Karen Swallow Prior, currently a professor at Liberty University and soon-to-be-faculty member of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), is facing a lot of resistance to her appointment to SEBTS. Critics (many voicing their concerns on Twitter) claim Prior’s endorsement of the Revoice Conference disqualifies her from becoming a professor at the Southern Baptist institution.
The crux of the argument against Prior is summarized in an article written by Tom Ascol, president of Founders Ministry. After a lengthy wind up to his main point, Ascol laments that the SBC has lost its way recently and that the most “egregious” example of this can be seen in the hiring of Prior to SEBTS. Ascol writes:
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary just hired a professor who has endorsed (and defended her endorsement of) a conference with this as its stated purpose: Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other gender and sexual minority Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.
The Background on Prior’s Endorsement of Revoice
In 2018, Prior endorsed the Revoice Conference, a controversial gathering for self-avowed gay Christians that was hosted at a church in St. Louis affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Before the conference occurred, Prior wrote, “Now more than ever, the church must love and support our Christian brothers and sisters who are same-sex-attracted, yet desire to lead biblically-faithful lives, whether in singleness or marriage. I’m encouraged that Revoice is here to meet this great need in the church.”
Indeed, the intention of the conference was posited to be an encouragement for Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction yet strive to live within the boundaries of what many evangelical Christians believe to be God’s parameters for sexuality.
Critics of the Revoice conference took issue with some of the speakers’ willingness to identify as “gay Christians.” Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), said, “The moment you begin identifying as an LGBTQ+ Christian, you’ve created an unstable identity.”
Recently, Prior addressed the concern expressed by Mohler in an interview with the Biblical Recorder. She said, “some of the disagreements come down to semantics and the use of language, and we will always disagree on those things…” However, she has also qualified her 2018 support of Revoice. On Twitter, she shared an email response she sent to Ascol in October. In the email, she explained that she ended up disagreeing with many things that were said during the conference and that she had declined a further affiliation after the 2018 conference:
I believe marriage and sexuality are designed by God to be expressed within marriage between one man and one woman, a picture of Christ and his church. I signed the Nashville Statement for this reason. I also support the SBC’s 2019 Resolution on Sexuality and Personal Identity. My statement about Revoice was made in advance of the first conference. At that time, I thought that this conference would prove to be an important contribution to the overall conversation about God’s will for celibate, same-sex attracted. I ended up disagreeing with many of the speakers and many of the views expressed there. I believe some of them were wrong and unbiblical…My disagreements were strong enough that I declined a later invitation for additional affiliation, though I continue to pray for and encourage these brothers and sisters as they strive to adhere to the biblical sexual ethic…I do appreciate how Revoice has responded charitably to constructive criticism and made some changes as a result. We are all learning.
Ascol must not have found Prior’s response inadequate, as the article he wrote was published yesterday (November 21). Ascol and another vocal critic, Tom Buck, seem to take issue with Prior’s nuanced support of the stated mission of the Revoice Conference. Clearly frustrated, Prior addressed Ascol’s article on her Twitter account this morning:
It is frustrating (and wrong) to consistently receive kind words in private followed by uncharitable attacks in public by Buck and Ascol. Whatever political purposes they have or whatever platform they’re trying to build, I want no part in it. 3/3
— Karen Swallow Prior (@KSPrior) November 22, 2019
Danny Akin, president of SEBTS, has also defended Prior, even going so far as to address the concerns he’s received about his new hire in a statement. Before Ascol’s article was published, Akin said that untrue “assertions” about Prior have been sent to him and “spread to others” and that they “maliciously misrepresent a wonderful sister in Christ.”
Here’s my statement in response to some questions I have been receiving about Dr. Karen Prior. It’s a shame such falsehoods have been spread about such a faithful sister in Christ. pic.twitter.com/8gKFSRRwI4
— Daniel Akin (@DannyAkin) November 20, 2019
Many, not just Akin, find the criticism against the well-respected English professor and fellow evangelical baffling. Several of those responding to all the comments flying around social media support Prior and her appointment to SEBTS. As far as Prior is concerned, the debate on social media points to one of the reasons she thinks people ought to read more good literature.
We would not have 90% of the controversies we have in the church today (including the one on Twitter right now) if we focused less on particular people (like me) and focused more on Christ and his Word.
When you have time after doing that, read more great books and fewer blogs.
— Karen Swallow Prior (@KSPrior) November 22, 2019