The Nashville Statement, Revoice, and the PCA’s response

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” – Acts 17:11

It’s been some time since my last blog post, but in light of the recent adoption of an overture concerning sexuality and gender by the recent PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) general assembly, I wanted to share some thoughts.  Specifically, the general assembly adopted overture 4, which called for the assembly to “declare the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood’s “Nashville Statement” on biblical sexuality as a biblically faithful declaration and refer the “Nashville Statement” to the Committee on Discipleship Ministries for inclusion and promotion among its denominational teaching materials”

In proclaiming the Nashville Statement, its authors purport to “[serve] Christ’s church and [witness] publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture”.  They then state 14 articles, each of which affirms a statement about an aspects of sexuality, marriage, and gender and denies a contrasting statement regarding the same.  The Nashville Statement starts with orthodox scriptural teachings regarding marriage (namely union between man and woman that signifies the covenant love between Christ and the church), a call for chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage, and God’s creation of the male and the female who are equal in dignity and worth.  The Statement then makes various assertions about God’s purpose in creating two genders, role of biology in self-conception, implications for those with anomalous development of sexual organs, self-conception of homosexuals and transgenders, ability of homosexuals to live a rich life before God, power given by God to put to death sinful desires, and several other matters.  The statement can be found at:  This Statement has generated much controversy both within and outside the church.  Many outside the church have decried this Statement as yet another example of purported bigotry and intolerance by those in the church.  Within the church, many have approved it, while others have criticized the Statement as incomplete, false in parts, and/or divisive regardless of its veracity.

In this context, a gathering of gay Christians who purportedly adhere to orthodox scriptural teachings regarding sexuality has occurred for the past two summers.  This conference, called Revoice, purports 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 historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality”.  This conference was held at a historic PCA church in St. Louis last year, and it garnered both much praise but perhaps even more criticism.  The conference generated such controversy, in part, because it was held at a PCA church, a denomination that has steadfastly taught the orthodox teachings on sexuality, and because speakers included PCA officers and scholar (from Covenant Theological Seminary, a PCA seminary in St. Louis).  The controversy caused the president of Covenant and then the seminary itself to publicly distance itself from Revoice.  One critical aspect of the Nashville Statement that Revoice proponents objected to was Article 7, which states “WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”  For Nashville Statement proponents, a Christian’s identity should not be based on sinful desires and actions, while for Revoice proponents, a Christian’s identity can include all aspects of one’s experience, including those that could lead to temptation and sin.

In this context, the General Assembly of the PCA recently adopted overture 4, which squarely favors the views of the Nashville Statement over the views of Revoice.  There was a lengthy period of “debate” during which those for and against overture 4 made their cases.  One notable speaker was Pastor Greg Johnson, who recently came out publicly as someone who identifies as gay, and he gave an impassioned speech about his experience of struggling with same sex attractions and shame and ultimately finding redemption in Christ.  Nonetheless, the assembly agreed to adopt the Nashville Statement while setting up a committee to study homosexuality and transgenderism.  Christian publications immediately reported this as a victory for Nashville Statement proponents while the Revoice camp has expressed much disappointment and anger.

There is much that can be said about the merits and flaws of both the Nashville Statement and Revoice.  For the Nashville Statement, it bravely proclaims historic teachings about sexuality and gender in a hostile cultural environment, yet this Statement may also be infused with cultural biases that are not necessarily scriptural.  For Revoice, it admirably seeks to create a space for a group of people that has been ostracized in the church, yet it may do this by blurring the lines between sin and righteousness and adopting cultural values and conceptions that conflict with scripture.  I hope to address these and other thoughts about these two camps at a later time.

For now, I am mainly troubled that the General Assembly adopted overture 4 at this time.  By squarely putting its weight behind one side of this debate, the PCA is unnecessarily alienating brothers and sisters in Christ who love the Lord and are seeking to find and follow His will.  The Assembly’s adoption of the overture calling for a committee to study homosexuality and transgenderism shows that there is need for learning, humility, dialogue, and prayer about this topic within the PCA as well as the wider orthodox church.  If overture 4 is to be adopted, it should only have been done after such a period of discernment.  In adopting overture 4, the PCA has chosen to walk before it has appreciated the parts of its body needed for walking, as well as appreciating the counsel of the Head, namely Jesus.  I pray that this premature decision will not trample on those most vulnerable in the church and that the body will be aligned to the Head as the PCA waits for the Lord to reveal more fully His life and truth in this matter.

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6. Singlehood and Marriage – Reflections

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

– Genesis 2:20-25

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

– Ephesians 5:31-32

“Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.

– 1 Corinthians 7:25-38

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6. Singlehood and Marriage – Testimony

After a three week break from blogging due to work demands, I am happy to resume this journey!

From my earliest days, I was in some ways familiar with the concept of marriage as I grew up in a two parent home.  I did not know about the political or religious dimensions of marriage, but I knew that my parents were bound together in a permanent way and that I along with my sister were part of this unbreakable family bond.  I also knew that I had a father and a mother and that they seemed to have distinct roles.  While both of my parents had professional duties outside the home when I was a young child, they still had a traditional marriage in many ways.  My dad was the primary financial provider for the family, and he was the leader of our family.  My mom was the primary caregiver for the children, and she was the manager of most things in the home.  The complementary roles of my parents made sense to me, though I did not readily have access to other family and marriage models.  Some of my friends lived in single-parent homes, and I always felt fortunate that I had two parents and that these two encompassed both the masculine and the feminine.  I was able to receive emotional comfort and tenderness from my mom, while I was able to receive strength and initiative from my dad.  I was not privy, of course, to all the dynamics of the marriage between my parents, but I saw that they complemented one another, loved one another deeply, and were devoted solely to one another as family for a lifetime.  Yet not everything was rosy at all times.  My parents argued a fair amount and on rare occasions, there were some minor physical altercations.  Much of it seemed to stem from differing visions of their lives and the family.  My mom was solely devoted to the nuclear family and found it frustrating that my dad seemed to have other priorities, whereas my dad also valued his relationships with friends and extended family as well as his career and found it frustrating that my mom seemed to demand so much from him.  Witnessing this discord was certainly the most distressing part of my early childhood years, as it seemed to threaten the unity and continuity of the family unit that was my entire world.  Yet my parents’ love for one another and their children won out, and the passage of time and the waning of youthful energy allowed them to settle into a peaceful middle space where they were less demanding of their own needs and adopted more of the needs of their spouse.  They were still their own being with distinct personalities and interests, but somehow they had become more of a harmonious union that functioned as one in many ways.  Through all the ups and downs of their marriage, my sister and I continued to be their joy and pride, who made their union more perfect.

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5. Sexuality – Reflections

 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”  That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

– Genesis 2:23-25

““I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

– 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Sexuality most broadly understood is the experience of the reproductive capacity internally and interpersonally.  There are many dimensions to this including the biological, the psychological, the interpersonal, and the spiritual.  The biological dimension stems from the universal principal among living organisms that reproduction is necessary for the continuation of species.  Notably, reproduction can occur either sexually or asexually, with more complex organisms including humans reproducing sexually.  Sexual reproduction has numerous advantages over asexual reproduction, including genetic diversity that allows a specie to adapt better to the changing environment, such as new diseases and predators.  Sexual reproduction also necessitates social interactions, which in many species have become highly complex.  The end result of sexual reproduction is the birth of a new offspring that is a union of the genetic material from the male and the female parents, which in many species is cared for by one or both of the parents for a period of time.  The biological imperative to reproduce has resulted in many inborn traits that foster the procreation of the next generations.  The sexual drive is one of the most powerful impulses in all species, which impels organisms to seek out and mate.  Species such as the male praying mantis and salmon literally give their lives in obeying their internal reproductive drive.  Sex, however, serves more purposes than simply reproduction in many species.  For instances, in several primate species, sex, including homosexual behavior, is used to create social bonds and to promote peace, as well as seemingly just for mutual pleasure.  Furthermore, sex is also used individually for pleasure, as masturbation is frequently observed in many species including primate species.

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5. Sexuality – Testimony

I was a sexual being long before I consciously knew anything about sex.  After all, I had a normal physiological and biochemical development in my mother’s womb and emerged with normal male genitalia and the accompanying hormonal influences.  From as far back as I can recall, I enjoyed the sensations related to having male genitalia and especially enjoyed the sensations produced by touching the genitals.  I had no conception of my genitals being associated with sex and procreation, as my initial ideations about them related to urination and the male gender.  But I knew before I could speak that touching my genitals produced pleasurable sensations that also tended to reduce stress and anxiety.  I would occasionally get an erection while doing so, but being prepubescent, this activity of course never led to an orgasm.  I somehow picked up from my parents in those early years that my genitals were private, so as this understanding took hold, I would refrain from touching my genitals in the presence of others.  Even so, my childhood discipline was not so rigid, and my parents would occasionally observe me touching myself and would tell me to stop doing so.  On one particular occasion when I was about 7 years old, I was touching my genitals under the cover of my blanket and had an erection while doing so.  My mother came into the room and inquired about what I was up to and proceeded to remove the blanket and see my activity and my erection.  She had a nervous laughter and told me to stop touching myself.  I was embarrassed about being discovered, but the embarrassment was not as high as it would have been several years later when I entered puberty and understood the sexual function of my genitals.  Even before I learned about these functions, I deduced that the penis could be inserted into the vagina given their anatomy, but I did not know what the purpose or end result of such an act would be.  Thankfully, I had a safe childhood and did not have to deal with learning about such things first hand.

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4. Friendship – Reflections

“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”

– 1 Samuel 18:1-4

“I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.”

– 2 Samuel 1:26

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

– John 15:12-15

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

– John 19:25-27

Friendship is a type of human relationship that has great significance from both secular and spiritual perspectives.  Generally, friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people, and it is ideally characterized by features such as empathy, honesty, altruism, compassion, enjoyment, trust, vulnerability, and forgiveness.  Developmentally, friendships follow parental bonding and precede pair bonding.  The nature of friendships becomes deeper as a person’s internal and social capacities grow throughout childhood and beyond, though other factors can cause the depth of friendships to regress.  In the first stage of development, friendships are focused on shared activities and geographic closeness.  The depth of friendships grows progressively as the second stage is characterized by loyalty and commitment and the third stage is characterized by shared values, interests, and ideas.  As people establish pair bonds, friendships become more limited as the pair bond and family responsibilities take preeminence.  Additionally, vocational responsibilities limit the time available to maintain friendships during our working years.  As these pressures ease in older age, friendships again become more significant in people’s lives.  Friendship is in some sense the foundation of all positive human relationships, as healthy family relationships and romantic relationships have a core of friendship even as they have additional dimensions. The benefits of friendship are many, including psychological and biological health benefits.  The positive psychological effects of friendship are familiar to most people, as the characteristics of the ideal friendship noted above all improve the sense of well-being, and psychiatric illnesses such as depression and anxiety are often exacerbated by lack of close friendships.  Friendships have also been shown to improve physical well-being, as heart disease, infections, and cancer are all associated with loneliness and lack of friendships.

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4. Friendship – Testimony

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

– Proverbs 17:17

In my last series, I recounted the various manifestations of attractions, both non-sexual and sexual, in my life.  These attractions had the primary effect of forming the various human bonds in my life.  The attractions toward my parents and sister formed family bonds.  The attractions toward others formed friendship bonds.  Prior to entering grade school, my friends mainly consisted of my older sister and her friends, most of whom were girls, as I was inseparable from her.  Friendship in those early years was based mostly on common play activities and did not involve deep intellectual or emotional bonding given my limited faculties in these areas.  As such, there was little discrimination in whom I became friends with, as the main criterion seemed to be availability and willingness to engage in supportive play.  As I entered grade school, I began to develop more friendships with other boys as the gender distinction was societally reinforced, and I began to appreciate my similarity with other boys including temperament and interests, such as boldness and playing video games and sports.  Yet, I continued to have some friendships with girls, which were less numerous and less intense than with boys, as I was drawn to certain aspects of their temperament and interests too, including sensitivity and cooperation.  In these pre-pubescent years, I felt relatively free to develop friendship bonds with peers, as the bonds were always platonic and based simply on shared interests and personality, and I developed many close friendships including a male best friend I spent much of those early years with.  These friendships gave me a sense of belonging and allowed me to develop my inner and outer social self that formed the foundation of the man that I am today.

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3. Attractions – Reflections

“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

-Philippians 1:7-8

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”

– Revelations 21:2

In my prior post, I discussed how attractions of various sorts, including non-sexual and sexual, manifested in my life.  As most broadly defined, attraction is a force that draws one object towards another object.  Attraction underlies the very existence of the known universe, as manifested in laws of physics such as gravity, strong nuclear force, and electromagnetism.  Of course, for the purposes of this blog, the attraction force we are concerned with is interpersonal attraction, but I believe the universality of attraction reveals much about the nature and the intent of the Creator of all.  This post will explore the nature of interpersonal attractions from psychological and biological perspectives and will consider theological and practical issues concerning attractions.

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3. Attractions – Testimony

“Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him….”

– 1 Samuel 19:1-2

“My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool. His cheeks are like beds of spices,mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory,bedecked with sapphires. His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable.”

– Song of Solomon 5:10-16

From my earliest days, I was a social being, drawn to the company of other humans.  While I don’t have any memory of it, I imagine myself as an infant being drawn to the warmth and comfort of my mother’s breasts and later to the affection of my parents’ embrace.  But from the earliest memories in my toddler years, my human attractions were discriminating.  I was drawn to the sensitivity, emotional warmth, and vulnerability of my mom and to the strength, bravery, and humor of my dad.  Conversely, I took a dislike to brashness, emotional distance, and stoicism, which sometimes manifested in these same parents.  I also found my parents to be physically attractive in a naive child-like sense, and once told my mom that she was the prettiest woman in the world, far prettier than any woman I saw on TV.  As my social world expanded and as my inner social self was developing, the human features that attracted me were refined and solidified.  Among the many children of my age I interacted with, I found myself most drawn to those who were kind, sensitive, intelligent, humorous, and trustworthy.  Physical appearance was not a major factor in me being drawn to another child, but I noticed that certain of my peers were more physically attractive as deemed by me and other children and adults.  Making friends was a function of opportunity and affinity, as I interacted with all the children who happened to cohabit the space I was in but felt affinity towards the children who had the features I valued.  As mutual affinity was shared and explored through developing friendships, my attraction to them would concomitantly increase.

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2. Born Again – Reflections

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

– Apostles’ Creed

No one indeed believes anything unless he has first thought that it is to be believed.

– Saint Augustine

In the first post of this series, I recounted how I was born again by God’s work of grace. But what does this mean with regard to what I believe in? The entirety of the belief system is, of course, complex, and my beliefs generally align with my denomination (PCA), which adheres to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the Westminster Larger Catechism. The Apostles’ Creed quoted above is a shorter statement of faith but one that most Christian churches have adhered to throughout history. For the purposes of this post, though, I will limit my discussion to what I consider to be the most salient aspects of my faith. I will then discuss why I am entirely convinced of the Christian faith.
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