A “Concluding” Action on Revoice 18?

By Scott Edburg | March 8, 2022

Earlier this week, byFaith Online published an article entitled SJC Concludes Action on Matters Related To Revoice 2018. In that article TE Larry Hoop states, “this concludes the matters that have been before the SJC related to Revoice 18 involving TE Greg Johnson, the Session of Memorial Presbyterian Church, and Missouri Presbytery.”[1] This statement summarizes the determination of the Standing Judicial Commission’s (SJC) ruling on the three cases concerning the revoice movement and Side-B homosexuality (Investigation into the views of TE Greg Johnson, Revoice 18 conference at Memorial Presbyterian church, and the request to assume original jurisdiction over the TE Greg Johnson case).

It is true that the SJC is a commission that acts on behalf of the General Assembly and functions much like the Supreme Court in the United States. The Book of Church Order (BCO) states this concerning the SJC’s work: “in the cases committed to it, the Standing Judicial Commission shall have the judicial powers and be governed by the judicial procedures of the General Assembly. The decision of the Standing Judicial Commission shall be the final decision of the General Assembly” (BCO 15-5).[2] With that said, there is still more work to be done – and more actions to be taken – in the courts of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) regarding the Revoice controversy.

Mending the Controversy

The work before the PCA is substantial and demands careful attention. There are at least three actions that can be taken to help mend the current division in the PCA: follow the SJC’s recommendation, amend the BCO, and lead the church as churchmen.

Following the Standing Judicial Commission

First, Missouri Presbytery (MOP) should follow the “Amends” laid out in the SJC report. The SJC has called on MOP to “hold a new hearing” (BCO 43-10) that focuses on the following matters:

What steps must MOP take to make clear to the broader Church the errors that were identified in Presbytery’s various investigations with regard to some of the teachings at Revoice 18, particularly with regard to Theological Judgments 2, 3, and 5, and what steps must MOP take to fulfill its responsibilities to protect the peace and purity of the broader Church under BCO 11-3, 11-4 and 13-9(f) in light of those errors?[3]

The SJC argues that Theological Judgments 2, 3 and 5 of MOP’s report found error within Revoice 18, but declined to act upon that error. The SJC states, “MOP unnecessarily restrained itself by the incorrect criteria for review that it opted to follow in evaluating the teachings of Revoice 18. Consequently, it did not take adequate action with respect to the errors that it had identified.”[4] The SJC has requested MOP to address the following Theological Judgments:

“Revoice 18’s use of the terminology in question, though confusing to some and potentially unwise, was not a grave and serious doctrinal error” (Theological Judgment #2).

“We concur with the CIM’s judgment that the evidence was such that this question as to whether a ‘gay beneath the gay’ exists could not have been judged to be a key teaching of Revoice, but continues to have the potential for becoming a grave and serious error if it begins to play a more central role, and thus we exhort those involved with Revoice to consider our position on this matter” (Theological Judgment #3).

“We concur that i) celibate SSA believers face complex barriers in developing friendships with people of the same gender and that, ii) Christians must labor to empathize with this difficulty and that, iii) it was unwise and hence an error of judgment rather than an error striking at the vitals of religion for Revoice leaders to be entertaining publicly the possibility of celibate partnerships without more careful boundaries proposed and that, iv) TE Johnson adequately warned about the dangers of these type of friendships in his own Revoice 18 talk.” (Theological Judgment #5)[5]

The SJC recommends that MOP utilize the AIC report on Human Sexuality to help protect the peace and purity of the church by acknowledging where the “statements of some speakers at Revoice 18 may have differed from the propositions in that Report.”[6] MOP, commendably, took action to protect the peace and purity of Memorial Presbyterian Church by alerting the congregation to erroneous beliefs promoted at Revoice 18. Now, they must act in a similar manner by recognizing the errors of Revoice 18 to the broader church with hopes of maintaining the peace and purity of the Church.[7]

Amending the Book of Church Order

Second, the PCA should take steps to amend our BCO. Presbyteries have already begun to submit new overtures to add a paragraph to BCO 16 on qualifications for office. Some might wonder whether an amendment to our constitution is even necessary. Is an amendment necessary to help calm our present divide and tensions? Is it necessary to address the very real and legitimate concerns of a large percentage of PCA officers? The answer is a resounding yes. An amendment that is clear, concise, and consensus-building will help to mend our current division and intramural tension. The officers of the PCA must grant such amendments serious consideration at the 49th General Assembly in Birmingham, AL.

Leading the Church as Churchmen

Third, officers of the PCA should lead the church as churchmen. Dr. Charlie Wingard states this about being a churchman, “A churchman’s commitment begins, but does not end, with the local church. He cherishes the church’s doctrine, guards its well-being, and promotes its work locally, regionally, and globally.”[8] Officers are called to serve when asked and needed by their courts. Officers must take the meetings of their courts seriously because they owe it to our God. Each pastor in the PCA has vowed to carry out all the duties of a pastor (BCO 21-5). Such duties include being involved in the courts of the church. Churchmen do not sit on the sidelines grumbling about the state of the church. They actively do the work of the church in the courts of the church. They are well-versed in the fundamentals of parliamentary procedure, well-read in the materials for discussion, well-mannered in their public disposition, and well-guarded with the use of their tongue.

There is much work to be done in Birmingham this year. It is my prayer that the 49th General Assembly of the PCA will move our denomination forward in resolving our present controversy. Pray for this upcoming General Assembly and for the work of the church.

[1] Larry Hoop, “SJC Concludes Action on Matters Related To Revoice 2018,” 2022.

[2] The Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America (Office of the Stated Clerk, 2021).

[3] SJC, “Decision on Complaint: TE Ryan Speck v. Missouri Presbytery,” 2022, 11–12.

[4] Ibid., 8.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 14.

[7] Ibid., 11.

[8] Charles Malcolm Wingard, Help for the New Pastor: Practical Advice for Your First Year of Ministry (P & R Publishing, 2018), 155.

Scott Edburg is a PCA Teaching Elder serving as Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church in Troy, IL.