In a past post I provided readers with the full, unedited interview I had with Tim Bayly, editor of Warhorn Media. Below is the full, unedited interview I had with Dr. Karen Swallow Prior. Dr. Prior teaches English at Liberty University and serves as a research fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. She agreed to speak with me on the record regarding Revoice, a conference to take place July 26-28 in St. Louis.
Interview in full follows:
1. Please tell me your understanding of the Revoice conference's purpose. Is the organization and staging of this conference making an argument, in your understanding? If so, what is the argument that the organizers are making?
Conferences exist to bring people together around a common interest or purpose. I do not know that any, including this one, make an argument. The purpose of the conference, as its stated mission puts it is “Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” The implicit argument of the conference is that Christians who experience same-sex attraction can and should live in obedience to scriptural teaching, and benefit from the support of the church in doing so.
2. Given your response to #1, do you agree with the argument that Revoice is making? Is it an argument you feel called to make to the public at large?
The reason I endorse the conference is that I believe Christians who are attracted to those of the same sex can and should live in obedience to scriptural teaching. I think that is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s culture to do so because of so many who say, wrongly, that homosexual behavior is not a sin. If the church does not support those in the midst of this struggle who are trying to live biblically faithful lives, they are at greater risk of giving up and embracing the false teaching purporting that homosexual behavior and Christianity are compatible. They are not.
3. Did you consent to have your photograph and endorsement posted on the Revoice website? Did you intend this to signal to the public that you agreed with the conference?
Yes. I believe strongly that the church needs to support those who struggle with homosexual attractions yet want to live lives in obedience to scripture whether through celibacy or biblical marriage between a man and a woman. The power of Christ is sufficient to remove such desires, but for whatever reason, God does not choose to remove struggles and ailments for some of us on this side of heaven.
4. Did you anticipate the resistance to Revoice that has arisen?
Of course. We live in a cultural climate defined, unfortunately, by the suspicious, hostile spirit of the “culture wars.” This spirit of the age makes it harder for Christians to think less within modernist, culturally constructed categories and more within biblical ones that transcend these. If there were not such resistance to helping our brothers and sisters in this struggle more effectively, there would not be a need for such a conference.
5. You are listed as a "research fellow" for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is funded by Cooperative Program funds taken from Baptist church members. Do you feel that public stances on issues such as the theme of Revoice require you to answer to Southern Baptists who take exception to them? Who holds you accountable as someone speaking with authority to Southern Baptists?
Yes, of course, I must answer to them. You are the first to take the time to question me directly and candidly about it. So, I thank you. I answer directly to the head of the ERLC, who answers to the trustees of the ERLC, who answer to Southern Baptists.
6. What is your understanding of the criticisms of Revoice from some Southern Baptists and from some Presbyterians? Have you read through or listened to the essays and interviews in which these critics express their reservations? Whose? Do you see any truth in their concerns?
Yes, even some of my colleagues in the ERLC have written in opposition to the conference. I share some concerns about the language and terms used by some of the conference speakers. I think some terms are unclear, ill defined, and perhaps unfortunate. However, the need to understand what people mean by these terms and how they are used within the context of their endeavors to honor God and the scriptures through sexuality that is in submission to scripture points to the very need for such a conference. The aim of the conference is biblical faithfulness even amidst the struggle, and that is why I endorse it. That does not mean I endorse every speaker, every panel, every presentation. Again, I want to support those who are attracted to the same sex but choose obedience to God rather than indulgence to self.
7. On June 13, Russell Moore stated to a messenger at the convention's annual meeting that he did not know about Revoice. Can you state that you never spoke with Dr. Moore about your involvement with the conference and your open endorsement of it? Have you spoken with him about Revoice at all since that event? Has he asked you to withdraw your endorsement?
I have not spoken at all with Dr. Moore about ReVoice, either before or after the convention’s annual meeting.
8. If the Southern Baptist denomination determined that same-sex-attracted identity of any kind corresponds to "homosexuality" as defined in its past positions, and that the identity is itself is a sin rather than, in your words, something that needs to be "supported" as a manifestation of Biblical principles, which of your positions would you choose? Would you renounce publicly the arguments of Revoice figures such as Wesley Hill, Nate Collins, Eve Tushnet, and Greg Coles? Or would you vacate your post at the ERLC?
I suspect that a definition of “identity” is too modern and too fluid a philosophical and ontological category for Southern Baptists to agree on in a resolution. If they did, I would have to consider how they define the concept before making such a decision.