We recognize only one Christianity, the gospel which calls all sinners to repentance, offers them forgiveness, spiritual life, and victory over sin in Christ, and empowers them to grow in holiness and conformity to Christ.
We believe that the local church, with its diversity of members who bring with them a diversity of gifts and strengths as well as a diversity of burdens, struggles, and battles with sin, led by trained and tested followers of Christ selected for maturity, wisdom, and holiness, is the essential and primary place for Christian fellowship, support, teaching, discipleship, encouragement, and care.
Revoice aims to supplement and assist the local church in its work by offering teaching and encouragement specifically related to the challenges faced by Christians who are attracted to their own sex, as well as opportunities for them to connect with others and be encouraged to know that they are not the only ones out there seeking to honor God with their obedience in the face of strong opposition from our culture.
Some of us use the phrase “gay Christian” or “same-sex-attracted Christian” to refer to a subset of people who share those two characteristics. Revoice’s mission, for example, is not primarily directed toward all same-sex attracted individuals, nor toward all Christians, but rather toward those who fall into both of those categories. No special sort of “gay Christian” identity is intended.
The heart of our identity as human beings is that we have been created, male and female, in the image of God, to be in fellowship with God and to glorify and enjoy Him forever as fruitful and faithful vice-regents exercising dominion over His creation. The heart of our identity as believers is our union with Christ. Nothing defines our ultimate reality more than that He has taken all our sin and shame upon Himself, while giving us His righteousness; and that we have been buried with Him in baptism, raised with Him, have our life hidden with Him as He sits in the heavenly places, and will appear with Him in glory. It is these realities, not our fallen experience of sexuality, that serve as the defining and foundational truths of who we are.
That being said, many other facts about our circumstances and experiences as human beings impact our understanding of ourselves and our lives. And as human beings living in the aftermath of the Fall, there are facts about our experience of temptation and sin that impact our understanding of ourselves and our lives. These facts can be important for us to bear in mind and to share with others.
Most of those in Revoice’s leadership and most of its speakers openly describe themselves as being predominantly attracted to their own sex, whether they use words like “gay” or “same-sex attracted” to do so. We believe there are many good and God-glorifying reasons for doing so, especially in our present cultural context.
First and foremost is the importance of being able to share our burdens with others, and receive support, encouragement, and accountability from them. Being open about our experience of same-sex attraction can also help with evangelism, not only to those attracted to their own sex, who may be surprised to know that someone like them can be faithfully Christian, but also to others as well, as the surprising discovery of a gay person living by a Christian sexual ethic is often intriguing and opens a door to further conversation. It helps other gay/same-sex attracted Christians to know that they are not alone in their fight, providing a vision for them of what faithful and obedient life looks like. It can also help other Christians find them as a helpful resource for learning about this experience. Finally, being open about our experience of same-sex attraction can help encourage the church as a whole to resist attitudes in the world outside the Church that claim that the Christian vision for sexuality is toxic and cruel to gay people. We believe it is good for Christians to see same-sex attracted people in their midst striving for holiness and testifying to God’s goodness to them.
At the same time, we recognize that there are ways we can think about our same-sex sexual attractions as they relate to our personhood that can be destructive and un-Christian, and that in our present cultural moment we are often tempted to look at our attractions in these ways. We think the concern about “identity” should focus on these problems, rather than on the language one uses, or the mere fact that one speaks openly about their attractions. These include: believing that our sexual attractions must somehow be followed or embraced in order to live a good life; believing our sexual attractions to be essential to who we are, such that we could not lose them without ceasing to be ourselves; believing that our sexual attractions are part of God’s design for us.
Some have wondered whether homosexual attraction might be a sinful twisting of something that is itself innocent and good. We recognize this as a possibility but believe it is unhelpful to dwell too much on such speculations. It is imperative for our spiritual well-being that we separate what is good and ought to be cultivated in our relationships with others from what is sinful and ought to be mortified. Grouping both of those under the label “gay” seems more likely to hinder than help that task.
Revoice believes that Christians have the freedom and responsibility to choose what language they use to speak about their experience of sexuality. This can be an important decision, one that calls for seeking wise and trusted counsel and taking into account several considerations. The language chosen should be that which the person feels strengthens their obedience to God, helps them see themselves as God sees them, helps them describe themselves accurately and truthfully, and helps them relate best to others in their context and life circumstances. Language that works well for one person may not work well for another depending on their different struggles, histories, communities, and situations. Also, language that works well in one context may not work well in another. One challenge of the internet, however, is that an article aimed at reaching out to one audience will easily be overheard by others, who may misunderstand both the meaning and intention behind the author’s choice of language.
As we put it in our Statement on Sexual Ethics and Christian Obedience, “Whether individuals choose “gay” or “same-sex-attracted” to describe their orientation and experience is a matter of wisdom and liberty, and should not divide believers who otherwise share a commitment to historic Christian teaching about marriage and sexuality.”
Sexual orientation describes an enduring pattern of sexual and/or romantic attraction. The concept offers a convenient way for people to describe how their experiences of sexual and/or romantic attraction follow a clear and persistent pattern—toward the same sex, toward the opposite sex, or toward individuals of both sexes.
We recognize that some in our culture have gone beyond that simple definition and treated sexual orientation as something that must be celebrated as part of who one is. We reject this view of orientation but do not believe that it invalidates the usefulness of the concept. We can still call a pattern of attractions “sexual orientation” while recognizing that pattern as contrary to God’s design.
Some suggest that Christians should use a concept like “sin nature” instead. While being aware of how we have been affected by original sin is important, some also find it helpful to be able to point to some of the specific (and somewhat unusual) aspects of their battle with sin, both in their own self-reflection and in their efforts to share their struggles with their fellow Christians.
It can be useful to recognize that a particular pattern of attraction has been enduring and is likely to continue to be so. For those who struggle with homosexual temptation, the concept can be helpful as a way of acknowledging a specific vulnerability, helping them and those who love them be aware of potential temptations so that they don’t get blindsided and overwhelmed.
How does God bring about change and sanctification in the lives of Christians attracted to their own sex?
For much of recent evangelical history, Christians’ perception of God’s transforming and sanctifying work in those attracted to their own sex has focused on orientation change, that is, how God is or is not turning them from experiencing sexual attraction toward the same sex to experiencing sexual desire for the opposite sex. This was often the church’s public perception of the work of ex-gay ministries like Exodus International, for example. We believe God can do anything that he pleases, yet we also believe that it is important to recognize how God typically works. While it seems clear that some people experience a degree of spontaneous fluidity in their orientation, none of the methods of pursuing a change in orientation which we know of, whether psychological or spiritual, have proven effective. Thus, while there is nothing wrong with desiring or praying for such a transformation, we instead want to highlight the sorts of change and sanctification which do seem to be part of how God regularly works in the lives of gay/same-sex-attracted believers who surrender their sexuality to Him. We believe it is better and wiser for gay/same-sex attracted Christians—and for the churches that support them—to focus on these kinds of change, rather than fixing hope on possible, but relatively unlikely changes in a way that tends to produce discouragement and despair.
True sancitfication and change require repentance from actual sin, where that has been engaged in, whether in sexual acts, inappropriate relationships, or willfully entertained lust or fantasy. We believe that God calls His children to turn from all such sin and that He will give them the power to do so. We exhort gay/same-sex attracted Christians to take all sin seriously and get the support and accountability they need to resist and overcome. We hope to help in this endeavor, whether through teaching and workshops at our events, through recommended resources, or through helping connect individuals with churches or ministries in their local area that can provide needed care and discipleship. Scripture is clear about the spiritual dangers of being complacent towards sin, or presumptively resting upon the grace of God to cover it, “sinning that grace may abound”.
When it comes to sinfulness in our hearts, we trust that God is sanctifying us and cleansing us from all sin and unrighteousness by the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives. We look forward to being completely freed from all sinful desire when we are fully redeemed, and we work towards this freedom in this life we now live in the flesh, putting to death whatever in us draws us away from God’s will and design, yet recognizing that it is common for God’s people to be frustrated and dismayed by the persistence of sin in their hearts. We recognize the need for each of us to faithfully turn away from those desires which are contrary to God’s design and to welcome the continual renewing of our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, while most of us have not perceived a change in our orientation (i.e. a change in the direction of our sexual desires), many of us have experienced various kinds of change in how we experience those desires and the role they play in our life and thought processes, and we rejoice in these both as signs of how God has been working in our hearts, and as signs of God’s promise of the complete transformation and sanctification that is our inheritance.
For example, we have seen God change us by breaking the power that our same-sex sexual desires have over us, so that they no longer dictate our actions, thought patterns, or beliefs. We have seen God change us by empowering us to “resist and turn away from every thought, action, desire, or behavior that does not align with God’s revealed intentions for human sexuality”, as our Statement on Sexual Ethics and Christian Obedience puts it. We have seen God change us by strengthening our ability to focus on pure and true sisterly or brotherly love, letting that guide us in our relationships with others and our thoughts and affections toward them. And we have seen God change us by diminishing the place of our same-sex attractions in our heart relative to Himself, making them seem increasingly dim in the light of His own beauty and glory, and nurturing in our heart a growing love for Him and desire to please Him.
“Romance” and “romantic” are notoriously difficult to define precisely. In this context, they mean something like “the way in which a boyfriend and a girlfriend relate to each other”, or “the way in which a husband and wife relate to each other”, or some idealized version of those—the sort of erotically charged emotional and social relating that tends to accompany relationships that are sexual to some degree. Exclusivity, jealousy, obsessiveness, and an inward focus in the relationship are often a part of this.
As Christians pursue appropriate intimacy with individuals of the same sex, such relationships ought to be modeled according to principles of friendship (and spiritual kinship within the church), instead of patterns and practices associated with “romance.” In other words, we discourage Christians from seeking relationships that are basically “dating without sex” or “marriage without sex.” While Christians attracted to their own sex may experience romantic feelings in their friendships, those feelings ought to be resisted and surrendered to God rather than nurtured or gratified.
Experience has shown that those gay/same-sex attracted Christians who start out with a vision for their relationship of “dating without sex” or “marriage without sex” often end up finding that artificial restriction to be a stifling and implausible deprivation over time as romance irresistibly draws them toward sex. But the problem is not simply that such romantic relationships heighten the risk of sexual temptation. We believe that the romantic in this sense is integrally connected to God’s design for sexuality, which is oriented to drawing male and female together in monogamous one-flesh marital union. While the romantic has a place in marriage and in the development of relationships between men and women that can potentially lead to marriage, it is not appropriate between two individuals of the same sex.
At the same time, we recognize that many cultures at present have an overemphasis on romantic/sexual/marital relationships (not necessarily marriage per se) and an impoverished view of friendship, so that many things get lumped into the category of romance (physical affection, emotional vulnerability, generous and thoughtful gift-giving, devoting quality time, expressions of care, verbal expressions of love, etc.) that have properly belonged to friendship as well for most of human history, and in our view should still belong to it. In many contexts today, the romantic, sexual, or marital relationship in a person’s life is seen as the real and deep relationship, while friendships are minor, expendable, and trivial affairs by comparison. While not wishing to diminish the importance of marriage or the natural family in any way, we want those who are unmarried for any reason also to have access to relationships where they can experience deep connection, emotional intimacy, and interdependence, so that their lives are shaped by loving and being loved. We therefore encourage Christians to expand their vision of friendship by looking at how it has been practiced throughout history, especially in the history of the church.
Revoice believes that the interest in romantic celibate partnership among some gay/same-sex attracted Christians is both fueled by and reinforces this ongoing social devaluing of friendship. We would rather encourage the revival and development of deep, chaste friendship as a kind of relationship available to all regardless of sexual orientation, rather than encourage a special type of gay celibate bond.
While contemporary culture tends to group the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity together under the same umbrella, we believe that they are different enough to warrant individual attention. Although overlap exists in the general principles of pastoral care that both require, the implications about the nature of personhood are not the same, the discipleship challenges are not the same, and the actual pastoral care needs are not the same. Revoice provides services that center on helping people who experience same-sex attraction to pursue holy friendships and perhaps Christian marriage, to navigate loneliness and the need for community as a single person, and to withstand temptation in a sexualized culture.
At the same time, we encourage anyone with questions or distress about their gender identity who thinks they would be blessed by a Revoice event or activity to join us—you are welcome here. And we as the Church must work to love these individuals well, addressing their concerns with biblical fidelity and compassion without trivializing their pain.