How could something this counter-cultural have gained so much momentum? . . . Too queer for some traditional Christian critics and too ascetic for more socially progressive LGBTQ people, Revoice seemed like an anomaly to almost everyone.
Wesley Hill is one of the godliest, most thoughtful men I know. His own experience realizing and coming to grips with his sexuality so closely mirrors my own. I am so grateful for his voice that has helped thousands of sincere believers reconcile their unchosen orientation with the faith that holds onto them so strongly. “Being gay in traditional churches, up until very recently, meant always having to ask whether one had prayed enough, hoped enough, hungered enough . . . Homosexuality, I continued to believe, is sinful insofar as it represents a thirst for acts that Scripture forbids, but I came to see that it is at the same time—like St. Paul’s thorn—an occasion for grace to become manifest. Exploring that grace was the point of the Revoice conference. It was the first theologically conservative event I’ve attended in which I felt no shame in owning up to my sexual orientation and no hesitation in declaring my sexual abstinence.“
What we really want to talk about is where we go from here.
“Revoice was denounced before even starting, from both sides of the culture wars. . . . The [Nashville Statement] embodied a posture towards the conversation about gender and sexuality that was pastorally insensitive and missiologically counterproductive . . . The Nashville Statement offered a strong ‘no’ to gay identity and behavior, but didn’t offer a positive vision and vocation, a ‘yes,’ to those Christians beyond the avoidance of certain behavior and labels.”
“We declare that something is more valuable than the kind of sex and romantic love we naturally long for. We declare that genuine Christianity should change and shape your whole life. . . . The most significant and unique aspect of Revoice was that it gathered several hundred L.G.B.T. or same-sex attracted people, who accept a fairly difficult and countercultural path of obedience, and let us loose to pray together and learn from one another. . . . Same-sex love and gay identity is not reducible to the sin God forbids. . . . Christian teaching on sexuality is more likely to be received if coupled with a more robust notion of love, desire and friendship, a deeper theology of celibacy for lay Christians and a more serious appreciation of community.”
Revoice “was one of the most worshipful, healing and powerful experiences of my life.”
“How is it that we worship in the belly of the Church that taught us to hate ourselves? How is it that we cling to the Mother that told us we were the unwanted step-children?”
“Is it possible that gender and sexual minorities who live lives of costly obedience are themselves a prophetic call to the church to abandon idolatrous attitudes toward the nuclear family, toward sexual pleasure? If so, then we are prophets. . . . In choosing to die to their natural desires, celibate gay Christians set a powerful example of costly discipleship. . . . I can think of few more beautiful and compelling witnesses to the power of the gospel than the faithfulness of Side B LGBT Christians.“
“Conference main sessions offered practical and biblical paths forward for Christians who’ve often been told of bleak futures. Messaging cast vision of hopeful futures and opportunities to say ‘yes’ to abundant relationships with Christ and others in the church. . . . There is a place in the church and in God’s great plan for LGBT+ individuals and that holiness is worth pursuing, even in the face of unjust suffering, because God is just. . . . In Christ, our sin is weighty, and simultaneously, our shame is removed and our redemption in Him covers every aspect of life.“
Hill’s message put a blunt end to any worries by critics that Revoice might slip into theological compromise.
“Argument against identity-theory seems to require going beyond Scripture in a way that the argument about marriage does not. . . . There is something valuable to some individuals about the freedom that comes from naming oneself as gay which enables and motivates practices of chastity in their lives. . . . Evangelicals are hostile because they are inconsistent, and so cannot say ‘no’ in this instance with grace because they have not said ‘no’ to themselves on these same questions.
What sorts of scars will gay Christians bear because of their faithfulness to Scripture on the question of marriage, sexual acts, and sexual desire — and what response to such faithfulness must we give?
“Peter’s declaration of allegiance to Christ contains the very thing that holds any of us near to Christ despite sin, suffering, and opposition: ‘You have the words of eternal life.’ . . . I’m convinced that Revoice is a work of the Spirit because those in attendance are seeking to submit themselves to the instruction of the Spirit as given in God’s infallible Word. . . . More than any talk or workshop, what made Revoice special was the community.”
“A lot of these people are clinging to Christ because Christ is all they have.”
“Can evangelicals and Catholics and everyone in between stop and recognize — nay, marvel — that 400+ people traveled from all over the world to unite as one Body and put Jesus before their sexuality — indeed, before all else? . . . We are choosing not to be united by some fallen aspect of our hearts but by how we choose to respond to that fallenness. . . . I appreciated putting lament in a larger context. Not in a perpetual ‘woe is me’ state but as a necessary movement toward hope. . . .
“There’s something uniquely powerful about singing songs that speak about ‘trust’ and ‘sacrifice’ and ‘the sufficiency of Christ’ when you know that everyone you’re singing with empathizes with this particular cost of following Jesus. We know what it means to deny ourselves, and we know that our only hope for remaining faithful is by fixing our eyes on Christ. . . . I just wanted to spend an entire day walking around telling everyone how thankful I was that they existed and were here. The entire place radiated love and joy that gave me confidence I didn’t know I needed. . . . Feeling seen is so important, and I did feel seen during Revoice.”
By the end of Revoice, I had nothing but hope! I have not felt so secure in my faith in a long time.
“To see all these people who had worshiped and praised our God for years, for decades, in churches where they didn’t know any other gay people who were trying to surrender their lives to God, and who now could worship surrounded by hundreds of people who understood what they’d been through–oh my gosh, you guys, it was amazing. So beautiful.”
It’s so important to get to know other gay people. As you begin to love and admire them, and see them as imago Dei, you start to trust that you yourself might be loved by God and made in His image. You begin to know that God loves in a way that isn’t abstract or dutiful; you learn that He can delight in His gay children, because you do. This is a gift Revoice gave to so many isolated or suffering people.
- We owe a lot to those who have come before us.
- We’re not waiting anymore.
- We’re ready.
- We have much better things to do than argue with you.
Revoice felt like an oasis in the midst of the desert, a safehouse in the midst of war. We stand bravely in a cultural moment where sexual gratification is king, and we proudly give glory to a King who is greater, who made us for so much more. And we are despised for it. By our own and by the world.
- Revoice shifted the Christian conversation on homosexuality from the negative to the positive.
“Revoice opened up the possibility of a life-giving pathway for sexual and gender minorities to explore, one characterized by calling instead of hiding.”
2. Revoice reframed the Christian mindset toward homosexuality from one dominated by fear of sin to one elevated by hope in Christ.
“Jesus does not combat shame by rewriting the rule book,” Wesley Hill said, “but by removing condemnation and liberating sinners to a new way of life.”
3. Revoice elevated the way LGBT+ Christians think about themselves, from a people characterized by deficit to one characterized by grace.
“Gay Christians . . . [are] givers of grace to a Church that lacks it.”
Christians can’t afford to go on speaking death to those for whom Christ lives.
Gabriel Blanchard’s “The Technique of Pardon”
“One thing that caught my attention was how often a measured and (I believe) godly anger was expressed towards the homophobic words, actions, and policies that have damaged so many of us . . . [The anger experienced at Revoice] was different because it was reasoned, temperate, even calm—equity is passion acting in lucidity, as Charles Williams might repeat. And, startling though it may be to say so, I believe that an anger of this kind is very often an important element in forgiveness. . . . How, then, are we to approach forgiveness, if it isn’t just letting things slide?”
“That is why we are given the terrible warning that if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses: not because the Lord will withhold it, but because we cannot pick and choose how our relationships will work; we must work on one basis or the other, law or grace, debt or gift. And if we insist on the former, we shall have it—though we probably won’t like it when we get it.”
“To the extent that the idea of rebuking someone is attractive, to that extent we are probably approaching it in the wrong spirit.”
“People who don’t view their relationship through the prism of marriage are enabled to love others more deeply and more intentionally without sexual jealousy. In our experience, people in these relationships are far more likely to engage in platonic physical touch or healthy emotional intimacy with someone else besides their partner. This is so important to combat against loneliness and resentment. . . . Since Kyle and I aren’t married, we have the freedom to readily make others a part of our chosen family. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity that Christ is calling us to – to have deep, abiding spiritual kinship with other believers. Christ elevated obedience to him as the basis for kinship, not biological relation. . . . What we hear is that we make them uncomfortable because we’re so queer, and that their feelings are more important than our commitment.“
Joe Miner’s Reflections on Revoice
“God wasn’t asking for me to be straight, but rather, to seek God’s will for my life. This paved the way for me to come to terms with my sexual orientation, however, it wasn’t until Revoice that I actually felt convicted of using this kind of speech to discuss my sexual orientation. . . . I think queer people have a much better grasp of what it is to be hospitable because so many of us have suffered so much. It is a truly beautiful thing to watch healing love sprout from the difficult pasts and presents of many queer people.
“It wasn’t until Revoice that I seriously considered the idea that the things that weigh me down the most about my sexual orientation have almost nothing to do with me being attracted to guys. It completely boils down to either the responses to my gayness or human sin struggles we all face.”
“This is a conference full of celibate gay Christians, all who have chosen celibacy out of a deep desire for community. If there was ever a group of people to be dependent upon for hospitality, this would be it. . . . Coming together with all of these beautiful people during times of worship was simply phenomenal. . . . Together, we laughed, cried, were angry, and felt liberation. We shared in one another’s heartaches and victories, adding each lovely soul to our chosen families. . . . It’s truly awe-inspiring to watch so many people who have been abandoned and abused by churches, families, friends, etc. come together to embrace who they are as children of God. . . . Although I hadn’t met anyone at the conference beforehand, leaving them felt like leaving old friends. . . . This was only the beginning of a beautiful story that is being written in all of us.”
“I’m a man struggling to believe that Jesus is the one, the only one that can meet my desire in the way that it is designed to be met. . . . My heart searches for that person who will love me and take care of me. The sad reality however, is that I already have someone who is that person. I am deeply loved with a scandalous, yet beautiful love that does not condemn me. Instead this perfect love takes me with all my filth and unfaithfulness. . . . This conference served almost as a recommitment to a life of sexual chastity and sacrifice in order to follow Jesus. . . . I cried most of the worship sessions. Actually, I cried most of the weekend. God really engaged some deep places in me through Revoice, including my shame and pain.”
“To publicly take a stand like this is to invite conflict. Sexual pleasure is a god of this age who hates to be denied. . . . Here were people who were staring in the face a life without fully expressing sexual desires that might not go away — because they wanted to put their Lord first. . . . The grief and pain and hope and fidelity in the room of around 400 people was weighty and almost tangible. Multiple times I felt a squeezing in my chest and tears leaking from my eyes. . . . To sit and stand with people who look like me and who live where I live, to see them act with such courage, caught between the condemnation of the world and certain misguided sections of the church who can’t recognize what a gift we have in ‘side B’ Christians — I felt so privileged to be able to catch and absorb some of that courage.”
“I was unprepared for the amount of freedom, openness, and love that I experienced at Revoice . . . Many times throughout the weekend I found myself teary-eyed and choked up, not because I felt stressed or anxious, but rather because for once in my life I found myself in a space where I felt fully known, seen, and loved. . . . Revoice awakened a deep-abiding hope within me.”
This movement is real. . . . We have gifts that we can use now and no one can stop us. God sees us and is with us.
“Oh, the worship! . . . I forgot how much I missed singing hymns and deeply theological songs with others to God . . . People who live in the default’ often have no idea how it feels to not be there, and sometimes the Lord has to raise people up from the marginalized to shake others out of their comfort zones. . . .
“The biggest places where people are butting heads is trying to fit the conclusions of Side B into a philosophical scaffolding that was built with a different understanding of what family, commitment, and sexuality are. . . . Often the only place for LGBT Christians in the church is in the shadows or blending in or pretending that nothing is ‘different.’ . . . Take a look at the idolatry going around surrounding the family and marriage for example. All it does is create a two-tier version of the faith, where ‘real’ Christians are those who are married with church, while others are simply in a ‘season of life’ getting ready for that graduation – as if being single is not a vocation or a calling in itself. . . .
“It’s only in the context of community, of God’s Household, that the personal, individual marks of sanctification can really take root and grow. You can’t expect people to cling firmly to Christ when the general mentality and practice is that they are monsters with an agenda to tear down the work of God. . . . A large part of the problem is that current Christian subculture treats marriage as the highest form of love, while treating celibacy/singleness (unsustainably) as ‘the gift of not needing deep relationships and personal intimacy’ or as a waystation to get filled up and fitted for marriage, rather than a beautiful calling and vocation of its own.”
Henry Wasonga Abuto
Okay! I’m a little late to the game but for those who are interested, I finally finished writing about my @revoiceus experience! #Revoice18 @joeminer_ @Ben_R_F @orthohufflepuff @NateCollins @wesleyhill @danielrstarke @AubreyHolloman @TravelingNun @DavidLeonGill @GreggWebb pic.twitter.com/GGHZzpkCpt
— Henry wasonga Abuto (@henryabuto) August 13, 2018
“Even from my closet God can use me to encourage people on their journey. . . . I realized how much internalized shame . . . Letting someone get close to me scares me because I end up hurt or they end up hurt or it’s just generally unhealthy or people get so paranoid that it will be unhealthy before it even is that the friendship is just too hard. . . . Wounds need to air out in order to heal, but man it stings.”
“As interesting as all the measurable elements were at Revoice, the heart of the conference was in the intangibles, the tone, the feeling. . . . The tone was one of respect, reverence, honor for God the likes of which I have not seen in years from a gathering of sinners-become-saints. I do not exaggerate when I say that the fear of the Lord was tangible at every gathering, like an expectation, like a curtain. . . . There was a microcosm of the Kingdom of God . . .”
- I know that God has plans for all people, and that his purposes for LGBTQ people is a beautiful one.
- I know that the Spirit of God is present in men who are attracted to men, and women who are attracted to women.
- I know that the call to follow Christ costs everything.
Praise on Thursday felt like a birthday, Lament on Friday felt like a funeral, and Hope on Saturday felt like a wedding.