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A Queer-Positive PCA Congregation

Jay-Marie Hill, transgender person slated to speak at PCA Church next weekend (via Faith For Justice Facebook page [1])

Back in 2016, I blogged critically of a speech young black pastor Michelle Higgins [2], a #BlackLivesMatter movement activist, gave to the annual InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting. She criticized the pro-life movement, and went heavy on identity politics. IVCF official Greg Jao responded with some objections to claims I made in my post [3], and Carl Eric Scott, a former IVCF member, questioned the organization’s leftward drift. Another reader pointed out that in that same speech, Higgins said Christians should embrace transgenderism.

Criticizing Higgins unintentionally burned an important bridge for me. I didn’t see it coming, but I learned from a couple of folks inside the Evangelical movement that one should not criticize #BlackLivesMatter if one wants to stay on good terms with woke young white Evangelicals. I wonder if that’s still true. I wonder what those same Higgins defends have to say about this latest news about her, via Denny Burk: [4]

Over the weekend, I was gobsmacked by something that I read on social media. A PCA church in St. Louis is hosting an event that includes an openly lesbian speaker named Jay-Marie Hill who is coming to the church to “teach us how to not only mourn the tragic deaths of trans folx, but learn to celebrate their lives and humanity.” It is important to note that the teaching is not only about mourning the deaths of precious image-bearers (something we would all agree with). It’s also about affirming transgenderism (something every orthodox Christian must oppose).

When I first read this, I thought, “Surely this is an inaccurate report. Surely there is some mitigating piece of information that will make this not what it appears to be.” Then I followed the links and did a little poking around. No, the report is accurate as far as I can tell—at least that is what the organization hosting the event says.

The event [5] is to be hosted by a group called “Faith for Justice,” which has as one of its founders a woman named Michelle Higgins. Higgins serves as Director of Worship [6] at South City Church (PCA) which is hosting the event and where her father Mike Higgins is pastor [6].

Here’s the Facebook page for the event featuring Jay-Marie Hill. [1]

I really did think that the Presbyterian Church in America was Biblically orthodox. What’s going on? Would readers who are Millennial Evangelicals please tell me where the lines are now being drawn? Serious, non-trolling question. Is it becoming heretical to oppose transgenderism within conservative churches?

UPDATE: South City Church has now pulled out of this particular event. Statement here.  [7] That’s good news, but come on, it cannot be the case that the church’s leadership had no idea how radical Michelle Higgins is. Did they not speak out because she’s the daughter of the pastor?

UPDATE.2: Reader Edward Hamilton lets it all hang out:

Intervarsity is already in the position of a zombie-movie victim waiting for the virus to spread to the brain. It’s already deeply infected by the SJW contagion and short of some major amputation-tier surgeries, it’s not going to be able to recover. And that would require cutting off a substantial portion of IVCF staff devoted to it’s racial-reconciliation agenda, so you can imagine what kind of public-relations disaster that would entail.

Here, for example, is Brandi Miller [8], one of their justice program directors. A quick look at her (“she/her”!) Twitter feed indicates that she’s a totally woke member of the Resistance, she’s committed to fighting the gender-binary tyranny at Urbana, and she shows courageous hostility to non-inclusive language like “brothers and sisters”. (I’m old enough to remember when that phrase was the cutting edge of wokeness, and grated on conservatives!) Of course there are standard-form denunciations of capitalism and how it contributes to indigenous-peoples genocide. She occasionally mentions missionaries, mostly to denounce them for trying to convert anyone instead of working for political goals. A representative quote (from October 26): “It should not be surprising that many are abandoning the Christian project when it’s primary function in many spaces is to embolden white supremacy, sexual assault, homophobia, ableism, & climate degradation with no awareness that its doing so or little remorse if they are aware.”

Intervarsity Press has been strongly pushing work from their social justice program. This month it’s a major roll-out for Jonathan Walton’s new SJW-themed book about dismantling white privilege. As you might expect, Miller and Walton engage in constant social-media cross-promotion. None of the above stuff is outside the evangelical mainstream. IVCF defines the mainstream. When evangelical parents send their church youth and college/career groups to the triennial Urbana missions conference (15,000+ kids in 2018), they’re being educated by queer-affirming speakers.

It’s hard to exaggerate how dramatic of a coup this is. IVP has been a mainstay of evangelical intellectualism for 70 years — in a Christian tradition with very few other lay-centered intellectual communities! It’s been a publisher for Schaefer and Stott. There’s nothing closer to the center of college experience for many young evangelicals today. And now it’s becoming indistinguishable from mainline social justice organizations. Within another couple decades, the power consolidation will be sufficiently complete that the remaining orthodox hold-outs can be ejected for all the usual reasons. Here’s Brandi Miller on Nov 10: “In theological conversations the quick turn to arguing “orthodoxy” typically warns me that the conversation is about to shift to White centered virtue signaling.” It requires little imagination to anticipate the endgame.

It’s all enormously sad, and part of the reason I keep forcing myself (not always successfully) to read all the stuff about the Catholic crisis as a shared tragedy instead of a vindication of Protestant ecclesiology. There’s no time left for triumphalism on any side. The waves are coming in high and fast enough to drown all of us at once.

UPDATE.3: Judging from this poll, it looks like the PCA’s future is pro-LGBT. [9] Maybe those within the denomination who adhere to Biblical orthodoxy will hold the line, I dunno. But it sure seems that as the middle class in America embraces LGBT, so too will the Middle Class At Prayer.

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63 Comments To "A Queer-Positive PCA Congregation"

#1 Comment By Isidore the Farmer On January 17, 2019 @ 5:27 pm

At the rate Russell Moore is leading the SBC, they are about 5-10 years behind PCA.

They are currently going through their struggle sessions, walking alongside and listening to the LGBT cause. The language has dramatically softened already. Won’t be long until the SBC is also walking behind the LGBT leaders.

#2 Comment By JonF On January 17, 2019 @ 7:32 pm

Re: it could be entirely plausible and consistent to “accept” and “discourage” at the same time.

This is very much true. As an example we accept that people will smoke cigarettes, while at the same time we discourage smoking as much as we can without banning it or persecuting smokers.
This is nit a perfect analogy since one can quit smoking, whereas one cannot quit being gay

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 17, 2019 @ 9:45 pm

Feelings-based “reality”:

“This is nit a perfect analogy since one can quit smoking, whereas one cannot quit being gay”

Some people can’t quit on their own.

What if you make your identity a smoker, and find meaning of life from Cigar Aficianado?

There’s Modern Drunkard magazine, for the incorrigible alcoholic who has no wish to quit.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 17, 2019 @ 10:14 pm

one can quit smoking, whereas one cannot quit being gay

Assumes facts not in evidence.

There are a good number of people who have come to believe or accept that they “are gay” and who am I to judge? I mean, I can’t read their mind nor do I have sensory perception of their biochemical balance at the molecular level. On the other hand, there are a good number of people who have to all intents and purposes STOPPED being gay ALSO.

We really don’t know beans about it. We know that past attitudes were in many ways ignorant, cruel, and made unwarranted assumptions. We know that presently influential political factions have a bold counter-narrative. And if we’re honest, we know that empirical possibilities are all over the map, and very little research has any credibility to draw definitive conclusions, particularly universal paradigms.

For orthodox Protestants who want to stay Protestant, the choices are really dwindling.

I keep telling you… Missionary Baptist, AME, AME Zion, Church of God in Christ… Whatever your denomination, there is a set of churches that share your doctrine and have the same name over the door that are waiting to welcome you.

I did hear a pastor just the other night point out that all the high profile gay roles in recent movies have been black… like Hollywood is trying to target black youth, knowing this is a durable reservoir of immunity to the LGBTQWERTY line of thinking. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but its been some years since Boondocks made “Brokeback” into a loaded slang term.

#5 Comment By JonF On January 18, 2019 @ 7:49 am

Re: Assumes facts not in evidence.

Well, I assume one can post that there are people who can’t quit smoking.

Re: There are a good number of people who have come to believe or accept that they “are gay” and who am I to judge?

It isn’t about judgment. It’s about sticking with objectivity and not reducing reality to “what I feel about it”. The latter is also why the trans phenomenon has gained such traction. Now, sure there are identity elements that can be changed. If I moved to a different country, took its citizenship and assimilated to its culture, I would no longer be an American (though I could not change the fact I was born as one). But even there we’re dealing with objective tests, like What passport do I carry?

#6 Comment By Noah172 On January 18, 2019 @ 9:44 am

Siarlys wrote:

I keep telling you… Missionary Baptist, AME, AME Zion, Church of God in Christ…

They often preach lefty politics. (Some people don’t want their religion politicized from any perspective.)

They ordain women (to which many conservative Christians object: that issue was among the reasons some denominations, such as the PCA, got started in the first place).

They may have other objectionable beliefs (e.g. dispensationalist End Times quackery).

#7 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 18, 2019 @ 10:18 am

“For orthodox Protestants who want to stay Protestant, the choices are really dwindling.”

What I believe and whom I worship is not dependent on what heresies others adopt. Salvation means you belong to Him, and you are sustained by the Holy Spirit, who promises to never leave you.

Of course mass apostasy is tragic for those affected, and there is a sadness of losing the human support of those once believed friends, who may have betrayed you.

On the ground, not a few parishes of the Roman Catholics are also hostile outposts for the enemies of Christ, and those who seek to subvert souls.

There is no safe space for the soul, outside Christ, even if that puts the body in danger.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 19, 2019 @ 9:29 am

They are currently going through their struggle sessions, walking alongside and listening to the LGBT cause.

You may get tired of me saying this, but there are REAL instances of invidious discrimination against gays, and REAL instances of gays putting forward a narcissistic demand for affirmation and approbation they for which they have no claim or entitlement. We need to learn to recognize the difference.

Invidious discrimination doesn’t depend on belonging to a protected class. If I reject you for something you otherwise qualify for because “I don’t like your kind” its invidious discrimination, whether what I don’t like is that you are blonde, gay, black, Korean, Orthodox, Baptist, tall, short, enjoy eating raw oysters, or whatever.

To state that engaging two bodies of the same sex in homosexual acts is displeasing to God is not bigoted, nor invidious, nor is it possible to prove whether this is True or Not. It falls into the sphere of religious belief. It has no more and no less standing than beliefs that one must fast during Lent, abstain from meat on Fridays, or be careful not to marry someone from your own clan (e.g. Korean marriage customs). It is neither binding on nonbelievers, nor an affront to those who don’t agree. There are probably several religious sects that technically speaking believe I’m going to hell for one reason or another, but that’s between me and God. I don’t get offended about it.

Well, I assume one can post that there are people who can’t quit smoking.

Thank you, JonF, you have proved my point. There is a huge difference between saying “There are people who can’t quit smoking” and saying “Smokers can’t quit.” (Although I see billboards all the time assuring those who have failed to quit that they can.)

It’s about sticking with objectivity and not reducing reality to “what I feel about it”.

Precisely. How much do we really “know” about it? Almost all the public controversy is about how someone feels, and then everyone from every viewpoint tried to gloss it over with a veneer of “science.”

They often preach lefty politics.

Depends on what you mean by lefty politics. Certainly sermons sometimes refer to why and how Donald Trump is a racist. And Black History Month is celebrated quite effusively. But they also pray that none of their children will be same sex attracted, often speak critically of abortion… Also they seem to be really big on entrepreneurship.

They ordain women

Some do, some don’t. My church concluded around 1870 that church doctrine should not bar from the ministry anyone whom God may be pleased to call. But a church I visited last summer (the pastor was one of my chess students’ grandfather), I heard a statement from the pulpit that if a woman is standing behind the pulpit “that is not Christ’s church.” To which all the women present said “Amen, pastor.”

Dispensationalist end times quackery is endemic to all races. Others recognize that “you never know the day or the hour.”

#9 Comment By First_Deacon On January 20, 2019 @ 1:18 pm

On stats about acceptance of SSM, etc, e.g.

Favor same sex marriage –
PCA 40%
Orthodox 54%
LCMS 45%
Catholic 57%

I wonder if any studies break these numbers out by some measure of commitment to the church, such as frequency of attendance?

I’m Orthodox, and at least in the GOC, there are many many members who, if asked what they are, will say “Greek Orthodox”, but then they are rarely in church except for Easter Saturday night, maybe the Advent Vespers, and if there is a memorial for one of their relatives on a regular Sunday. Chances are their answers to many questions such as the above are indistinguishable from the unchurched.

Within the Orthodox world, I would suspect the highest approval rates of SSM, for example, are within the GOC, and then maybe the Antiochians, then the OCA, then ROCOR having the lowest approval rate. And if you could do a plot of approval by attendance rate, you probably would find that those who show up regularly are much more likely to agree with what the church actually teaches. Some exceptions to that rule might be those that are committed to a particular church ministry (for example, a volunteer organist) or a church affiliated organization, which might really be their primary reason for attendance anyway.

Another interest split would be converts/new members vs born-and-raised-in-the-faith.

#10 Comment By Cavin On January 21, 2019 @ 9:48 am

The headline is wrong. The church wasn’t hosting the event; they were merely allowing their building to be used by a private group for its event.

Second, when one is linking to crackpots like Tim Bayly and Denny Burk, then it’s unclear whether such reports should be given any credibility.

Third, I’m a member of a PCA church. The denomination is still plagued by many traditionalist views. But we are slowly moving in the direction of purging it of the evils of misogyny, racism, and homophobia.

Lastly, why do people like Burk and Bayly care. Tend to your own denominations and mind your own business. I don’t tell Southern Baptist’s how to run their church. So, when it comes to disputes within the PCA, I expect those who aren’t PCA members to mind their own business.

#11 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 21, 2019 @ 8:40 pm

There is a huge difference between acceptance of same-sex marriage, as a civil proceeding, and endorsement of same-sex marriage, as a sacrament approved by God.

For that matter, there is a significant difference between accepting that same-sex attraction is something a given individual (or same sex couple) is struggling with, as many others in church are struggling with fornication, or adultery, or drinking to excess, and accepting that God is pleased with their union.

#12 Comment By JonF On January 22, 2019 @ 9:54 am

On SSM the surveys should draw a clear line between civil marriage and the church rite of marriage. I suspect the approval numbers would be far smaller if people were asked “Should your church perform same sex weddings?”

#13 Comment By DoctorChurch On January 23, 2019 @ 12:53 am

Rod how much do you know about the Revoice conference? The link from Update 3 talks disparagingly about it following the polling results (which, yes, are disturbing) but does so I suspect based on little fact and much gut-reaction to words he doesn’t like.

Have you ever listened to Theology in the Raw? It’s a podcast by Preston Sprinkle. I highly recommend it. Dr. Sprinkle presented at the Revoice conference, and so while I did not attend, I know that the conference speakers ascribe to the historical Christian sexual ethic. Take a look at his blog post regarding the conference… [10] I share the post because I think the blog you linked misrepresents what Revoice advocates believe. And while the polling data is not encouraging about what PCA Christians believe, I wanted to point out that I don’t think a conference like Revoice signals that the PCA is “sliding to Gomorrah”. There are plenty of PCA churches who still preach the truth. My family attends one in Southern California of all places!