The fact that the session views as “attacks” the criticism that Memorial Church and Greg Johnson have received, since hosting the 2018 Revoice conference, is very telling. It’s telling because it reveals the session’s mind set as being highly defensive of its position, instead of being open to counsel from Christian brethren. It also shows why Memorial’s session has not moved from their theological error despite all their prayer and fasting.
We have read the report that the congregation of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, on November 18, 2022, voted by 92% to withdraw from the PCA. This was recommended by their session and agreed to by their pastor, Greg Johnson, who indicated that he will be leaving with the congregation.
The article noted that the session informed the congregation that their recommendation was coming “with a mixture of sorrow and hope … after fifteen months spent fasting, praying, waiting, consulting and listening.” The reason for withdrawing, the session explained, was “continued attacks” from within the denomination which were distracting the church from its mission.
The session’s statement is troubling to me. They claim to have spent fifteen months “fasting, praying, waiting, consulting and listening,” but still seem to have ended up with the same erroneous views as the ones they started with, namely, approving and promoting Revoice ideology in the church. Where is the repentance for, not only introducing the sinful impurity of Revoice into the PCA, but also violating the principle of maintaining peace in the church, by creating years of conflict trying to justify themselves. All their praying and fasting seems not to have had the corrective effect it should have had. Could that be because what they were praying for was not the will of God?
The fact that the session views as “attacks” the criticism that Memorial Church and Greg Johnson have received, since hosting the 2018 Revoice conference, is very telling. It’s telling because it reveals the session’s mind set as being highly defensive of its position, instead of being open to counsel from Christian brethren. It also shows why Memorial’s session has not moved from their theological error despite all their prayer and fasting. I believe that on this particular error, their minds are locked into what Paul describes in Romans 1 as truth suppression, where they’ve become futile in their thinking.
Critics have not been on the attack, but rather have been seeking to persuade Johnson, his session, Missouri Presbytery, and any others holding similar views, by speaking the truth out of love, in an effort to halt the slide into liberalism and return the PCA to the truth. There has been a noticeable movement in recent years of PCA slippage downward in a progressive direction. This has been led by progressives in the PCA who take an approving stance toward homosexuality, gender identity and other such priorities. Their support, even celebration, of Revoice is proof of that.
The Bible commands us to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), which is what critics of progressive views and actions are seeking to do in the present conflict. However, you can’t speak the truth in love, without having the truth. Truth comes first, then you can speak it in love.
Progressives reverse the biblical sequence when they, in loving concern for homosexuals, seek support in Scripture for teaching that agrees with their pre-conceived beliefs. Matthew Vines’s book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, is a case in point. Note that starting with homosexuality, Vines seeks to show biblical support for it. He argues that homosexual orientation and committed same-sex relationships are consistent with a “high view” of the Bible and evangelical Christianity. I believe he is badly mistaken about that. There simply is no biblical teaching supporting the LGBT agenda; the reverse is true. Revoice doctrine on homosexuality is constructed to meet the need; but being constructed opinion, it isn’t biblical, and it isn’t true, objectively speaking.
PCA progressives are simply repeating and extending the same discredited biblical arguments as Vines did in their efforts to justify the Revoice movement, and in their opposition to conservative efforts to restore the PCA to biblical soundness, after some serious slippage in recent years.
Progressives appear to be post-modernists. As such, they have a fluid, subjective view of truth and reject the concept of absolute truth. They receive the Revoice doctrine subjectively as “their truth” even though it’s been refuted objectively as false. Francis Schaeffer used to distinguish objective truth from post-modern, subjective truth by calling the former true truth, in contrast to the false constructions of “my truth” or “your truth” or “their truth.” The post-modern view is aptly foreseen by the prophet Isaiah (59:14) as truth stumbling in the streets, and by Daniel (8:12) as truth cast to the ground.
Thus, when progressives seek to speak the truth in love to homosexuals, they are speaking “their truth” to homosexuals, not “true truth.” You can see the big problem here for progressives, because it’s never loving to speak falsehoods to someone to whom you are trying to express loving concern. It’s like quoting Ephesians 4:15 to say: “speaking falsehoods in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
Obviously, that’s bafflegab. It’s perverting to God’s Word and actually unloving to homosexuals. Yet that is what progressives get by starting with what they think is loving concern for homosexuals and then looking for supporting Scripture truth, which they can’t find because it isn’t there. They have to resort to post-modern hermeneutical gymnastics to construct their own truth. Hence, unsound Revoice doctrine.
The real sorrow here is that Greg Johnson and the elders of Memorial Presbyterian Church seem blind to the realities of Scripture, and bent on continuing to pursue the destructive course they’ve been on. Since they have refused to repent and desire to persist in error, it is no doubt best all-around that they withdraw the PCA.
Douglas B. Ostien is a member of Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in Chestnut Mountain, Ga.