Is the “Revoice” Conference LGBT+ affirming? Yes in the sense of identity and similar experience in dealing with the church and a definite no in some key relational and spiritual matters.
Lately I have experienced flashbacks of the closing days of Exodus International watching hardline ex-gay activists and other evangelical leaders on Twitter condemn a new organization called Revoice. Revoice President Nate Collins was an acquaintance during my last few years at Exodus. I appreciate his honesty and intellect. I am writing this because to hear the hard-line religious activists talk you’d think that Revoice was a liberal progressive affirming organization. After reading through their website, they are obviously not. The Revoice mission statement says:
To encourage, support, and empower gay, lesbian, and other same-sex-attracted Christians so they can experience the life-giving character of the historic, Christian sexual ethic..
Unlike traditional hard-line ex-gay ministries, it appears Revoice accepts the truth that we can be LGBT+ Christians and not have to denounce/renounce who we are as such. Even so, they also believe that sexual expression is limited to marriage and marriage is reserved for one man and one woman directed toward procreation. Outside of that “mixed orientation” covenant, the only option in a “historic Christian sexual ethic” for a LGBT+ person is to serve the church as a single celibate person. From the Revoice website (emphasis mine):
We 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. At the same time, we also believe that the Bible honors those who live out an extended commitment to celibacy, and that unmarried people should play a uniquely valuable role in the lives of local faith communities. Together, these two convictions constitute the “traditional sexual ethic,” because it represents the worldview that the Bible consistently teaches across both the Old and New Testaments and that Christians have historically believed for millennia.
Simply put, it’s clear Revoice still believes that LGBT+ sexual relationships are sinful. I have a feeling they would be reluctant to be that direct about it. Having had friendship with a number of the people involved with Revoice, I know that same sex sexual activity being sin is at the core of their beliefs even if it isn’t their primary focus. I once believed all of what is mentioned above. I lived 23 years as a celibate man. I am glad to no longer live under what I now consider a false religious behavioral mandate and expectation.
To continue from their website (emphasis mine):
In our fallen state, our desires do not accurately point us to what is good and will bring true happiness. Even so, neither are our desires fully corrupted. We remain drawn to the good, though particular desires can lead us astray; there are glimpses of true love even in the midst of corruption. Thus sanctification is, in part, an education of desire. And virtue—which Augustine called the “art of living”—helps us to strengthen our good desires, while turning away from temptation. So that, as the Holy Spirit works to renew our hearts, our desires are gradually reshaped as we follow the paths of love—of friends, family, and Christian community—that we were created for.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that Revoice is ex-gay ministry repackaged. They have definitely carved out their own space and voice. However, I would say it seems clear they have some same core beliefs that traditional ex-gay ministries do. They believe that “particular” desires need to be “educated” and “reshaped” in order to be truly happy. They do not embrace the fully affirming view that LGBT+ people are living as the sexual beings we are is a beautiful part of God’s creative intent for this world. Stewarding our desires is one thing, obliquely making the case that same sex sexual desire is something to reject, educate, reshape, and deny marriage is another; one that I reject.
While Revoice has a refreshing use of inclusive language and may be more effective at having actual conversations with LGBT+ affirming community, it is evident from their website that they are not fully affirming of the LGBT+ community. The inclusive language is great. Smiles and honesty are much better than pointy finger condemnation. Even so, Revoice is not fully affirming if they deny our marriages are spiritually valid covenants blessed by God. They are not fully affirming if they do not see the families we form as a result of our love reflect another aspect of God’s heart for creation. In a nutshell, they are not fully affirming of LGBT+ relationships if they consider our romantic and sexual lives to be outside of God’s will and should be brought in line with historic Christian teaching on these issues.
The “historic Christian sexual ethic” is the foundation on which a lot of horrible spiritual abuse, oppressive public policy, and social stigma has come from and is coming toward LGBT+ people. While I have an idea of how they will explain this, I won’t assume and look forward to hearing how Revoice will explain what they mean by that historic teaching being “life-giving.”
I am all for people believing whatever they want to believe and living out those beliefs as long as they are not attempting to force their views on others. If people feel the need to follow Revoice’s teachings as LGBT+, more power to you. While I don’t believe Revoice is as inclusive as their more conservative critics may think they are, at least in the Revoice realm it seems that people have a right to think for themselves.
I genuinely hope Revoice conference attendees have the freedom to question, examine their hearts, challenge if need be, but all ending up finding some answers for where they are at in their journey at the upcoming conference. I also hope their conference will continue to soften the hearts of the conservative Church toward LGBT+ people whether they ever fully affirm LGBT+ people or not.