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Into the anthropological chaos

The moral turn of Revoice

Attendees at the 2022 Revoice conference in Plano, Texas Photo by Todd Vician

Into the anthropological chaos

In the days after the Nashville Statement was launched in 2017, several friends contacted me to ask why I had not signed it. I had a number of reasons for not doing so, none of which had anything to do with having changed my position on the issues the statement addressed.

As a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, I subscribe by vow to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. I have yet to come across a contemporary moral issue that cannot be addressed using the positive teaching contained therein. Thus, some years earlier I declined to sign a statement against child abuse, not on the grounds that I am actually in favor of such abuse, of course, but simply because I already affirm via the Westminster Standards an ethical position that by implication makes my position on the matter clear.

That reason for me not signing Nashville still holds, though that should not be read as a criticism of anyone whose conscience led them to do so. I am also a believer in Christian freedom on such issues.

Another reason for not signing, however, no longer applies. That was my concern in 2017 that the dialogue with those now dubbed “Side B” would be prematurely foreclosed by such a document. “Side B” activists identify as LGBTQ in orientation but say they are committed to refrain from sexual sin through LGBTQ behaviors. “Side A” in this scheme refers to those who claim a sexual orientation as LGBTQ and also engage in LGBTQ sexual relationships and behaviors.

My concern in such situations is always that if the other side is not talking to my side, with whom will they be having conversations? As Christians, we want to persuade those we think might be moving in the wrong direction, not simply cut them off. I was not convinced in 2017 that the situation yet warranted that move.

It is hard to find one high-profile critic of the movement who was taken with real seriousness by Revoice advocates.

With the reports of gender and trans ideology making its way firmly into Revoice 2022, the time for dialogue seems now to be over. (See this excellent report from WORLD Magazine.) Subtle debates about the nature and moral status of same-sex attraction are one thing; the arrival of preferred pronouns, of which the use of the plural they/them for an individual is the most ridiculous example (excepting the royal “we” of the British monarch) is well beyond subtlety. Ordinary Christians might be excused for not following the ins and outs of discussions of sexual concupiscence, but the arrival of gender confusion is something all should be able to grasp.

Sadly, this development is predictable. My hope in not signing Nashville was that dialogue would continue and that those heading down the celibate gay Christian path would hear the concerns of those who think that such is a pastorally wrong move. Observing from the sidelines in the years since, it strikes me that dialogue can only take place when opponents treat each other as people of good faith. My knowledge of debates surrounding Revoice and Side B is not exhaustive, but it is hard to find one high-profile critic of the movement who was taken with real seriousness by Revoice advocates. Any criticism seems to have been derided as stupid, as failing to understand the subtleties of the case, as deliberately misrepresenting Side B, or simply as hateful.

Indeed, when the Presbyterian Church in America proposed changes to its Book of Church Order last year, the immediate response from high-profile Revoice advocates in that denomination was not (as it should have been, given their ordination vows) to listen to the concerns of the General Assembly and engage in a time of self-reflection, but rather to denigrate the characters of the men who passed the motion as dupes of “Southern pietism” and galvanize supporters to defeat the proposals in the presbyteries.

Whether all those who voted for the amendments at the assembly did so in good faith is beside the point: The speed and ferocity of the reaction immediately turned the ecclesiastical process into a straight fight between factions. The idea that anyone might have concerns with Revoice and Side B because of genuine and loving Christian concern over their impact and implications was no part of the equation.

And now we have the apparent arrival of gender ideology into the mix. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I predict that even this will be blamed on the conservatives and the traditionalists because they were intransigent and not loving enough to the first iteration of Revoice. But whatever the exculpatory rhetoric used, one thing is now clear: to stay with Revoice is not merely to legitimate more than subtle distinctions about sexual identity. In truth, it is to lend support to the anthropological chaos currently gripping American society.

Carl R. Trueman

Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.  Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

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