Letters 2

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Please also see “Bob’s Blog” on this site for further discussion on the Christian Reformed Church and homosexuality.

Where Is My Son Welcome?

Thank you for your editorial "What's to Discuss?" (March 2009). Reminding faithful Christians that “the pain is already here” is very important. I would like to direct your attention to a wonderful resource that can help people begin the talking: the play Seven Passages: The Stories of Gay Christians is now available on DVD. Produced by a group of Christians, many with CRC backgrounds, the play seeks to share stories of people who identify themselves as both gay and Christian. It is an ethnography, which uses the actual words from interviews. The DVD comes with extra features intended for discussion groups. It is available for purchase from Actors' Theatre in Grand Rapids, Mich., at www.actorstheatregrandrapids.com.

—Elisabeth GeschSt. John's, Newfoundland

While this editorial and the IMHO “Where Is My Son Welcome?” (March 2009) are meant to help remove the burden for people who struggle with their homosexual identity, they actually add to it. They do so by being terribly unclear about God’s desire for people who have homosexual inclinations.

Perhaps the difficulties began when, in 2002-2003, our synod made it look as though the biblical condemnation of homosexual activity and our pastoral care for homosexuals are somehow opposed to each other. But faithful pastoral care for homosexuals—if it is truly pastoral—includes the demand of saying no to sinful desires, however difficult that may be. After all, truth and love always go together.  The articles by Rev. De Moor and Rev. Veenema both miss the point that the loneliness and pain of homosexuals in our midst can be addressed only when we support them in being faithful to God’s design for human sexuality.

—Hans BoersmaJ.I. Packer Professor of TheologyRegent CollegeVancouver, British Columbia

These articles seem to imply that a lifelong, committed same-sex partnership is acceptable to God. . . .

The Israelites worshiped golden calves in the belief that they were worshiping their (true) God. They were sorely mistaken.

It is a sure step toward apostasy for any church to encourage committed same-sex relationships, or even open this for serious discussion.

Truth is absolute and love overcomes all, but we talk about agape not eros.

—Joh HuizingaWest DesMoines, Iowa

Through the process of growing up in an incredibly loving Christian community, I have gained a deep respect for the Reformed traditions. I love being a part of a church that believes in continual reformation, and I believe the church's response to individuals dealing with same-sex attraction is undoubtedly in need of reformation.

Most of the time I feel very comfortable serving in the church; however, due to its cold response to homosexuals, I would never feel comfortable openly confessing my sin of being a bisexual.

Growing up in a conservative community, I understand parents' needs to help their children not conform to the patterns of this world; but I find it equally important for parents to nurture and equip their children with compassion and understanding because this issue is going to be part of the dialogue of the church for the rest of their lives. I especially think it's important to educate teenagers about these issues. When I look back on my own sexuality education, homosexuality was not openly discussed, and when it was referred to it seemed to be spoken of in the same breathe as the word pedophile. I didn't even know about the category of bisexuality until high school. And since in conservative circles many still believe that bisexuals are really just homosexuals in denial, I never felt understood enough to confess this struggle to other Christians, and as a result I often felt alone and helpless in dealing with my thoughts and emotions.

As I have grown into an adult, I have come to see my issue with same-sex attraction as a type of gift. Through dealing with my own shame and guilt surrounding my sexual orientation, I have grown closer in relationship to God. In freely admitting my sinful thoughts before God, I realized to a much greater extent my depravity and therefore my desperate need for a Savior. Through God's grace I feel loved and accepted by God for who I am and have rooted and established my identity not in temporary and earthly matters but in my relationship with God as a child of the King. Through the healing love of God, I hope to be able to bring glory to God through all of myself, including my sexuality.

My prayer for the church is to grow in grace of God because we are all washed clean by Christ’s precious blood. I also pray the church will encourage and model for the next generation the love and acceptance of Christ to all Christians regardless of their sexuality and their lifestyle choices.

—A daughter of the King

Life is messy. When I was growing up, that is not what I was taught. I was told that if I followed the rules, walked the right path, made the correct choices, I would live a life bathed in God’s blessing (or at least I wouldn’t rot in hell).

I attended Christian schools, I graduated from Calvin College, I married, and I even went back to work for Calvin College. But in spite of all those “correct moral decisions,” my life exploded into a monumental fireball around my 25th birthday, and for the next five years I retreated into a cave-like existence, overwhelmed with self-loathing and depression as I processed how I would live knowing I was a lesbian.

I wasn’t ready to come out to my family, as I was pretty sure I would lose at least some of them. I couldn’t be out in my Christian Reformed church, as a brief discussion with my pastor made clear to me. . . .

Thankfully, all those years of church education also equipped me to hang on for another day. My faithful Savior held me close in those dark days. I had friends who were not so lucky and succumbed to the pain.

During this dark period, I prayed to know what direction to go. I also prayed fervently that God would send someone to me who would love me for who I am. For all those who think those in same-sex committed relationships are misguided and engaged in a most serious form of sexual immorality, I tell you that God literally sent my partner of eight years knocking on my door to meet me as I was too paralyzed by fear and depression to ever meet this person any other way.  This relationship has been a most amazingly deep, loving relationship. A relationship for which I am every day thankful to God.

This is just one story of one person, and it happens over and over again and again. Can the CRC really allow this to take place? I believe that as a church we need to stop applying labels to folks and using those labels as excuses to beat each other down. I believe we need to agree to disagree and respect each other’s differences. Not ignoring them in fear, but letting them lie as problems that we do not have answers to and with a realization that there are many more terrible problems in our communities and the world that need our attention and energy.

[To the question of who will welcome Rev. Veenema’s son, I would respond that in western Michigan, the non-profit organization Gays in Faith Together (www.GaysInFaithTogether.org) stands ready and willing to welcome those who feel rejected by their churches.]

 —Cara Oosterhouse
Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Same-sex couples who live in a committed relationship and who show strong faith, Christian maturity, and a sincere desire to continue within the fellowship of believers” are Christians living outside the will of God. I didn’t say that, God did. The church can’t tolerate open sin in its midst; otherwise the Lord will judge it. It’s no different than a heterosexual couple living together outside the bonds of marriage and seeking acceptance from the church. We are told to remove the leaven from within us; we have no choice. There really is nothing to discuss.  

 —Gary Wainwright
Grand Rapids, Mich.

I hope Rev. Veenema's son keeps in mind why we are really here when he "chooses" his lifestyle. We are not here for self-satisfaction. How does a committed same-sex relationship help society? How does it help lead others to the Lord? We must obey God. We all have different burdens to bear, and thank the Lord we have him to help us through them.

—Heather Vander MolenGrand Rapids, Mich.

The editor wants us to keep talking about homosexuality. For what purpose? We should speak the truth in love, he writes. I am sure that Paul spoke the truth in love when he wrote 1 Corinthians 6:9 and all his letters.

I can feel a parent’s pain when a son or daughter turns to a gay lifestyle, and I too would not stop reaching out to him or her in love. But support him or her in that lifestyle? And to keep talking about homosexuality when synod keeps upholding the same position? I don’t think so.

In my ministry I have felt the "chilling effect of ecclesiastical censure" more than once from the side of one called to exercise such censure. It is a daunting mandate.  But church discipline is still one of the marks of a true church, isn’t it?

—Rev. Lammert SlofstraSurrey, British Columbia

To answer the question “Where is my son welcome?” I would remind the author that in the time of the early church, there were many pagan religious temples that welcomed those who chose lifestyles that contradicted the teachings of Christ, Paul, and the other apostles.

As we observed on a recent trip to Greece and Turkey, it was understood by both the followers of Christ and the prevailing pagan religions of that time that there was a clear dichotomy between the two when it came to what was and what was not acceptable behavior. Today travelers to the ancient world can observe countless ruins of pagan temples where perversity of all kinds was celebrated. Seeing churches built with the broken stones of demolished pagan temples was a powerful visual, as were the many crosses and ICHTHUS symbols etched into the walls and marble floors of those temples.

Early Christians were united in their efforts to spread a new message in that environment, a message of freedom in Christ, freedom from lifestyles that ultimately do not bring glory to God.

I sense that we sometimes carry with us the attitude that practicing homosexuality is a “new” phenomenon that the church needs to address. Not unlike the prevailing culture in Paul’s time, practicing homosexuality is becoming understood as a lifestyle to celebrate, both inside and outside of the church. Yet nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to forge homosexual practice into the Christian church and to regard it as a godly lifestyle. . . .

Recently I learned of an individual who, in retrospect, feels that the church that enabled and encouraged his homosexual orientation in reality did him a great disservice, as he later moved out of the homosexual community and into a Christian community that gave accurate biblical teaching.

Thank you for the reminder that we should “speak the truth in love.” I have attempted to do that. I also need to ask why homosexuality is singled out, since “deep personal pain” is shared by all whose lives are affected by alcoholism, promiscuity, murder, theft, and greed as well. And so far, I haven’t read any articles urging us to adapt a new approach to analyzing those moral issues.

—Jan RoedaDelavan, Wis.

The letter by Rev. Veenema was heartbreaking. It is the struggle of a father with a problem he cannot solve, which involves his son, someone very dear to him.

When our children take paths that we know are not consistent with the direction and instruction of Scripture, what are we to do? We want to find a way to continue to love our children, to continue to build them up, to continue to help them find their dreams.

It is not surprising, then, that fathers and mothers have their own orientation toward protecting their children. All people, including fathers and mothers, also have a basic orientation. That orientation is toward sin, toward self. That is why Scripture and the confessions say that no one is righteous and that “we have a natural tendency to hate God and our neighbor.”

This orientation toward sin gives us all sorts of inclinations that are contrary to what God wants for us and contrary to how God wants us to live. . . .

Contrary to what the editor said in his March editorial, it is not true that we don’t fulfill our responsibility toward homosexuals. It may be a trite cliché, but we do love the sinner and condemn the sin. But it certainly will be true that we don’t fulfill our responsibilities toward homosexuals if we simply try to justify the behavior or ignore the sinfulness of it. . . .

The really sad thing is how easily we will ignore the clear indications of Scripture in order to follow the inclinations and sinful orientations of the world and of our hearts. . . .

We need to pray for God’s promise that God’s grace is sufficient for both the fathers and the sons when we struggle to be obedient.

—John ZylstraBluesky, Alberta

Imagine that you are a pastor counseling someone with same-sex attraction. You are aware that homosexual actions are sinful and that God’s will is that we “avoid sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:9-11, 1 Thess. 4:3).  The person is considering or involved in a same-sex relationship that includes homosexual activity. You should (a) overlook the sin in order to support the relationship or (b) show love to the person by standing on God’s truth in opposition to the sin, assuring them that any sinful condition can be conquered by the power of Christ, although the path to freedom may be paved with hard choices, sacrifice, and pain? Love “rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6), therefore (b) is the truly loving choice.

—Jeff ConklinHaslett, Mich.

The denomination’s official position, which Rev. De Moor quotes in his editorial, is both good and clear. Those with homosexual tendencies should be lovingly and pastorally embraced into the full life of the church. Having discussed this article and this issue in our church, we are still, however, left with the question of how to do so without offending, and how to lovingly discipline and counsel those who persist in homosexual relations in spite of the Christian Reformed Church’s position.

I take exception, however, to Rev. DeMoor’s suggestion that we open the discussion on modifying the CRC’s official position on homosexuality “in some way to address differently those who are in committed same-sex relationships.” The Bible is quite clear that homosexuality is not what God intended for humankind, but is, as the denomination’s position rightly states “a result of humanity's fallen condition.” The choice of those inclined toward homosexuality is not whether they feel the way they do about the same sex, but whether they will choose every day, by God’s grace, not to engage in sin. But mustn’t we all choose, as our Heidelberg Catechism says, to struggle against sin all our lives?

—Dave Alexander,Langley, British Columbia

The good news of the gospel is for everyone—“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Then we are washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). THIS is speaking the truth in love, as Paul urges, not only to homosexuals but to all, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

—Carmen ReitsmaNew Sharon, Iowa

As a parent I understand why Rev. Veenema would struggle with the suffering his son encounters as a homosexual. We hurt when our children hurt.

His son should be loved and enfolded by God's people as all of us find acceptance in God's family as sinners saved by grace alone. We certainly could improve in our love of homosexuals, but it seems there is confusion about how we give support. There is tremendous cultural pressure to accept and condone same-sex relationships. This is outside of God's will as spoken clearly in God’s Word and revealed in our anatomy.

As Christians, we support each other by "weeping with those who weep" as we face the trials of this world in the light of God's unchanging truth. All of us have a war within us between our old nature and our new nature. The one that's "winning" is the one we feed the most.

—Gwen SnoeyinkHudsonville, Mich.

I'm a young father and cannot imagine the pain of having a son who struggles with homosexuality. But the struggle is the key. We all struggle with sin. And we need to keep up the fight. That, after all, is part of the old nature versus the new nature fighting in all of us. . . .

When did committing sin, even if done in a committed way, become justifiable? . . . The book of Acts makes it clear that the apostles were not afraid to confront each other when they saw each other acting in an un-Christian manner (think of Paul and Peter). So I'll answer Rev. Veenema's question: If your son chooses to give in to his homosexual tendencies rather than fight that sin with all the grace available to him, and if you encourage his actions rather than help him struggle against them, he should not find a comfortable home in any church. That, after all, is the point of preaching and teaching sin. Each time we hear it and feel guilty, it is the Holy Spirit prompting us to change.

—Kirk StruikHull, Iowa

To be sure it has to be it painful for people with homosexual tendencies to remain celibate. Does this pain license behavior that Scripture has condemned and has never condoned? Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, to take up our crosses and follow him. Carrying a burden such as this should be shared at the discretion of that individual among trusted friends, pastor, and/or counselor. The public need not be aware of this. If and when we do become aware of this struggle in one of our Christian brother’s or sister's lives, condescension and gossip should not be our reaction.  Rather, be a friend and encourage him or her in doing the right thing.

—Carl R. SmitsLansing, Ill.

I understand the call to love our brothers and sisters who are homosexual, and I would agree that as a church we have failed to receive them as dearly loved children of God. But I have a problem when we start saying that the only way we can truly show love is to embrace not just the person but also his or her actions. I have three sons whom I love deeply, but I don't love their sin. I show my love not by ignoring sin but by dealing with it. Because they know I love them, they can receive my guidance. Let's not confuse loving someone with a need to accept sinful behaviors.

—Derek BoumaWellandport, Ontario

Rev. De Moor is right: we have “failed miserably in fulfilling our responsibility to those among us who are homosexual.” It’s easy to be critical and judgmental toward homosexuals. We need to be willing to do what it takes to encourage homosexual believers in their walk with Christ.

Yet at the same time we need to keep the Bible as our standard.

It seems the church is suffering from a paradigm shift. Worldly wisdom and subjective feelings are replacing God’s Word and objective reasoning as our standard for measuring right and wrong. If it causes pain, it’s bad. Church discipline causes pain, so church discipline is bad. This reasoning is faulty because the initial premise is flawed. Something is not necessarily bad simply because it causes pain. The pain I suffer as a prisoner is a matter of social justice, the consequences of my crime. Yet the goal, one might suppose, is to correct my behavior, restoring me to society as a productive member. The same holds true for church discipline. The pain an errant member suffers is a matter of church justice, the consequences of his sin. Yet the goal is to correct the errant member’s behavior, restoring him to a right relationship with God and the church. What could be better?

—James DoyleHardee Correctional InstitutionBowling Green, Fla.

The article from Rev. Veenema is symptomatic of a serious disease that afflicts many congregations. That is the penetration of the world into the church.

A significant percentage of congregations have allowed liberal and un-Christian ideas to overcome the teaching of the true gospel.

There is one function of the church, among many others, and that is to call for repentance from sinners, which includes homosexuals, to leave their sinful ways and receive forgiveness form the Lord.

It is a sad day for the CRC to have one of their pastors condone this sin from his own son, effectively assuring his destruction.

—Pedro A. DelgadoMiami, Fla.

I found it sad to see so many complaints about your January cover. With so much appalling stuff on the inside, it’s hard to believe a funny picture of John Calvin got so much attention.

I love the CRC, as well as The Banner. I have always been loved by her members. I find what I’ve always heard at church, though, to be very different from what I read in The Banner. I have always thought I belonged to a conservative Calvinist church, but our magazine portrays something far from that.

I am 27, barely finished 10th grade, and am in prison for the second time—not a great testimony for someone raised in the CRC. But that brings me to my biggest complaint . . . I am a “sexual deviant.” I have always been loved by my church, but never encouraged to live in sexual sin. Maybe practicing gays don’t feel comfortable at worship because God is convicting them. Maybe our focus needs to be more about God’s choosing us out of fallenness, and less about just how fallen we can remain while still being welcomed as Christ’s bride.

I pray that in the years to come we will see the CRC reach out to our world not by embracing sinful lifestyles, but by showing that there is a better, very different way.

—Jared VandeWerfhorstMarion, Ill.

Calvin Cover

How dare you publish such a disgraceful image of John Calvin (January 2009)! One, we all know Calvin was lactose intolerant and would never eat cake. Two, there are too many candles on that cake, which promotes recklessness and suggests that the CRC condones fire hazards. Three, I’m pretty sure balloons weren’t invented in the 17th century, so you are bearing false witness.

Does this all sound a bit ridiculous?

I thought so.

Keep up the good work.

—Steve De RuiterGrand Rapids, Mich.

I think many of us will have two surprises awaiting us when we reach heaven. One will be those who are there whom we did not expect to see. The other will be the personalities of those heroes of the faith whom we thought were as stuffy as we are!

—Marc FaasseJenison, Mich.

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