The upcoming “Revoice Conference” raised eyebrows when it declared that its sole aim was to “gather together with other gender & sexual minorities’ to ‘experience a new kind of gospel community.’” The conference, which will be hosted by Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri, is due to take place at the end of this month and features a whole host of “LGBTQ-affirming” ministry leaders.
In a Sunday interview on Faithwire’s “Crosspolitic” show, the hosts interviewed a pastor who is at the center of the controversial conference – Greg Johnson. Greg is the lead pastor at Memorial and will play an integral part in hosting the event. The Crosspolitic hosts, Pastor Toby Sumpter, David “Chocolate Knox” Shannon and Gabriel Wrench took issue with the mission statement posted on the conference website which defined its sole aim as: “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.”
In a wide-ranging discussion about sin, sex and the theology that governs it, the hosts challenged Johnson on his glaring inconsistencies as he attempted to reason-away his unfettered support embracing a homosexual identity.
“Same-sex attraction is a disordering of friendship,” pastor Johnson told Crosspolitic, as he sought to define his terms on what homosexuality actually is. But Sumpter immediately took issue with that statement. “It seems to me that it is not a disordering of friendship but a disordering of the heterosexual orientation that God has given every human being,” he rebutted.
The conversation moved on to the fascinating, and the highly contentious issue of sexual orientation in the context of Christian theology: As a “disordered” form of human affection, is it a sin? And if it is, why is it being encouraged at conferences such as Revoice? As Sumpter pointed out, there would be no such conferences held in support and “affirmation” of those who class themselves as “racist” or those who embrace their addiction to pornography.
Could a conference be held to address these other sin-issues? Absolutely – but, in accordance with the basic tenets of the Christian faith, any gathering that sought to elevate the gospel would be compelled to also challenge the sinful behavior. So, why is there such a different approach to homosexuality? Why is it seen, by many Christians, as an accepted identity rather than an affliction?
These and more questions were addressed throughout the podcast episode.
Well, Greg explained that much of the debate should be shifted towards a discussion around the individual make-up of our human nature and the nuances that make us who we are. Indeed, he argued that much of the “queer” culture will be continued into eternity, as those who experience same-sex attraction bring the uniquely-made aspects of their character into the kingdom of God.
CrossPolitic: "Pastor Greg Johnson, whose church is hosting the Revoice.us conference, joins us for a very challenging conversation. We hope this hard conversation is a blessing to the Church, and to Greg, who was willing to join us knowing the disagreements. The Revoice.us conference mission statement 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." We maintain that this mission is unbiblical and represents a pastoral failure to shepherd the people of God." WATCH:
Posted by Faithwire on Sunday, July 15, 2018
“The vision of the end of the age is that every people group on earth bring their cultural treasures into the kingdom as a tribute, to offer them to God,” Johnson explained, before qualifying that “everything unclean is taken out.” Again, Johnson appears to admit that, as is the case with many sinful behaviors, we must seek to get free from sin as we are discipled and as we strive to become more like Christ. “When Christ calls you, he calls you into a changed life,” the pastor added, before stating that homosexuality “has to be mortified like any other temptation” – so you have to ask, why is he hosting a conference that affirms homosexuality as an identity?
Indeed, the conference website indicates that some highly contentious workshops will be held, including one which is titled: “Redeeming Queer Culture”? and another called “Navigating Life With Your LGBT Child.”
Toby, an ordained minister, vehemently disagreed with Johnson’s views on the matter and believes the premise of such a conference is dangerous.
“You are inviting these children into a place where they will be absolutely unsafe. You are creating a place for them where they will identify with gay culture and identity,” Sumpter declared. “You are making them victims and targets for the broader culture that is ready and willing to grab them.”
He continued: “I know that you mean well, but what you’re actually doing is creating a space for people not to leave that behind, but a space where they can stay there, sort of repenting but still holding on to this way of life. It’s absolutely wicked what you’re doing.”
“I know you’re trying to hold these things together but they are not compatible. It needs to be a clear articulation that [homosexuality] is shameful. And then, in that context, call these people to complete repentance, healing, and washing of the gospel.”
Johnson responded by challenging Sumpter to call out all the “overeaters” in his church, as well as listing several other “sins” which he believes should pulpit airtime as the homosexuality issue seems to.
“I want you to compare them to pedophiles because they are doing something with their mouth and their body which is disordered. I want you doing that with slander,” the pastor stated.
Greg goes on to say that he would encourage same-sex attracted people to engage in “sexless friendships” and non-romantic relationships that will help them as they deal with homosexual temptation. “I agree with you,” Sumpter responds. “My concern though is that you’re not being clear on what it doesn’t mean. You need to come out and say that it does not mean that two men are cuddling on a couch, holding hands or having long embraces. It does not mean taking a vow and having children.”
“By not being clear about what this doesn’t mean, you are infecting real friendship. I want to preserve good friendship.”
As the conversation progresses, it becomes clear that pastor Johnson does not believe that individuals can repent of same-sex attraction, despite admitting that it is a “disordered” and ultimately sinful tendency. “You can repent of a lust but not an attraction,” he told Crosspolitic.
Johnson admitted that homosexual sin is “inappropriate” but accepted it was an “abomination” when pressed.
“Are you allowed to say that word?” Toby asked, sensing pastor Greg’s sense of unease “Yeah, that’s actually in the Bible,” Johnson snapped back, before adding that “there are a lot of sins that are also in the Bible.”
“Mortify that lack of gentleness,” Johnson instructed.
The end of the interview brings some intriguing answers to the whole “identity question” raised by the Crosspolitic hosts. The question is: should we be identifying with something that we have been freed from? I.e. if you have struggled with racist tendencies in the past, but have since repented and been healed from those views, should you still call yourself a “racist.”
In the context of homosexual orientation, pastor Johnson clearly believes that it is an immovable identity that must be embraced. His thinking around this was illustrated when he was asked about his own testimony. In a candid reply, Johnson said: “I am a pornography addict.” But when he was asked whether or not he still consumes pornographic material, he noted that the hadn’t done so for some 15 years.
“So, you’re not an addict,” the hosts declare in response.
“Oh, but I know what it does inside of me,” Greg noted. “I know that if I look at one image, I will look at a thousand.”
He added: “15 years in, I’m still a pornography addict.”
That line says so much about Johnson’s mindset towards those struggling with same-sex attraction, sexual desire and homosexual behavior.
“Greg that’s what it means to be set free by the blood of Jesus and that repentance is happening,” says host Gabriel Rench. “That’s what sanctification is, man.”
“I’m sober, but that impulse has not gone away,” Johnson responded. “I am still killing it.”
“Absolutely, the hosts agree. “Amen.”
“But it would have been insulting for Lazarus to still consider himself a dead man after he’d been raised from the dead,” added Knox.
With the two sides unable to come to any true agreement or consensus on the difficult topic, Sumpter issued an unprecedented plea to Pastor Johnson:
“It’s a real shame that you’re an ordained minister and you are not able to make some very important distinctions. You have explained the gospel in part and it sounds humble, but what you’re doing is actually extremely arrogant. When Jesus saves us, there’s still a sinful nature that stays within us, but the Bible has no problem declaring that there are good and evil men.
You said there’s no such thing as good and evil. That’s not true. Throughout the Bible, there are good men and there are evil men. Yes, God only saves evil men and he makes them good. And yes the sin nature remains in us that must be mortified and killed until glory. But you have become, in Christ, his righteous people – not of ourselves, it is only a gift of God.”
I want to end by just saying thank you very much. But I want to ask you to go to your elders and I want you to ask them to cancel the conference. I don’t think you understand what you’re doing, and I’m telling you this is doing inconceivable harm to your church, the people that are going to attend and to the body of Christ here in this country.”
An absolutely fascinating and important conversation.
Make sure to check out the CrossPolitic podcast every Sunday, 7 pm live on Faithwire’s Facebook Page.