As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
Editor’s Note: For full disclosure, the author is on the advisory council of the Better Together group (thirdway.church). Our publication of this article does not imply any endorsement of the group. This is an unsolicited article we accepted before we were aware of the author’s advisory council role. We found the article to be a good conversation partner to an earlier online article by Aaron Vriesman, a member of the leadership team for The Abide Project (abideproject.org): “LGBTQ-Incompatible Means Gracious Separation is the Church’s Best Option.”
I am a lifelong member of the CRCNA. I was born in Grand Rapids, baptized at Neland Avenue CRC, attended Plymouth Heights CRC for 60 years, serving as deacon, elder, alpha host, etc., many times. I now serve as an elder at Monroe Community CRC. I have served on the denomination’s Council of Delegates and on the board of Calvin Theological Seminary. I graduated from Calvin University and the University of Michigan. I am a businessman and love the creativity of business. I am also a husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather with the typical joys and challenges that come with these roles and all along my faith has supported and grounded me.
I value the CRCNA for many reasons, but especially its desire to be faithful to God’s Word and will. This is reflected so well in the current debate about same-sex marriage. It is a robust debate. I am comfortable with our denomination’s Human Sexuality Report as presented to and adopted by Synod 2022. I do wonder about the decision to add some words to the Heidelberg Catechism (originally written in 1563), but that’s another story.
So with all the above laid out, I have four main beliefs in regards to how we should navigate the increasing polarization in our denomination:
- God’s mission should be our focus! In Matthew 28 Jesus commands us to, “go and make disciples of all nations.” This is then our main job as believers—reach out to the world for Jesus! We must focus on this even as we have key disagreements on issues that are not central to our salvation.
- We must demonstrate humility. I believe that we, in the CRCNA, can demonstrate humility to the world by saying that we can embrace a very significant disagreement in our denomination. We, as a CRCNA denomination, can testify to our understanding that God’s Word teaches that marriage is meant, by God, to be between a man and a woman. We can even pound the table and say that this is the best understanding of Scripture, shared by a huge segment of Christian churches all over the world.
At the same time we, as a CRCNA denomination, can say we have brothers and sisters staying in the CRCNA with whom we disagree over the issue of SSM and we all are willing to stay together to reach the world for Jesus. Is it possible the CRCNA is wrong in its understanding of Scripture on the issue of same-sex marriage? Of course. We are not perfect! But we are trying our best to understand God’s Word. This is true humility.
- We need to provide space to discern. Many in the CRCNA need time to discern and learn how they can work, worship, and fellowship together despite differences or discover that it is not possible. Time is needed, but I believe the effort of discernment must be done in the context of knowing our main mission is following Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations.”
Some say the solution is to separate now since that will stop the acrimony and dissension as we try to live together, resulting finally in peace for both groups. I believe God calls us to a solution that helps each of us to first and foremost love each other! Jesus affirmed in Luke 10:27 that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Each side of the marriage debate in the CRCNA are neighbors to the other.
As we live together with our disagreements, we will come to know each other’s hearts. Perhaps the future will lead to separation, but that separation must come only after much discernment about ministry and process and must come with love and respect for each other.
- We need to honor our heritage. The CRCNA is a binational denomination with member churches in Canada and the United States representing many different ethnic backgrounds. We certainly gain strength from our diversity.
Same-sex marriage has been legalized in Canada since July 20, 2005. They have had 10 more years to evaluate and respond than the churches in the U.S. We need to ask and learn from our brothers and sisters in Canada how they have maintained and enhanced their witness to Jesus since that time.
I know this discussion is difficult for all of us. We ask, “What about our covenant of faith with each other”? How can we minister together when some have reinterpreted Scripture to say something with which we strongly disagree? We should not minimize these issues; rather, we should address them from the perspective of prioritizing our outreach to the world.
I personally hope this approach will be helpful for our denomination and lead to a better understanding between churches with divergent views on key issues, and I hope all members of the CRCNA will continue to search for their own ways to remain in unity, fellowship, and love with one another.