Revisiting Revoice: The Need For This Discussion

Revisiting Revoice: The Need For This Discussion

This article is part 1 of a 5-part series entitled Revisiting Revoice

Danny Akin’s recent hiring of Karen Swallow Prior at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary sparked newfound concern regarding Prior’s signing of the Nashville Statement and subsequent endorsement of the Revoice Conference. I have conferred privately with Dr. Prior and Dr. Ascol regarding everything I care to say about the personalities and politics involved in this issue, and was forthright about my position on social media. However, that approach was insufficient in staving off significant inquiry as to where I am regarding the Revoice Conference and its theology, so I am grateful for the opportunity to clear that up, and contribute something I hope will be helpful to the discussion.

From a political standpoint, we must ask what relevance, if any, the Nashville Statement and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolution On Sexuality And Personal Identity have to the Revoice Conference and its theology. What must SBC seminary and/or undergraduate professors affirm and deny regarding the aforementioned documents and/or Revoice and other similar conferences, websites, and movements? Does it make a difference whether these professors are formally trained in theology or not? Does it make a difference what they will be teaching? Do the seminaries and colleges agree with one another on their hiring, firing, and placement practices with regard to this hot button issue? Seeking to answer such questions is a task that is well above my pay grade, but I am not sure how those in charge of our six SBC seminaries can get around making a good faith effort to answer them. SBC congregations will undoubtedly seek clarity on these matters, and not be satisfied with the confusion that could result from inconsistent practices.

In days to come, the theology of Revoice, and other similar theologies, will become more of a pressing issue, not less of one. Already the conservative Presbyterian Church of America is embroiled in controversy over how it will respond to Revoice, having engaged in lengthy and passionate debate on the floor of its 2019 General Assembly on whether or not it would vote to commend the Nashville Statement. The motion passed, but not by much, and the divide between those in favor and those opposed fell out along generational lines. This issue is not going away, and our SBC seminary leadership needs to be clear from the beginning and not at all ambiguous as to how they will proceed with regard to such topics. This is not the time to be mealy-mouthed about such an important topic. The time has come to be clear. Such is only fair to the professors, students, and church members of the SBC. What one says about the Revoice conference is not merely a pastoral or cultural issue (although it is both of those), but an issue of the sufficiency of Scripture and the gospel as they pertain to sanctification. The purpose of this post is to leave the aforementioned personal and political questions to whom they may concern and focus instead on the underlying theology of the Revoice Conference, particularly in relation to Article 7 of the Nashville Statement.

The ‘Need’ for Revoice

The topic of homosexuality is prevalent in society. Society speaks to the topic, Scripture speaks to the topic, and the Church speaks to the topic, so nothing short of special pleading would preclude others from speaking to the topic as well. Support for same-sex marriage is growing rapidly in the United States. Following the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, a majority of white evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29, “approve of legalizing same-sex marriages.” How can we say we are faithfully ministering to people who are confused about the sinfulness of homosexuality or homosexual practices when we want to shift the focus to other sins whenever the topic of homosexuality is brought up? Shifting the focus from the sinfulness of same-sex attraction (hereafter SSA) and the solution found through faith in Christ is no way to minister to others in need of him.

The call to love our brothers and sisters through encouraging their desire to lead a biblically-faithful life and the possibility of doing so even through marriage are nothing to which any Bible-believing Christian should object. We want to help those who fight the sin of SSA in their lives. Given our cultural context, faithfully ministering to Christians who struggle against SSA is one of the most important areas the Church should be focused on today. The Revoice Conference bills itself as helping to fill this need. As with any conference, Revoice features a variety of speakers, and not all of them adhere to the particular nuances of theology others wished they would. One could, in theory, endorse such a conference without endorsing every speaker or claim of the conference, understanding the conference to be meeting a need insofar as it helpfully ministers to those who fight temptation to a particular sin. This ministerial aspect of Revoice has led noteworthy voices in evangelicalism to endorse the conference, serve on its board, and even praise the conference for approaching SSA from a traditional Biblical sexual ethic. The trouble with this type of thinking is that Revoice does notactually approach this topic through a traditional Biblical sexual ethic, and hence the conference does not helpfully minister to those who fight temptation.

Certainly every movement has some ‘good’ in it. Every movement has some ‘truth’ in it. We are called to be discerning; yes. But to endorse part of a conference seems to be the same as endorsing the whole, especially when everything at the conference is systematically related. Revoice does not really meet the needs it sets itself forth as meeting because it approaches them apart from the local church, apart from Scripture (whether construed in terms of sufficiency, proper interpretation and application, or both), and with a faulty understanding of how the gospel functions in sanctification. The leaders of Revoice are not so much Christians struggling against SSA as they are conceiving of themselves in light of SSA. Key to understanding the division over Revoice between (often) well-meaning Christians is the distinction between SSA as an inherently sinful desire and SSA as a significant secondary feature of a Christian’s identity. This state of affairs leads us to take a closer look at the contours of SSA in biblical perspective.

This article is part 1 of a 5-part series entitled Revisiting Revoice

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Chris is a pastor and teacher at Elkton Baptist Church in Elkton, Tennessee and head of Theology at Legacy Bible College. He is married to his wife Kerri and they have 3 children.
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