This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.
Russell Moore is not generally known for his silence nor slowness in addressing hot social topics. For example, recently he spoke loud and clear about President Trump’s immigration policy that separated children from parents who were arrested for crossing the U.S. border illegally. Dr. Moore expressed his legitimate concerns about the damaging effects that this could have upon those children. When Trump reversed direction, Dr. Moore tweeted his support of this decision within minutes of the announcement.
Therefore, I became increasingly troubled by Dr. Moore’s silence regarding Revoice – a conference designed for the purpose of “supporting, encouraging and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians.” If the ethical implications of a U.S. Immigration policy were worthy of Dr. Moore’s attention, surely Revoice holds equal weight. The latter hits much closer to home for evangelicals and has the potential to result in a far greater and more lasting damage.
Russell Moore’s Days of Silence
On June 13, during the ERLC report at the SBC, Dr. Moore was asked by a messenger about Revoice and its endorsement by ERLC Fellow, Dr. Karen Prior. Dr. Moore responded by saying, “I don’t know about the Revoice Conference,” and then proceeded to give a lengthy defense of Dr. Prior. I consider Dr. Prior a friend, and although I disagree with her endorsement of Revoice, I share Dr. Moore’s appreciation for her. However, Dr. Moore dismissed the core of the messenger’s question, “Will the ERLC disavow Revoice?” Furthermore, he ignored the messenger’s disconcerting description that quoted Revoice’s promotion of the conference as a “celebration of queer culture and the plight of LGBT Christians.”
Considering that concerns about Revoice had been echoed across social media for weeks, it was hard to believe that Dr. Moore could not know about it. Dr. Owen Strachan, an ERLC Research Fellow, published his concerns on May 31. Drs. Jason Allen, President of MBTS, and Albert Mohler, President of SBTS, both tweeted about it on the same day. It is strange that Dr. Moore, who was on Twitter that day and most every day since, could have missed a highly promoted article that addressed such a hot social topic.
Nevertheless, whatever Dr. Moore’s knowledge about Revoice was on June 13, his voice remained silent. After a week, I began to call for Dr. Moore, via Twitter, to please address Revoice. His busyness with other things – both trivial and significant – appeared to communicate a lack of concern. In the days after June 13, he tweeted twice about a rap video, in which he appeared, congratulating J.D. Greear on his election as SBC President. He tweeted about hoping to never hear another political address at the SBC. Four times he tweeted about an ERLC initiative on abuse of women. No less than twelve times he tweeted about his concerns with the effects of President Trump’s immigration policy upon children.
Surely, the risk of redefining the ethical teaching of Scripture on sexuality was as important to Dr. Moore as the danger of children being separated from their parents at the border for a matter of days. Long after any emotional trauma those children experienced has passed, the children of our churches will still be spiritually traumatized growing up with the false teaching that could take root in our churches if Revoice gets its way, while leaders like Dr. Moore remained silent. However, the silence finally broke.
The Silence Breaks
On Friday, June 22, at 4:27 PM (EST), Andrew Walker with the ERLC tweeted an article (https://bit.ly/2txd3i8) that spoke of his “pastoral concerns about how the Revoice Conference is being framed and the potential confusion it might sow among impressionable audiences.” At 5:26 PM (EST), Dr. Moore retweeted Walker’s article with the comment, “Good balanced analysis by my @ERLC colleague @andrewtwalk.”
I was immediately thankful that the silence had finally broken, and that Andrew Walker was “deeply skeptical” about The Revoice Conference. He expressed his concern for how Revoice was labeling homosexuals as a “sexual or gender minority,” and how they were “appropriating the language of sexual and gender progressives who have zero interest in maintaining any semblance of Christian teaching.” In addition, Walker stated that “speakers and presenters at Revoice have made alarming arguments in the past.”
That said, I was surprised and remain concerned by several things. I know, some will say, “First he had a problem that Dr. Moore had not said anything. Now he has a problem with what he did say.” As a pastor, I know what it is like to have people who are never satisfied with anything I do. I pray that is not my attitude. I have not been an avid critic of Dr. Moore, and I detest those who paint him with a tail and a pitchfork no matter what he does. However, I share equal disdain for the fanboys who circle the wagons whenever a legitimate concern is raised. Certain things are still troubling.
The Timing and Manner of the Response
The timing of the response’s release was strikingly odd. If you missed the statement altogether, you are likely not alone. It was released, in what is called in media, as a “Friday News Dump.” No one who is media savvy publishes anything remotely significant on a Friday – especially at around 5:00 PM. In addition, while Dr. Moore tweeted no less than twelve times in a week about Trump’s immigration policy, he has not pointed to Walker’s article since his Friday evening tweet. It makes one wonder whether Dr. Moore sees this issue as critical of an issue as Walker communicates.
This raises the question of why Russell Moore would delegate addressing this issue to a colleague. It was Dr. Moore that was personally asked at the SBC about Revoice, and he claimed ignorance about it. Why would he not educate himself and personally address the concerns?
Understanding the problems with the Revoice Conference does not require PhD level research. Fifteen minutes is sufficient to familiarize yourself with its direction. Dr. Moore could have gone to the Revoice website (http://www.Revoice.us) where he would have discovered topics such as, “Redeeming Queer Culture,” where attendees will learn about the “virtues of queer culture,” and “what queer treasure… will be brought into the New Jerusalem.” Dr. Moore could have been enlightened to “mixed-oriented marriages” where “gay men” – who continue to label themselves as such – are married to “straight women.”
If Dr. Moore did not want to take the time to peruse the website, he could have relied on the vast amount of research that was already available. On June 20, Dr. Mohler once again drew attention to what he called an “important article by Colin Smothers” that extensively detailed “the Revoice conference and its fundamental problems” (https://bit.ly/2tgGUeH).
If Dr. Moore had personally taken the time to research and respond, he would have been prepared to give a much stronger argument against Revoice than was offered in Andrew Walker’s piece. Walker’s approximate five-hundred-word response to Revoice was less than robust in comparison to all the lengthy and thorough responses that preceded it. Amazingly, neither Moore nor Walker even referenced any of these articles – many written by SBC leaders – that warned about Revoice.
While Walker merely referenced that the speakers held troubling views, other articles gave their graphic details. There is little doubt that Revoice is intended to be revolutionary in shaping the thinking of evangelical churches. What was once unimaginable to even openly voice is now considered worthy of “celebrating.” The views of many of the speakers are an assault on the doctrines of sin and sanctification. Although they all declare that LGBT people should not engage in homosexual behavior, they offer new definitions that are not biblical and will not help people overcome its power. Consider the published words of some of those speaking at Revoice :
- “the desire to have sex with others of our own sex is a temptation to sin which is a result of the fall, but it is not, in itself, sinful.” – Ron Belgau
- “the sexual aspect of Sodom’s sin involved gang rape, not a consensual and monogamous relationship between two men.” – Ron Belgau
- “It wasn’t, for me, a matter of whether to be gay or Christian; I knew that I was both…” – Wesley Hill
- “Perhaps celibate gay and lesbian Christians, precisely in and out of their celibacy, are called to express, rather than simply renounce and deny, same-sex love.” – Wesley Hill
- “What if we could imagine a scenario in which a Christian businesswoman, after hearing her pastor preach a sermon about these issues, decided that her conscience would allow her to sell products to a gay couple to use in a wedding ceremony?” – Nate Collins
- “To discern a path forward that enables gay people to view their sexuality as a possibility and not merely as a problem.” – Nate Collins
In addition to these few examples, Nate Collins, is the founder of Revoice. In his personal bio, he describes himself as a “married, same-sex-attracted/gay man.” At one time, this would have been shocking language coming from a pagan. However, it is stunning that this biographical description is chosen by Dr. Collins – a graduate and former NT Professor at SBTS.
It would be one thing if this conference were being conducted by a group of liberals from mainline Protestant churches, but these individuals are from our own theological camp. Dr. Moore’s slowness, timing, and delegated response is far from adequate. But there is one more critical point.
The Glaring Oversight of the Response
Some suggested that Walker chose a more cautious approach in his article, writing, “the Revoice Conference has not yet even occurred, so speculation about the conference could potentially be unwarranted.” Many have declared that we should “wait and see” rather than “rush and judge.” Perhaps Dr. Moore is taking the posture of “wait and see.” The only problem is that an ERLC Research Fellow has taken an attitude that gives the appearance of “embrace and endorse.”
When Dr. Moore was asked about Dr. Prior’s endorsement at SBC 2018, he declared ignorance about Revoice and waxed eloquently about his confidence in Dr. Prior. He spoke of her commitment to Gospel centeredness regarding homosexual issues. I also believe Dr. Prior to be deeply concerned about giving Gospel answers to those struggling with homosexual desires. This is why, being concerned about her endorsement, I privately contacted her because I was concerned about why she would endorse this event. I was not convinced by her reasons, but it was a pleasant interaction.
So, if I contacted Dr. Prior, why did Dr. Moore not take the time to do the same? Why would he not seek to understand her position before taking a position himself? More importantly, if he now believes Revoice to be dangerous, why has he not asked Dr. Prior to withdraw her endorsement as a Research Fellow for the ERLC? I know several people who would confirm that Dr. Moore is not shy to confront those who take a position that is opposite of his – especially if they are leaders in the SBC.
Therefore, shortly after Dr. Moore’s retweeting of Walker’s article, I gave four responses with this tweeted reply:
1. Thankful @andrewtwalk of @ERLC finally spoke on this.
2. Thankful @drmoore pointed to it.
3. How does @ERLC rectify saying the conference is deeply problematic, yet it’s endorsed by @KSPrior (ERLC Fellow).
4. @drmoore was asked this at SBC & it’s still a valid question.
Although Dr. Moore did not respond, Dr. Prior did respond with this tweet:
“We’re Baptists, Tom. We’re allowed to disagree with one another in the application of biblical principles.”
“Yes. Baptists disagree. But there is complete agreement on this among the leaders of SBC about the serious doctrinal problems with this conference. After reading the strong words of @albertmohler and @ostrachan – and now @ERLC – would you reconsider your endorsement?
Dr. Prior responded:
“I never expected they would endorse it, and my endorsement of the aims of the conference is well-considered. I don’t know why you need everyone to agree on this, but I don’t have that particular struggle. I stand in support of those with SSA who desire to obey God.”
With all due respect, the issues surrounding Revoice are far deeper than “support of those with SSA who desire to obey God.” It is whether the kind of support Revoice offers is actually biblical and whether the answers the conference gives will help anybody truly obey God. I agree with every warning that I have read about Revoice – including that of Andrew Walker – and I believe this conference is a threat to the Gospel. Dr. Albert Mohler is correct to say, “My biggest concern in this conference and in the language that is used and in the conversation that many evangelicals are now having is that what you see in this conference is the acceptance of the idea that our sexual identity or any individual’s sexual orientation becomes a defining issue that isn’t changed by the gospel and isn’t transformed by sanctification.”
The glaring oversight of Dr. Moore, is that he has failed to ultimately address one of the fundamental questions that he was originally asked on June 13. The question that he answers only with silence. What about Dr. Prior’s endorsement of Revoice? Although his support of Dr. Prior was understandable when he was ignorant about Revoice, I believe his silence now is negligent.
Dr. Prior has every right, as a Baptist, to disagree and be the lone endorser of Revoice among SBC leaders. However, I do not believe that she has the right, as an ERLC Research fellow, to endorse something as dangerous as everyone declares that it is – including the voice of Dr. Russell Moore. I consider Dr. Prior my friend – I hope to remain her friend – but I believe she should step down from the ERLC or Dr. Moore remove her unless she withdraws her endorsement with a good conscience. I do not consider Dr. Prior to be a heretic, nor do I question her love for the gospel. My problem lies not with her sincerity, but her discernment. As Baptists, we can disagree, but our chosen views might prohibit us from being able to lead in certain capacities. It concerns me when someone serving on the ERLC does not exercise better discernment about crucial ethical matters that plague our culture. Dr. Moore should also be concerned, and once again break his silence.