds of sexual sin. I believe if Dr. Johnson feels attracted to a man and instantly turns his mind to a Bible verse or calls an accountability partner for support, he is overcoming the evil one by mortifying the flesh. Dr. Johnson, like the woman at the well, heard Jesus’ offer of living water that quenches our spiritual thirst in a way that nothing else can. Because of that, he is transparent about his battle with sin (poor of spirit), seeks accountability (James 5:16) to overcome any lust that remains and thereby follows Jesus. The only point I was making is that attraction is different from lust, which is different from consummation of lust. In a sense, we too sin against nature when we lust after any woman other than our wife. Because God created sex to be expressed in a covenant relationship of commitment and mutual selfless love with one woman. Any other sex is “defiled”, including any lust, which Jesus compared to adultery. I am guessing that 90% of you would admit in your heart of hearts to being “defiled” by lust at some point (and the rest of you would be lying to yourselves). And that is why we come back to the cross and repent of that sin. The other point I was making with the Romans 1 quote was that there are other sins “worthy of death” that are committed with other organs of our body, such as the tongue (gossip, slander) and the mind (envy, pride), which are mentioned almost in the same breath in Romans 1. When we treat homosexual attraction as the unpardonable sin, while de-emphasizing the significance of other sins within the church, we are reacting as the religious leaders did when Jesus welcomed the ministrations of the woman with the alabaster box and when he dined with prostitutes and tax collectors, and indicated that those folks would enter the Kingdom of Heaven before those who trusted in their own righteousness. His harshest comments were always reserved for the self-righteous since he knew their blindness to their own sin needed to be shattered. Revoice was started as an alternative to another organization that basically was telling its members that acting on their attraction was fine. There may be members of the organization who are in the PCA and who are continuing to linger in their lust/acting out in an unrepentant manner. In those cases, the local church should handle discipline as would be appropriate for any unrepented sin. There are others in Revoice, who, taken at their word in their video-taped talks, are seeking to encourage each other to be rigorous about their thought lives.
I think you’re assuming some things that are not established.
I’ve addressed the questions you raise and challenged some of the assumption you seem to be making here:
Resources On LGBTQ And Revoice
1. The question proper re Dr Johnson is whether a man, who self-identifies as homosexual/SSA is qualified for pastoral ministry.
2. A related question is whether it’s is proper for a Christian to speak of an immutable SSA identity. Such a position would be hard to square with any of the other commandments or even other violations of the 7th commandment. Might a candidate appear before Presbytery to say that he is immutably sexually attracted to other men’s wives, that is just the way God made him, that he’s tried to overcome this persistent attraction but he just can’t? I doubt that a presbytery would accept that account of things. What about someone who says, “I’m immutably attracted to children” or a candidate who says, “I’m immutably idolatrous. I’ve tried to stop being drawn to worshiping idols but that’s just the way God made me and there’s nothing to be done about it”? Of course no presbytery would accept such a testimony.
3. Is anyone questioning the sinfulness of heterosexual sin?
4. To your earlier point of accountability, a minister (TE) is accountable to his session, his Presbytery, and, in the case of controversy, to higher/broader courts. This isn’t a private matter that may be settled by appeal to private counseling. Johnson has publicly and repeatedly described himself as immutably “gay” (and SSA) and more or less challenged the courts of the church to do something about it. It’s a public scandal that must be addressed publicly. He’s seeking to redefine the standards of ordination and even the confessional doctrine of sanctification.
5. Were someone to say to Presbytery, “I’m an immutable gossip and there’s nothing to be done about” that person would be disqualified too.
6. Revoce celebrates gay culture. We can see what Revoice is by the people it excludes (i.e., those who have taken a traditional Christian view of homosexuality, those who have renounced their “gay identity,” e.g., Rosaria Butterfield et al).
7. Opposing the redefinition of the Christian sexual ethic is neither prudery nor Pharisaical.
Jesus only saves sinners. The question is whether Revoice/Side B is confessing that SSA is inherently corrupt (concupiscent) and corrupting?
Jeffrey Slenker said: “In a sense, we too sin against nature when we lust after any woman other than our wife.” That is incorrect. Such lust as you describe is definitely sin but the Bible doesn’t place it in the category of “unnatural”.
The following verses show the battle we are in, one that both of the links I referenced above would say is true of SSA or any other sinful tendency we have.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
1 Corinthians 9
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[b] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
See https://pastortimlecroy.com/2021/06/23/misconceptions-about-homosexuality-in-the-pca/ and https://www.semperref.org/articles/the-gay-threat-to-the-pca for strong arguments on why the word “immutable” might not express the position of Dr. Johnson or others on that side of the discussion .
The argument that Johnson only refers to himself as gay in the past tense is not persuasive. Johnson writes, “Jesus hasn’t made me straight. But he covers over my shame. Jesus really loves gay people.” The point of the CT article is that he is still SSA, i.e., he is still gay. That was the point of Johnson’s passionate (some might say angry) speech on the floor of GA. He’s immutably SSA. This is why he appeals to his conversations with the leaders of organizations that minister to those with SSA. No one, he says, knows anyone who was SSA who is no longer SSA.
We don’t have to guess at how Johnson self-identifies. He announced it to the world in the pages of USA Today:
That’s not past tense.
We need not perform hermeneutical gymnastics here. We need only open our eyes and pay attention to what is being said.
Dr Johnson seems to have been too lazy to pay attention to publicly accessible history: Sigfried Sassoon, Vacslav Nijinsky, John Meynard Keynes, and Lennox Berkeley were all ex-gays.
When people go to AA meetings, they may not have had a drink in 30 years, but they still make the statement “Hello. I’m Bob. I’m an alcoholic. It is their way of recognizing that they must be wary of themselves in that particular area, lest they fall. Since Dr. Johnson hasn’t ever acted on his attraction and since he has avoided pornography for many years, he is not actually indulging in lust or engaging the actual acts. If he were to persistently indulge in lust through pornography or if he were to commit the physical act, I think it would be a case for church discipline. If not, I believe he can encourage Christians struggling with SSA in a way we never will be able to, and can bring many seekers into the Kingdom. Despite our culture’s significant erosion in this area, we are not in danger of going that way.
Johnson has made this analogy but I don’t think it works.
1. Paul says that sexual sins belong to a distinct class of sins.
Paul treats alcohol abuse (drunkeness) as a sin but not as a sin “against his own body” nor as (v. 16) joining Christ to a prostitute.
2. I agree with Johnson that there is a formal analogy between a sex addict (e.g., a porn addict) and substance (e.g., drug) addiction. People often become addicted to porn and drugs for the same reason. Both begin as forms of self-medication. Both provide a temporary euphoria. I don’t think, however, that alcoholism is equivalent SSA. Again, nature is a real category that needs to be recovered an applied here. It is an abuse of God’s creation to get drunk. It is not sin, however, to drink alcohol. It is sin to want to have sex with people with whom one is not married or with people of the same sex. It is sin to have sex outside of marriage or with people of the same sex. The analogy with alcoholism breaks down. Further, the implied analogy that alcoholics are born or are immutably alcoholic is not true. It is not sin to take a drink. It is always sin to have same-sex attraction or to have homosexual sex.
3. I’m quite familiar with AA, since I grew up in it and learned the Lord’s Prayer in AA long before I ever attended a church. There are things about AA that I appreciate but there are serious errors in AA and the self-identification as an alcoholic has more to do with AA’s desire to retain control over members than it does with the truth. In truth, some abusers are, contra AA orthodoxy, able to drink moderately again. Some people can’t and shouldn’t.
I have argued that we ought to be able to say to one another in the church, “Hi, I’m Scott, I’m a sinner saved by grace” but when we describe ourselves, it should be by our sins. That is not our identity. We need to take seriously Paul’s declaration, “such were some of you.” Were is in the past tense. Paul doesn’t know anything about an immutable state of same-sex attraction or addiction etc. It’s the immutable aspect that is most troubling but the business of identifying one’s self thus as “Gay” or SSA or addicted is also highly problematic and the pro-Rejoice response, that this concern reveals a “higher life” or “second blessing” theology is just rubbish.
4. I responded to Johnson’s GA floor speech, where I first heard him make this analogy here.
As I wrote in July, 2019, we should be very skeptical of Johnson’s use of emotive language and therapeutic categories. Whatever use those categories might have they may not be used to leverage God’s Word.
5. Johnson testifies (as he did on the floor of GA) that he battles this desire constantly. He presents himself as heroic for not giving in and not having a same-sex relationship, a family etc. He said that he’s making a sacrifice for Christ. No, he isn’t. Not committing sexual sin or making unnatural relationship (e.g., a same-sex “marriage”) is no a sacrifice. That is what is expected for those who have been bought with the blood of Christ.
We do need to encourage Christians with SSA to die to sin and live to Christ. They need to embrace the promises of the gospel and the hope of sanctification, which means the gradual, gracious, little-by-little mortification of same-sex desire/attraction as it also means for heterosexual sinners mortification of illicit heterosexual attractions and desires.
Again, the question before the PCA is not whether Jesus loves sinners of all sorts or whether the church is open to sinners of all sorts but rather whether someone who confesses a persistent and confessedly immutable same-sex attraction, such that he describes himself as “gay,” is qualified for pastoral ministry.
The church is open to sinners of all sorts. It is gracious hospital for sinners but it has no business approving of sins or sinful habits or dispositions.
Is there just a lot of confusion about who overtures 23 and 37 apply to or is there a deliberate campaign afoot to make it seem like the PCA will be conducting witch hunts on the laity so that these overtures will be defeated?
The overtures only apply to PCA officers and officer candidates. All are welcome in the PCA to hear the gospel preached. There is a line of argument amongst some opponents that we’d be making the PCA unwelcoming to LGBQetc., but nothing can be further from the truth. By Scripture in 1 Ti 3 and Tit 1, eligibility for officership in Christ’s Church is strictly limited.
Bob Mattes: Are you sure these overtures apply to more than candidates? I was under the impression that there wouldn’t be any re-examination of current church officers.
Reexamination, no. But, its possible that O23 could be used to oust GJ if his book and USA Today article are taken seriously. Then again, we don’t need O23 to accomplish that.
Bob Mattes: I support overtures 23 and 37. However, even if they become part of the BCO, I see no scenario under which TE Johnson could be ousted given the makeup op his session, his presbytery, and the Standing Judicial Commission.
Bob – I agree. His session doesn’t matter in this instance since his court of original jurisdiction is the presbytery. There are approaches that could work at that level, but not for public discussion. Prayer is always our strongest avenue.
Bob Mattes: Do you know anything about the Missouri Presbytery? It is the absolute last court which would bring any charges against TE Johnson let alone any other member of that Presbytery.
Well aware. I participated in the TE Jeff Meyers case about a decade ago, testifying for the prosecution. Louisiana Presbytery was intractable with the Steve Wilkins case until the heat was turned up so high that Wilkins finally left the PCA. Not coincidentally, that presbytery no longer exists. I doubt that MOP will dissolve, but with prayer and God’s grace, the PCA will be successful in preserving the peace and purity of the Church. PNWP passed Leithart and the SJC let it ride by emphasizing procedure over doctrine in that case, but by God’s grace, Leithart had to leave the PCA when he tried to transfer to another presbytery. Taking the long-term view helps keep the blood pressure down. Ps 46:10.