This past weekend, more than 400 people from 42 states and 6 different countries packed into Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, MO. It was a full house made up of LGBT+/SSA individuals, as well as pastors and loved ones seeking to learn more.
Here is a recap of the conference, including Lead Them Home’s involvement.
Surrounded by Criticism
The conference was met with criticism (“Surprise! A Conference for Gay Christians Has Sparked Controversy”). Many concerns were uninformed accusations, while others arose from a genuine desire to honor God regarding questions like, “Is it harmful to describe one’s experience using an LGBT+ term?” and “Is Revoice a theological slippery slope?”
Leaders such as Nate Collins, Preston Sprinkle, Mark Yarhouse, Ron Belgau, and Bill Henson sought to give respectful answers to these questions.
As Bill explained in his post “about those REVOICE people”,
Revoice is about refuge for Christian brothers and sisters. Some identify as LGBT+ people. Others simply say they are same-gender attracted. All have surrendered their sexuality and gender identity to Jesus Christ. All hold to a traditional biblical sexual ethic. Do we really want to accuse already-repentant people?
God’s Presence Felt in Worship
As attendees gathered in Memorial Presbyterian’s historic sanctuary and worship began, God’s Spirit undeniably filled the room. Ethan McCarthy, a heterosexual attendee and editor for InterVarsity Press, recounted this powerful experience in Patheos:
“The words were familiar almost to the point of being invisible — on another day I’d have hardly given them a second thought. But in the context of this conference they seemed to stand out off the wall.
“My sin — oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul
“At the words ‘Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,’ the room erupted in spontaneous applause. I felt my heart swell up in my chest as I sensed—not for the first time that weekend—the unfettered joy in the praise of these dear Christians, many of whom (most of whom, even) had suffered a pain, shame, and exclusion at the hands of the church that I couldn’t imagine.”
All the noise of external criticism melted away. What remained was soul-stirring praise to our Savior. Lead Them Home staff were part of the worship team, including worship leader David Gill, drummer Meg Baatz, and choir singer Josh Proctor. Watching David passionately conduct worship radiantly displayed God’s anointing upon his life!
Main Session Overview
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.
On the first night, Eve Tushnet, author of Gay and Catholic, explored the praiseworthiness of godly same-sex friendships. She powerfully noted that it is easier for LGBT+ children growing up outside the church to sense they are loved compared to our LGBT+ children growing up inside the church.
Then on the second night, Lead Them Home’s Ray Low shared how he lost his position as pastor due to his sexuality. With the keynote, Nate Collins, Revoice president and author of All But Invisible, lamented the many ways nonstraight Christians have felt disqualified from taking their place in God’s plan of redemption.
Nate lamented that he is saddened when LGBT+ people:
- feel burdened by loneliness
- believe lies that they are unwanted and less than human
- feel overwhelmed by others’ expectations
- grow up in unsafe homes, angry homes, or no homes
- suffer under the authority of harmful shepherds
- live daily with verbal abuse and harassment
Reading from Jeremiah, he assured those in the room that 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.
On the final night, Wesley Hill, author of Washed and Waiting and Spiritual Friendship, addressed the paradox of God’s holiness and God’s grace. Hill spoke on the woman caught in adultery explaining that Jesus does not in any way diminish the gravity of her sin, but rather displays that her sin is no worse than the sin of the Pharisees. He encouraged believers that, in Christ, our sin is weighty, and simultaneously, our shame is removed and our redemption in Him covers every aspect of life.
All three main sessions are available to watch on Revoice’s Youtube Channel.
Hill’s message put a blunt end to any worries by critics that Revoice might slip into theological compromise.
Lead Them Home’s Workshop
On the last day, Bill Henson led a workshop titled “Building Justice Bridges: How A Missiological Approach Shifts Our Posture and Reaches LGBT People,” in which he shared an overview of our Posture Shift seminar.
With every chair filled and many sitting or standing on the floor, everyone listened eagerly as Bill recounted historic examples of systemic marginalization of LGBT+ people. He detailed threats and harms that LGBT+ youth often face even today. Bill then presented seven justice-oriented ideas for what churches can do in their congregations and communities for LGBT+ people. In this interactive workshop, attendees contributed their own ideas concerning how to make LGBT+ ministry God-honoring and people-loving.
Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones quickly sold out following Bill’s workshop.