Arkansas Baptist News
ST. LOUIS – An LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) Christian conference – set for July 26-28 in St. Louis – is raising eyebrows within the evangelical community.
Revoice founded by Nate Collins a former instructor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Ky. said the conference is designed to encourage LGBT Christians to “live faithfully.”
Collins who earned a doctorate from Southern Seminary has stated publicly that while he experiences same-sex attraction he is committed to his faith and the biblical view of sexuality. Collins has been married to his wife Sara for 13 years and has three young sons.
According to the Revoice website the conference is “supporting encouraging and empowering gay lesbian same-sex-attracted and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.”
“The Revoice conference has raised issues that are becoming more and more urgent among Christians: How do we think and speak about same-sex attraction especially when it is experienced by professed believers?” said Tim Challies a Christian author and blogger.
“The conference is advocating the position that sexual orientation is a core part of human identity so that we can speak of ‘gay Christians’ – Christians who profess faith in Jesus Christ while maintaining a homosexual orientation or identity (but also a commitment to celibacy).”
Revoice is being hosted by Memorial Presbyterian Church and will feature Wesley Hill assistant professor of Biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry and Christian author Eve Tushnet a Catholic author blogger and speaker and Collins as keynote speakers.
“This is a conference for Christians who experience same-sex attraction and may identify as gay but they are celibate because they don’t believe that sex between two people of the same sex is acceptable” said Gary Johnson senior pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church. “All the presenters believe that God created sex to be in a marriage between a man and a woman and they all believe that the Christian identity has to be built on Christ.”
The conference has workshops that support different genders sexual minorities and parents of LGBT children and workshops to equip pastors church leaders and allies.
Workshops include “A Parent’s Unexpected Journey: Navigating life with your LGBT child” “Building Justice Bridges: How a missiological approach shifts our posture and reaches LGBT people” and “Heartbreak and Celibacy.”
“The purpose of this conference is to provide encouragement because it is often a lonely struggle. These are often believers who feel out of place wherever they go” said Johnson. “Non-Christian gays and lesbians will look at them as repressed or in denial because they are not engaged in homosexual relations. Christians will often look at them as freaks because they still struggle with ongoing same-sex temptation.”
A lot of the controversy over the conference surrounds the terminology used on Revoice’s website according to Thomas Littleton of Birmingham Ala. a professed Southern Baptist evangelist and outspoken critic of the conference.
“My concern is that when we started to hear same-sex attracted Christian or gay Christian in the church it became a gateway language” said Littleton. “The problem then becomes the slight distinction between ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B.’”
Littleton said Side A represents those who are fully affirming of gay marriage homosexual relationships and practicing homosexual Christians. Side B represents the leaders of Revoice and many evangelicals who state that Christians who are attracted to the same sex must remain celibate or be in a mixed-marriage orientation – like Nate Collins who has been married to his wife for 13 years he said.
“This is migratory language. It isn’t built on a fixed position of Scripture but it is dependent on a person’s continued advocacy acceptance or adherence to celibacy” Littleton explained. “It’s a very thin line from Side B which Baptists and conservative Presbyterians may accept to Side A.”
Johnson noted that the language used on the website is newer and may confuse many evangelicals. A person who identifies as gay or LGBT are usually promoting homosexual sin or gay marriage but Revoice is not normalizing the LGBT lifestyle.
“The audience for the website is not evangelical pastors” said Johnson. “The audience for the website is the gay man who became a Christian. He has left his gay partner he is learning to give up sex and he is learning to discipline his mind. Now he is wondering how to thrive in the church.”
Collins uses the newer terminology to describe his sexual attractions which he believes to be fallen.
“It is a temptation that [Collins] is actively trying to put to death in order to be faithful” Johnson said.
Other Christians worry that this conference is pushing the gay agenda into the church.
“This is the last thing people who are pushing the gay agenda want” said Johnson. “They do not want Bible-believing same-sex-attracted Christians to get together and encourage one another in sexual faithfulness.”
Other Christians believe that the conference is attempting to tailor the Bible to the whims of culture.
“We have to be faithful to the Word of God as black and white that we can come as we are to repentance but we can’t continue to hold onto desires that are leading us to sin” said Littleton. “We wouldn’t want a conference for pedophile Christians. We wouldn’t want a conference for sadomasochist Christians. It doesn’t make since that this one particular thing that we all agree is a sin would then be given a special status in the church.”
Many people are silently struggling with same-sex attraction in congregations and this conference is a way for them to thrive said Johnson.
“In a sex-saturated culture it’s a powerful testimony when somebody who is same-sex attracted gets up and says ‘I don’t need to have sex to be fulfilled as a human being. I have Jesus. God has forgiven my sins and has given me eternal life and he has given me hope’” said Johnson.
He added that this conference itself is a powerful testimony and answers the accusations that Christians hate people in the LGBT community.
“We do believe homosexual behaviors and homosexual lusts are sinful” he said. “How are we going to answer accusations unless we can point to people in our own congregations who are experiencing the love of God’s people and who are thriving in the love of the church and being faithful despite being attracted to the same-sex?”
Contact Sarah Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.