Longing for Community
There is a conference coming up in St. Louis, Missouri, that has raised a lot of questions from my friends and co-workers. Several people over the past few days have asked me my opinion on the Revoice Conference, and have offered theirs.
Ultimately I won't be able to give a great answer to these very deep questions. Others have done a much better job than I could ever hope to do in addressing the Spiritual Friendship movement, which is a large part of Revoice.
Why was the Revoice Conference started? The founder, Nate Collins, said that a large motivation for starting this conference was because many "non-straight people" felt "unfairly excluded" by the Nashville Statement. He wanted to address this by providing a "New Community" for "gender and sexual minorities."
"Gather together with other gender and sexual minorities and those who love them and experience a new kind of gospel community." - Revoice Conference Website
"A new kind of gospel community" is a bold goal. Why is there a need for "a new kind of gospel community?"
Perhaps we should evaluate whether we have actually ever experienced the "old" kind of gospel community? Rosaria Butterfield's book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, details how radical ordinary hospitality should be the hallmark of the Church. I wrote a blog review of this book in which Rosaria calls for us to live in gospel community.
There is a longing for community that I share with Nate Collins and others. I long for the community of the gospel. I want to experience the truth that "God settles the solitary in a home;" (Psalm 68:6), where I will look around me and find family in those who are doing God's will (Matthew 12:46-50), and where I experience abundant life. (John 10:10)
For years I have wondered whether I could ever experience this community. I have doubted whether I could have close friendships with men. Far too many times I found myself growing close to male friends, and then pushing those friends away because of my growing sexual desires towards them.
That has been an awful experience. Longing to love a friend well, I have often found my sinful desires distorting that love into something terrible.
So I began to doubt that I could ever truly have community with other men. Perhaps I am different. Perhaps I can't have those friendships because they will end in sinful desires.
Perhaps I should seek out a "new kind" of gospel community, where I can experience these desires but keep them in check by never acting out sexually.
The call of the Revoice Conference to "Gather together ... and experience ... a new kind of gospel community" is appealing.
It's appealing, but it's based on the idea that I am different. The Revoice Conference believes that I am different because I am attracted to the same-sex. Here is how Nate Collins puts it:
"What kind of man am I? I'm a certain kind of man. I'm a man who is not straight. I'm a man with a gay orientation." - Nate Collins.
By saying that he is "gay" and "not straight," he has said that he has a different type of "orientation" from other men. According to Nate Collins, there is a "straight" orientation, and there are "not straight" orientations.
So that is why the Revoice Conference exists - to be a community for those who are different. A community for the "not straight" Christians.
And I'm invited to this "not straight" Christian community. I'm invited because I am attracted to the same sex.
But I'm not going to this "not straight" Christian community. I'm not looking for a "new kind of gospel community."
My reason is simple: I don't believe that there are different kinds of orientations. There is no such thing as a "straight man" or a "gay man." There are men.
I am not straight. I am not gay. I am a man.
And as a man, I long for community. I long for gospel community. But I'm not looking for a new kind of gospel community at a special conference. I have looked for, and have found, the community of the believers in my local church.
Every Christian who experiences attractions towards the same sex can experience gospel community in the local church. The community of the local church is what we should focus on. We should not focus on the attractions we have, but we must focus on the reality of how God made us. We are male and female image bearers of the Holy God.
I'm pursuing Godliness in community with other men - not straight, not gay, just men.