A Change of Opinion

Reed DePace


Getting ready for the PCA’s general assembly meeting next week, I thought I might offer an opinion on one of the issues facing us. I don’t expect my opinion is any more important than anyone else’s. Neither do I expect that it is inconsequential. Rather, given the doctrine of the plurality of elders, and the Spirit’s use of that plurality in Jesus’ rule of his church, I expect offering my opinion is part of my obligations in seeking the peace and purity of our denomination. There are certainly other opinions that are both more intelligently examined and expressed. Nevertheless, to the degree I’m about an average batter, some of my fathers and brothers may find an observation or two here helpful in their thinking on this issue.

I offer this opinion knowing that there will be a number of fathers and brothers who disagree with me, some mildly, and others thoroughly. I mean no disrespect toward them or anyone, and ask your forbearance in reading my words. I promise I am seeking to do my best to write with the graciousness that is the fruit of the Spirit who unites us to the gentle and lowly One. Finally, with regard to differences of opinion, while I sense the Spirit has led me to a stable concluding conviction in this matter, I remain (as appropriate) humbly open to challenges to my opinion.

This opinion is with regard to the presence of what is generally (now, at least) identified as Side B theology. I’ll not seek to define this further, as this has been discussed, in some detail, since beginning right before the first Revoice conference in the summer of 2018. If for some reason a reader needs more background on the subject, there are numerous online resources to access. Sifting through a few will yield a sufficient background understanding.

To state my opinion up front: I do not believe Side B theology (SdB) is biblically sound, and therefore it should not be present in the ministry of the PCA. Let me sketch this out a bit, before turning to a specific application of this opinion.

SdB is at best premised on the moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD) model of the gospel and its ministry. This is not a claim that SdB in all its features expressly lines up with all the features of MTD (i.e., point for point). E.g., others may find deistic connections between the two, but (so far) I have not. Thus I am not asserting such a connection.

Rather, I am asserting connections with regard to moralisms and therapeutic aspects. SdB begins with rightly (in my opinion) bemoaning the harm done by a moralistic ministry of the gospel on LGBTQ issues (albeit, in other denominations, and none in the PCA). But then instead of jettisoning that flawed model of the gospel, SdB offers a gospel that gets stripped of moral expectations and offers nothing more than therapeutic solace. SdB proposes that the gospel ministered to LGBTQ sufferers is one that consoles them in their suffering, denies (functionally) any possibility of change, and teaches (flesh-based) strategies for living with (coping under a lifetime of suffering) unfulfilled sexual desires that are (in some manner) essential to one’s being.

In short, SdB offers a gospel to LGBTQ folk that proposes a neutering that doesn’t actually work. This is horribly offensive to both the LGBTQ and God in whose name this neutered gospel is offered. I recognize these are strong words, possibly even read as offensive to those supporting SdB. Please acknowledge that I’ve intentionally chosen such language out of love for God, the LGBTQ, and my fathers/brothers who support SdB. The intentions of SdB are indeed noble (to alleviate the LGBTQ’s suffering). Yet it offers an alleviation that relies on the same foul fleshly resources that created the problem. In principle, we all know that won’t work. Might a closer scrutiny of SdB’s litanies demonstrate this principle is present?

Shifting gears a bit, it is most likely that none of the overtures before us at this GA address this general opposition to SdB. (I struggle to consider what such an overture might look like.) Yet, there are a number of overtures that address what might be helpfully called a particular application of denying SdB’s presence in the PCA. Specifically, the overtures that address LGBTQ men serving as officers in the PCA are such applications.  Without speaking to any one of these overtures specifically, I’d like to offer an opinion with regard to LGBTQ men serving as officers.

It is vital that we recognize that the application in view is ONLY applicable to the question of who is biblically qualified to be an officer in Christ’s church. This suggests two relevant considerations of what is NOT in view vis-à-vis contemporary hot-button issues: LGBTQ members and women officers.

With regard to the first, in the application of SdB to the question of church officers, we are not discussing membership in a PCA church. Anyone who makes a credible profession of faith in Christ, as examined by the elders of that church in accordance with the doctrinal explanations in the Westminster Standards (and the practical explanations in BCO), is eligible for membership. To be explicit, and thereby asking all readers to NOT make this error, LGBTQ individuals can make such a credible profession of faith in Christ, and so can be warmly welcomed into membership in PCA churches.

With regard to the question of women officers in the PCA, this application of SdB is even more not in view, simply because it is irrelevant to the question. We agree that God’s word (and our standards, in submission to the Bible) already joyfully submit to God’s will for the roles of men and women in the church.  Specifically, we already agree that women will NOT be called by the Spirit to serve in any capacity reserved for church officers, and so we will NOT install them in such callings (formally or functionally). Thus, while this SdB consideration is relevant in denominations allowing women officers, it is not in the PCA.

The short of it here is that no one should read this opinion as categorically denying any LGBTQ individual from membership, nor an LGBTQ woman member from her otherwise rightful callings in any PCA church.

What is in view is the qualification of any man (male member of a PCA church) who seeks to be an officer in a PCA church. If such a man:

— Uses the world’s definitions in any manner to describe his sinfulness with regard to LGBTQ issues, then to that degree he raises a strong presumption that he is not above reproach. This is simply a baseline application of what it means to be above reproach, namely that a man is known for a profession and practice of faith in Jesus that expressly marks him as different from the world (1Ti 3:7, Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders …).

— Professes that he is still actively engaging in any LGBTQ sin, including internally to the extent that he has not over a sustained period of time seen any diminishment of such sin (e.g., desire, motions toward) then he is not above reproach. This is simply a baseline application of what it means to be marked as someone who previously was marked by such sins, but is no longer (1Co 6:11, and such were some of you …).

In either of these cases, such a man is not qualified for office in Christ’s church. To be specific, in accordance with the declared will of God in the Scriptures, a man marked by either of these conditions has not experienced the Spirit’s call to office in the church (nor can he, unless/until these conditions no longer apply).

I recognize that these are but summaries of the considerations in view. Even when agreed with there are still things that require a bit of unpacking. In particular, I don’t propose these opinions actually resolve the issues before us. Instead, I believe they are a necessary starting point, agreements that must be in place before we can hope to, in unity, determine how the Lord would have us address these things.

Concluding here, I recognize that these are difficult words for some of my fathers/brothers to read. With sincerity I appeal to the Spirit for, I affirm that I’ve offered them solely to be of help in our deliberations. With confidence in our Savior’s work among us, reed depace.

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3 Comments

  1. ackbach said,

    June 9, 2022 at 4:08 pm

    I think one of the central problems with this issue is that there is a lack of clarity. Are people defining their terms carefully? Biblically? For example: does SdB expressly affirm that same-sex desires are inherently sinful? They seem to be clear that acting them out is sinful; but the fact is that if a particular act is sinful, then wanting to do it is also sinful. I think we need a Side C: the Confessional position that all LGBTQ+ shtuff is sinful because the Bible says it is, and also any desires in those directions are sinful because it’s always sinful to want to sin. Moreover, because all this shtuff is sin but certainly not the unforgiveable sin, therefore there is a robust solution: the gospel of God, and faith in the Triune God.

    As for candidacy for office, I’m not sure why LGBTQ+ sins are any worse or less worse than other sexual sins in terms of disqualification. We disqualify for adultery, and we should disqualify for rampant and unrepentant use of pornography. They are all categorized under violations of the 7th Commandment. No officer on this earth is sin-free, but they should all be free of persistent, unrepentant sin.

  2. Robin said,

    June 9, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    Sd B does not give the Holy Spirit credit for His gracious work in conforming believers to Christ in the hearts and minds as well as their outward behavior. While we all expect to battle sin as long as we inhabit these mortal bodies in a fallen world, we do not continuously identify ourselves by our besetting sins. Rather we seek and expect sanctification and victory as a matter of course in our Christian experience. To hear the Side B folks talk, one would think they don’t believe that the Holy Spirit actually does this amazing work in the hearts of those who belong to Him.

  3. Ron said,

    June 16, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    “I think one of the central problems with this issue is that there is a lack of clarity.”

    Apostates deal in the currency of ambiguity.

    With the various GAs upon us, I’ve been reflecting more on where NAPARC is and where’s she’s might be heading. So, I took a break from nibbling on the bark of Molinism to deal more with broader issues (even Lee Irons and RC Sproul.) Anyway, my musings from the very recent past – two posts in reverse order: https://philosophical-theology.com/tag/apostasy/


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