“Do not be conformed to this world.”
The apostle Paul’s inspired exhortation to the church in Rome has never been more relevant or pressing for the Presbyterian Church in America. A growing number of our ministers and churches are conforming to the world’s values, attitudes, and ideals, especially as it concerns homosexuality and the social gospel. The future doesn’t look good for the PCA. Frankly, the future looks pretty bad, and I’m not alone in my assessment. Far from it. A considerable number of respected leaders inside and outside the PCA have expressed similar sentiments. Indeed, many are asking, “What’s going on in the PCA?”
It doesn’t take a theologian or a church historian to recognize that many of our churches are headed in a wrong direction. The steady growth of theological progressivism is as obvious as it is troubling. Progressivism is a fast-moving slippery slope in the PCA, ultimately leading to the idolatrous mire of theological liberalism; yes, the kind of theological liberalism found in the remnants of the denomination that we left in 1973. Theological liberalism is where our current progressive trends will lead us if left unchecked in our church courts. It’s happened before, and we are fools to think that it cannot or will not happen again—even in our beloved PCA.
Over the years I’ve listened to many senior saints from America and Scotland describe their (former) mainline denomination’s lamentable slide into theological liberalism. The stories sounded eerily familiar. They recounted how a pervasive and dominant cultural hermeneutic overshadowed the pulpits, and how a form of hyper-contextualization undermined the mission of the church. Plain biblical preaching, teaching, and discipleship were viewed as inadequate, out of touch, and irrelevant. The new paths of ministry replaced the old and worn paths. The primary question in the minds of ministers was not “What does the Bible say?”; but rather, “What will the people think?” Pastors were reluctant to speak forthrightly about controversial doctrine that could damage the church’s credibility in the culture. They were embarrassed by the Bible’s teaching on gender roles, ordination, human sexuality, abortion, and eternal damnation in hell. Is history repeating itself in the PCA? I hope not. But many are afraid that it is.
Unless the PCA—from her pulpits and courts—decides not to conform to unbiblical views on human sexuality, social justice, and critical theory, it will be impossible to avoid a denominational split. The inescapable fact is that confessional Presbyterianism and theological progressivism make terrible roommates. While they share many common beliefs and goals, living in the same household is not a long-term and viable option.
In the following (two-part) article, my aim is to demonstrate that theological progressivism has taken root and is quickly growing in the PCA. First, I will consider the influence of Revoice and its goal to normalize “Side B” gay Christianity in our churches. In a follow up article, I will explain how progressivism is taking root through unbiblical teaching on social justice and various aspects of critical theory. I will try to show that unless things change, unless we stop conforming to the world and accommodating the culture, we will continue to descend rapidly towards theological liberalism. It may take five years to get there, it may take fifteen. Either way, if things don’t change, the new PCA will eventually become the old PCUSA that we departed from almost a half-century ago.
It grieves me to write this. I love the PCA. It has been my ecclesiastical home for over twenty years. I’ve cherished the relationships fostered over the years, including those with brothers with whom I don’t always see eye-to-eye. But things must change; orthodoxy is being negotiated. My earnest hope, therefore, is that our teaching and ruling elders would be better informed on what is taking place in our churches and presbyteries, recognize the dire need for reform and church discipline, and get more active in the church courts.
Revoice & the Normalization of the Gay Christian Pastor
In 2018 a conference called “Revoice” was born. It was hosted by Memorial PCA in St. Louis, Missouri. The mission of Revoice is:
To support and encourage gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other same-sex attracted Christians—as well as those who love them—so that all in the Church might be empowered to live in gospel unity while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.
The conference promotes and supports what has come to be referred to as “Side B” gay, celibate Christianity. The inaugural conference caused much controversy, not least because of its erroneous view of sanctification. Positively, the conference provoked helpful theological reflection and dialogue on tough issues facing the modern church. Throughout church history the rise of error often leads to the crystallizing of sound doctrine. Although Revoice was not a PCA sponsored event, many were concerned over the support it received by PCA pastors and churches. Now in its third year, a significant number of PCA pastors remain sympathetic to Revoice and its advocacy of a settled gay (celibate) Christian identity.
Rev. Greg Johnson, senior pastor of Memorial PCA in St. Louis, has been a keen supporter of and participant in the Revoice movement. He is also at the center of the Side B gay Christian controversy in the PCA. In the spring of 2019, Rev. Johnson wrote an article for Christianity Today in which he conveyed both his testimony and present challenges as a gay (celibate) ordained PCA pastor. The article was one of the most widely read CT articles of the year, and it was celebrated by no small number of PCA teaching elders. Two months later, on the floor of the PCA General Assembly, Rev. Johnson gave a passionate and highly personal speech against adopting Article 7 of the Nashville Statement on Human Sexuality. The speech was received favorably by a significant number of PCA teaching and ruling elders. Indeed, breaking with the ecclesiastical decorum of the General Assembly, there was a considerable round of applause when Johnson finished his floor speech. The jubilant response indicates a growing solidarity with Johnson’s views in the PCA.
A Problematic Moniker
The “gay” Christian moniker is deeply troubling. Statement 10 of the PCA’s new Ad Interim Report on Human Sexuality states:
We affirm that those in our churches would be wise to avoid the term “gay Christian” … even if “gay,” for some Christians, simply means “same-sexattraction,” it is still inappropriate to juxtapose this sinful desire, or any other sinful desire, as an identity marker alongside our identity as new creations in Christ.”
Sin should never define a Christian believer. Period. Christians repent of sin; they are not named by them. The Bible says:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9–11)
I’ve learned over the past two years, however, that many in the PCA aren’t too bothered by the “gay Christian” moniker. Influential pastors and leaders have expressed to me personally that while they are uncomfortable with the term “gay Christian”, and would not use it themselves, they would not criticize those who would use it, since it isn’t always clear why they are employing the term.
No Church Discipline for Gay Pastors?
In January my presbytery (Lowcountry Presbytery) voted to send an overture to the 48th General Assembly, asking that the Presbyterian Church in America amend The Book of Church Order (BCO),chapter seventeen such that a new clause, BCO 17-4, be added which reads as follows:
Men who self-identify as a “gay Christian,” “same sex attracted Christian,” and/or “homosexual Christian” shall be deemed unfit for ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America.
This addition to the BCO requirements for ordination would further protect the PCA from Side B gay Christianity in our churches. Two other PCA presbyteries voted to approve similar overtures.Surprisingly—indeed, disappointingly—our presbytery voted to withdraw the overture in our fall 2020 meeting. To be sure, some voted to withdraw because they believe there is a better way to handle these concerns with candidates for the ministry. Others, however, voted to withdraw Overture 7 due to concerns that current PCA ministers who self-identify as “gay” would immediately come under the initial stages of church discipline. But isn’t that the point? In response to this concern, I asked, on the floor of presbytery, if we’ve really come to the place in our denomination where an ordained minister should not be disciplined for self-identifying as a “gay Christian?” For many progressives in our ranks, that’s precisely what they think.
The influence of Side B gay Christianity is steadily growing in the PCA. This week it was brought to my attention that Hope Church (PCA) in Randolph, New Jersey has an openly gay youth director who is active in the Revoice movement. Sharing his thoughts on Twitter, he wrote:
I spent years cowering to a homophobic church culture that taught me my life was only valuable if it molded to heteronormative standard (that frankly don’t even reflect scripture). But I’m done, and I won’t let it happen to the queer kids.
On November 18th of this year, he wrote on Twitter:
Months back, a family in my church found out I’m gay, in a pretty awkward way — their son said some pretty homophobic things in front of me (while we were out to lunch), and I said uhhh hey man you know I’m gay right? There was backlash from the family. They reached out to my pastor while I was away, to complain about it — a gay man as the youth leader. My pastor insisted on handling it himself, and told them that he considers me ‘central to God’s work at Hope Church.’
Is this the future of the PCA? Does his presbytery approve of this? Does anyone really think that this manifestation of progressivism in the PCA will end with Side B gay Christianity? Rosaria Butterfield states:
Over the years, we have seen many Side B Christians defect for Side A, declaring that God sanctions gay unions. And I predict that we will see many more defectors, since the theology behind Side B is biblically untenable. How can any of us fight a sin that we don’t hate? Hating our own sin is a key component to doing battle with it. At the same time, we need to separate ourselves from the sin we hate. This can be a very challenging issue for a Christian who experiences SSA, an issue that becomes exceedingly more challenging if one assumes the social identity of “gay Christian.”
By highlighting the above examples, my intention is not to minimize or ignore the ways in which the church has, at times, done a poor job of evangelizing and ministering to individuals who struggle with homosexual desires. We all have much to learn in this area. Nor is it to disparage Christians who struggle with homosexual sin. While sin no longer reigns in the hearts of true believers, the remnants of sin still remain in true believers. Rather, it’s to make the point that a corrosive progressivism has clearly infiltrated the PCA. Revoice doctrine and the new “gay Christian” identity is a clear departure from biblical orthodoxy. It does not belong in the PCA and will inevitably lead to the inclusion of practicing homosexuals in our churches. Again, we would be fools to think that what’s happened before will not happen again. We would be fools to ignore the apostle Paul’s sobering admonition in 2 Timothy 4:3:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.
A Faithful Response
How should PCA pastors, elders, and churches respond to rising tide of theological progressivism in the PCA? How should we respond, in particular, to the erroneous views of Side B gay, celibate Christianity?
The first thing we must do is pray. We must cry out to God for His Word and Spirit to foster biblical conviction in our hearts, and a modern Reformation in our churches. We must pray for a clear return to the old paths of gospel ministry and discipleship, even as cultural pressures increase. We must pray for stronger faith in the sufficiency of the gospel to transform our lives, and liberate us from any notions of a settled lifestyle of sin. We must pray for a renewed confidence in the ordinary means of grace—powerful preaching, faithful administration of the sacraments, and blood-earnest prayer—to mortify the sin that remains in our lives.
Secondly, PCA pastors must show the courage of their convictions by preaching the plain truth of Scripture on the topics of marriage and sexuality. Dear pastor, when is the last time you taught or wrote on the topic of biblical sexuality? Does your congregation know what you think about Revoice and the influx of Side B gay, celibate Christianity in our churches? If ever there was a time for PCA pastors to preach, teach, and write on this controversial subject, it is most definitely now! [The footnotes in this article are meant to serve as a resource for you and your session’s further study]. If we do not teach our congregations (including our covenant children) the biblical foundations of marriage, family, and sexuality, the culture most definitely will. The secular catechism on human sexuality is being taught almost everywhere we turn.
Thirdly, it is important that our churches preach the truth about human sexuality with a heart of loving compassion. Sexual perversion is rampant in our society, and in the church. Most are ignorant or confused about God’s design and purpose for sex. It is important, therefore, that we teach and preach the unvarnished truth on these matters, but with compassion, and an unmistakable gospel focus. Our crucified and risen Savior gives grace, mercy, and forgiveness to those who’ve been caught up in sexual sin, and respond with Spirit-wrought faith and repentance. Jesus is a gentle Shepherd who leads His wandering sheep home.
Fourthly, and finally, teaching and ruling elders must get active in the church courts. We must be good churchmen. We must, for instance, be willing to do the unpleasant work of church discipline. Do we love our denomination enough to root out theological progressivism? It’s a question we should all be asking.
 Romans 12:2a. Paul’s use of the word “world” or “age” [Gk. αἰῶνι] refers to the present world’s ethos, values, and attitudes. Christians are commanded to be “nonconformists” as it relates to this present evil age’s ungodly patterns of thought and behavior. We are exhorted to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” through the preaching of the Word of God. We are called to imitate our heavenly Father, to be holy as he is holy (c.f. Eph. 5:1; I Pet. 1:14–16). This emphasis on personal holiness is lacking in many of our churches.
 See Donald Fortson’s 2011 article, “The Road to Gay Ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA)”
 Critical theory is helpfully defined by Neil Shenvi and Pat Sawyer in their TGC article entitled “The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity.” They write that modern critical theory “views reality through the lens of power. Each individual is seen either as oppressed or as an oppressor, depending on their race, class, gender, sexuality, and a number of other categories. Oppressed groups are subjugated not by physical force or even overt discrimination, but through the exercise of hegemonic power—the ability of dominant groups to impose their norms, values, and expectations on society as a whole, relegating other groups to subordinate positions.” Read the entire article here:
 Memorial PCA has also received criticism for allowing a theatre collective called Transluminate to regularly perform on their church campus in a building they call “The Chapel.” On the Transluminate website it states: “Welcome to the Collective, those of us who see that gender, sexuality, and romantic orientation are not binary … Art cannot change the world. Art can change people’s minds and people change the world.” The session of Memorial PCA launched “The Chapel” as a ministry of the church. You can read more about it here: and https://www.reformation21.org/blog/jesus-the-prostitutes-and-transgender-outreach.
 The following is an excellent article explaining Revoice’s unsound teaching on sanctification. See also
 The Gospel Reformation Network hosted an excellent conference in 2019 responding to the Revoice doctrine entitled “A Time to Stand.” The speakers included Kevin DeYoung, Al Mohler, Dave Garner, and Ligon Duncan. You can access the lectures here:
 On a closed PCA pastor/elder Facebook page, with almost 3000 members, there is considerable sympathy expressed towards Revoice doctrine.
 The article may be read here:
 Article 7 states: “We affirm that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture. We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.” You can access the full Nashville Statement here:
 Johnson’s speech may be accessed here: . The following day Rev. Johnson commented the following on Twitter: “Last night NS (Nashville Statement) won the battle, but they will lose the war. We had a seat at the table. That’s new.” The “we” in his tweet presumably refers to all Side B gay Christians in the PCA. Rev. Johnson later deleted the tweet. He cited his love for the PCA, and apologized for the confusion it brought.
 While overall the Ad Interim Report on Human Sexuality is excellent, it holds no constitutional authority in the PCA. The full report can be read here:
 Carl Trueman, in his excellent and groundbreaking book entitled, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Crossway, 2020), explains how we’ve come to a place in our culture where sex is not just something that a person does, it is who a person is. It’s a central part of their selfhood and identity. To question sexual sin, therefore, is to question the self-worth of the sinner. The “gay Christian” moniker reinforces the notion that you cannot ask someone to stop being who they are.
 Westminster Presbytery (overture 16) and Gulf Coast (overture 23).
 On November 7, 2020 the PCA youth director was interviewed with his “straight” roommate (a CMA youth director) on a ninety-minute Revoice webinar focusing on the personal dynamics of their friendship. At the hour-and-thirteen-minute mark he expressed his ongoing romantic feelings towards his roommate. You can access the Revoice webinar here:
 Rev. Fred Harrell planted a PCA church in San Fransisco in the late 90’s. After significant numerical growth, the church left the PCA with new views on women’s ordination. They eventually fully embraced homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. The slippery slope is no fiction. The church’s website may be accessed here: . See also Rosaria Butterfield’s brief article, “What is Wrong with Gay Christianity? What is Side A and Side B Anyway?” You can read the article here:
 An excellent ministry for those struggling with sexual sin is Harvest USA. You can access their website and many excellent resources here:
 The Central Carolina Presbytery produced an excellent study report on the 2018 Revoice conference. You can access it here:
 In the Lowcountry Presbytery’s Overture 7 (recently rescinded), it states: “Whereas the Christian’s identity is rooted in Christ so that he is a “new creation” in Him, his identity cannot be defined by sexual and/or any other desires or lifestyles that are contrary to Holy Scripture; for the Christian there is a clear distinction between self-conception (“this is who I am”) and remaining indwelling sin (“this is what I must daily mortify”) (cf. Rom. 6:1–14; 1 Cor. 6:9–11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:1–5).