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So The Banner concludes that Synod 2023 was “Incomplete and Broken” (July/August 2023) without, if that is true, attributing one of the big reasons for that being the recent arbitrary synodical rule that says that Synod ends at 3 p.m. Thursday. A truly deliberative assembly cannot operate properly with such a rule facing it throughout its deliberations, as this year’s synod shows. That arbitrary rule must be removed and the three-minutes-per-speech rule should be reevaluated. Synod’s deliberations should be directed by the Spirit, not by restrictive rules.
Rev. Marvin Van Donselaar // Sioux Center, Iowa
I find myself frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged by the reports that have come out of Synod 2023. We yet again allowed the conversations and discussions at synod to be dominated by the human sexuality report, and yet again we … have all clearly missed the signpost that Jesus laid before us Mathew 22:37-40: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” If we look at what happened at synod, I doubt anyone would say the discussions around the human sexuality report were loving to God and our neighbor. … Could you imagine how differently synod would have turned out if every discussion and decision was built on the framework of loving God and loving our neighbor above all else? Perhaps we arrive at the same conclusions, but the journey would have looked vastly different.
Dan Veeneman // Abbotsford, B.C.
Watching our synod in action on our computer, with very competent leadership, was a delight. The LGBTQ+ issue dividing our denomination and our leaders’ desire to hold our denomination together were respectfully done. In retrospect, I think all the delegates would agree that the LGBTQ+ community is not to be disdained nor ignored and (that) we are all sinners and need Jesus. The main issue before our denomination was not our attitude in this regard, but whether the LGBTQ+ lifestyle was, in the past and now currently, ever looked upon by God with favor. Once our denomination’s members can agree on this question, then we can spend our time on how we approach this community. Answering this question is key. This issue is black and white. As oil and water do not mix, no matter how hard we try, so also right and wrong do not mix. Unless it can be clearly shown that this behavior was ever, anywhere, approved in Scripture, we must side with Scripture. Then we can proceed prayerfully in determining God’s strategy forward.
Carl R. Smits // Cedar Lake, Ind.
As I watched the proceedings of Synod 2023, I found it hard to recognize the church I thought I knew. While I was growing up, my church taught me that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This synod tried to teach me that unless we are already pure, we are not acceptable to the church. What a change in perspective! I hope we realize that if we try to purge all the sinners out of the church we will not have any people left to be the church.
Ellen Hamilton // Grandville, Mich.
The Synod 2023 debate on same-sex marriage made clear that the conservative majority intends to prevent its confessional dictate from ever being challenged, permanently requiring that every church officebearer not only accept but agree with the majority position. But the majority did not answer a second question I have about its intentions: Does it want to force out every Christian Reformed Church member who disagrees, or will it be satisfied with denying us all decision-making authority forever?
James Leunk // Rochester, N.Y.
Had this synod been around to advise Amos, the book of Amos would likely read very differently (“Synod Urges ‘Discretion’ in CRCNA Communications on Social, Political Issues,” July/August 2023). When Amos addressed these leaders about social justice, he did not mince words. … If the church wants to prove itself relevant in today’s world, perhaps it should take a lesson from Amos and speak plainly and assertively about issues that have social and political dimensions. The church hasn’t been bashful about abortion and same-sex marriage; it should be equally assertive in advocating for access to health care and equal educational opportunities for poor communities, economic inequity due to racial discrimination, and welcoming strangers in need to our shores.
Frank Barefield // Holland, Mich.
What Is Unity?
I so resonate with Ron Polinder’s Vantage Point, “Will We Ever Learn What Unity Means?” (May 2023). He writes, “Synod 2022’s decision to make a traditional view of human sexuality ‘confessional’ is what creates the greatest threat to our unity.” We are faced with a brand-new reality: legally sanctioned same-sex covenanted relationships. It’s understandable that we differ in how to interpret Scripture, since it does not and could not directly address this 21st-century phenomenon. But it does directly address the sin of turning differences into divisions: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit …” (Eph. 4:3). Ron is my kind of “right-winger.” He knows that churches, like airplanes, fly best on both a right and a left wing.
Bob De Moor // Edmonton, Alta.
Unity should not be the goal; it should be scriptural unity (“Will We Ever Learn What Unity Means?” May 2023). The Bible is very clear that the Lord’s purpose for his human creation was that of a permanent, monogamous marriage between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:21-24; Matt. 19:3-6). Synod 2022 and 2023’s decisions rightly affirmed that biblical truth. Unity to me means that we all believe and agree with the Bible (“sola scriptura”). To have true scriptural unity, all members of the CRCNA’s agencies, ministries, boards, broader assemblies, and other entities should “affirm, without reservation, all the doctrines and beliefs of the CRCNA” (Classis Central Plains’s overture, p. 17, May 2023 Banner).
Carmen Reitsma // New Sharon, Iowa