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Well, this is awkward. It appears that I am now officially a heretic.
I have been a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America for as long as I can remember. The majority of that has been at the Rochester Christian Reformed Church. My parents were looking for a church home after they moved to Framingham, Mass. Someone pointed them in the direction of the CRC Home Missions church plant. When Dad moved to Rochester ahead of the rest of the family while I was in second grade, he checked out the Rochester CRC. Brothers Pete and Barney took him under their wings, and here I still am, six-plus decades later.
I signed the Form of Subscription after we moved back to Rochester following my Calvin Seminary internship in 1985. I was elected as an elder in 1986. I resigned from candidacy, started as an elder, signed the Form of Subscription, and pretty much collapsed. The combination of changes was more than I could handle, especially with us still camped out with the folks. I had to resign from Council.
I went on to hold a series of high-profile positions in the Rochester church in the 1990s and beyond. From 1995 through the early 2000s I was the volunteer webmaster for the denominational crcna.org website.
I signed the Form of Subscription when I was 36, half a lifetime ago. It was the same book my father had signed years earlier and my mother would sign a dozen years later. When I signed the Form of Subscription I promised not to preach or teach contrary to the three ecumenical confessions or the three Reformed confessions, and the various interpretations of or amendments to them officially promulgated by the synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. That was fine up until this summer.
We have for several years flown three flags from our front porch. We fly a United States flag because I flew UH-1H helicopters for the U.S. Army back in the day. I love my country. I fly its flag proudly. We fly the flag of Puerto Rico in love and support of our Puerto Rican neighbors and friends. Had we had Black neighbors at the time it probably would have been a Black Lives Matter banner. But one runs out of room. And the Puerto Rican flag is pretty.
In the middle we fly the Pride rainbow flag. We are happily heterosexual folks, but we have a lot of gay, lesbian, and trans friends, neighbors, and relatives. We fly the Pride flag in love and support of them. A couple years ago our son Nick sent me a text note: “Happy Fathers’ Day. I’m trans.” So now we fly the flag in love and support of our daughter Noelle.
As with the women in ecclesiastical office issue, if the same-sex relationship question were simply an academic issue, a topic for debate, I could argue either side of the question. The Bible is not nearly as clear on either issue as either side would like. These are not easy questions for those who set out to take the Bible seriously as the Word of God. But they are not simply academic issues. They involve real people, Jesus-following women and men who feel pulled in ways they are certain of but neither chose nor fully understand. I cannot straddle the fence. Since these are questions that affect real people at the core of their being I have to make a choice.
When I am not sure but have to make a choice, I choose to risk erring on the side of love and inclusion. I take the latter part of Romans 13 as the starting point for my ethical considerations. “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Up until the June synod decision, same-sex relationships were a debatable issue. Yes, the CRCNA had an official position, but church members and office-bearers were free to disagree as long as they did not act on that disagreement. Ministers of the Word, for example, were forbidden from participating in same-sex weddings. But now Synod 2022 has not only reaffirmed the traditional position but has raised it to confessional status. The matter of same-sex relationships certainly remains a debated issue but is officially no longer debatable, at least not by office-bearers.
Meanwhile, the Pride rainbow floats in the breeze by my front porch, a public statement that I am opposed to the now confessional position of the CRCNA. Where do we go from here?
I am not so much angry as intensely sad. The Christian Reformed Church has been my home all my life. I love this church. But I feel like the church door has been slammed in my face.