As an ordained PCA minister, his participation in Revoice and his determination to embrace a gay lifestyle and culture has given comfort and aid to one of the great modern movements attacking the church and orthodoxy. Furthermore, he has continued to write, speak, and make money off his self-ascribed role as a gay martyr trying to help a misguided denomination that may “still have time to care.”
It has been a week since the end of the 2022 PCA General Assembly. I have been considering what was accomplished, and unfortunately, I believe we deserve an F for this year’s effort.
On the bright side, for those of us who have been concerned about our denomination’s retreat from orthodoxy, there were a few victories.
We pulled out of the National Association of Evangelicals, although it was troubling that the PCA’s leadership argued strongly for remaining in the NAE. A cursory review of the NAE’s webpage issues section and Twitter feed reveals a leftward tilt and a faulty view of Biblical roles established for the church different from the state.
We overwhelmingly approved an overture to call on public officials to repent of the sin of abortion.
We approved Overtures 29 and 15, both designed to significantly tighten character requirements in the Book of Church Order so that, if approved by the presbyteries, those who identify as a gay Christian or same-sex attracted Christian cannot hold office in the PCA. The language for Overture 15 to amend the Book of Church Order 7-4 is as follows:
Men who identify as homosexual, even those who identify as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy in that self-identification, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.
Even considering these three actions, I still grade the General Assembly poorly because it is common knowledge that O15 is likely to fail on the presbytery approval circuit. The Assembly had an opportunity to directly address the heresy of Pastor Greg Johnson. We did not.
Some would say the word heresy is too strong. Afterall, Greg Johnson publicly embraces the Westminster Confession, the Book of Church Order, and the RAO. He even affirms and compliments the PCA’s Report on Human Sexuality.
But with Johnson, the key to understanding his heretical view lies in a statement he made while standing at the microphone and voicing opposition to this year’s Overture 29. He said he was opposed to O29 because the denomination had failed to include language that expressly states that God loves gay people.
This statement reflects what Johnson asserts in his writings and interviews: that there are people with an inherent sexual identity, separate from their sexual behavior, labeled as gay, homosexual, or same-sex attracted.
Johnson has played fast and loose with nuanced language from the day that he embraced Revoice and began his campaign for sexual understanding within the PCA. Johnson agrees that any desires outside those sanctioned by God are sinful; he is willing to say that sexual relations of any kind outside of marriage are sinful; he calls himself a broken man, a sinner, and proclaims that he is living a celibate life despite the fact that he struggles with sexual attraction for men. That’s all well and good, but this owning of the concept that there is a sexual identity separate from the sexual act is out of accord with Scripture.
It is because of this concept of a different sexual identity that Johnson embraces a gay lifestyle (without the sex) in his clothes, appearance, and appetites. I deduce that this is what fuels his frustration as he writes about the failures of conversion therapy and slanders the collective church for being too focused on converting homosexuals to heterosexuals instead of just caring for them.
This concept of a different identity also explains Johnson’s vision of spiritually caring for gays. It consists of treating them with great compassion and tenderness as though their sexuality is as pre-determined as the color of their eyes, expecting them never to get better, weeping with them over their self-sacrificing celibacy, and celebrating their contributions to the arts, music, culinary science, design, and culture. Johnson and many of his allies label any opposition to their vision for care as homophobic, and the PCA pastors and elders in support of Johnson generally describe us on the other side as ignorant, un-Christlike, and un-pastoral.
It is time for some clarity of thought on this in the PCA. What Scripture and nature teaches us is that there are two sexual identities: male and female. By our identities, we can know what we are to do with our sexual organs. Unfortunately, because of the Fall, we are all broken, perverted, and have desires that must be wrestled and restrained. When we do not restrain them, we are given over to fornication, adultery, pedophilia, incest, rape, homosexuality, and the list goes on. While some men may struggle with certain sinful inclinations for a variety of reasons, any one of us on this side of heaven is not above temptation by any perversion.
But there is hope. Scripture says it is possible to not only restrain desire for bad behavior but train our inclinations in a new direction. Most of the epistles of the New Testament follow a common pattern. We are reminded of our life before Christ, instructed in what Christ has done for us, and then told how to live as a new creature, born again, and able to live for God. We are told to “work out our salvation” and that the foundation for this new life is the renewing of our mind. That should be of great encouragement to anyone struggling with sexual sin because the harbor of all sexual perversion is our minds. When our mind is renewed, there is less opportunity for the sinful desire to take root and even less of a chance we will act upon it.
But that is only part of the formula. The other part is to use our minds to discipline our bodies for their God-ordained purpose. Thieves are not only commanded to steal no longer but also to work. Ultimately, they will find pleasure in that work. Regarding sexuality, God demands that we make no provision for the flesh, and he commands men not to be effeminate or wear women’s clothes. But in addition, we are commanded to act like men – to pursue manly things. I would encourage Johnson to take this to heart. Instead of getting a spray tan and having a hairstyle and clothes reflective of the narcissistic and effeminate gay movement, Johnson should wear manly clothes, do manly things, and give no quarter to the trappings of gay culture. I have no idea if Johnson will ever have a sexual inclination for a woman or a desire for marriage, but I can assure him that this will never happen if he continues to live the way he is now. In fact, I would go so far as to say that continuing the way he is now will cause him to be much more likely to fall back into overt homosexual sin.
This is the same advice that any Christian pastor or elder would give to a man struggling with fornication. The advice would be to avoid wearing sexy clothes, stay away from the bars and clubs that give rise to illicit sexuality, and pursue a godly woman for marriage within the context of church and family. Will that completely eradicate fleeting glimpses of lust? No. But will that more likely put that man on a course toward godly sexuality within the bonds of marriage? Yes.
It is also time for clarity of action on this in the PCA. First, Greg Johnson embraced a heresy in that he has declared himself gay or same-sex attracted by identity, even though not by behavior. This view is counter to Scripture and has made him incapable of counseling anyone in his spiritual flock on sexuality.
Second, over the past 4 years, Greg Johnson and his allies have attacked disagreeing brothers in the PCA and the greater Church of Christ with accusations of homophobia and hard-heartedness. It is additionally concerning that they seem to want to define homosexuality as just another sin, something no worse than over-indulging at the dessert bar. Scripture refers to it as one of the great abominations and one of the final stages of men and women being “given over.”
Third, as an ordained PCA minister, his participation in Revoice and his determination to embrace a gay lifestyle and culture has given comfort and aid to one of the great modern movements attacking the church and orthodoxy. Furthermore, he has continued to write, speak, and make money off his self-ascribed role as a gay martyr trying to help a misguided denomination that may “still have time to care.”
For these reasons, it is mind-exploding to me and to many ordained men in the PCA that the Standing Judicial Committee failed to speak to Johnson’s theology in their recent rulings. I understand that they may have felt compelled to speak to questions of procedure only and also that they are nervous about disrupting the PCA’s system of courts or reputation for being a “grassroots denomination.” But those concerns apply only to our man-made procedures, and as it stands now, Greg Johnson and his allies are using procedure and nuanced language to make fools out of the PCA.
It is also mind-exploding that with all we know about Greg Johnson that he is still permitted to stand on the floor of the Assembly to make arguments for or against an overture related to sexuality. By contrast, after the Assembly was addressed by the women of the Domestic Abuse Committee, when one lone soul stood up to rightly object to women addressing the Assembly, he was booed by members of the Assembly and chastised by the Moderator. We are in bad shape.
If heterodoxy is denominational cancer, then the PCA is eaten up with it. Some have suggested that it is just a matter of time before Greg Johnson and those who embrace his views will voluntarily leave on their own. Such thinking is akin to doing nothing about malignant cancer and just hoping it will go away. Overture 15 will likely be voted down by the presbyteries. That means two more years for the progressives to work and more time for the cancer to spread. For the sake of the Gospel and for Greg Johnson, he needs to be excommunicated. The sin of Achan should be a reminder that toleration of sin within the camp has collective consequences.
If we do not have the stomach for that, then this year, the leading men of the Gospel Reformation Network need to step up and form a new denomination. Patience is a virtue but never when dealing with apostasy within the Church of Christ. Christ and John the Baptist had great patience with the tax collectors and prostitutes but none with the spiritual treason and truth-twisting of the Sanhedrin. Neither should we.
Brett Doster is a Ruling Elder in Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Tallahassee, Florida