The ethical position of the Christian Reformed Church on homosexuality was reaffirmed by the denomination's synod (annual leadership meeting) in 2002-2003:
- homosexual orientation is a result of humanity's fallen condition and not the result of sinful choice(s) made by those who have this orientation;
- homosexual actions are sinful, and a person who persists in them is subject to church discipline;
- CRC members who have a homosexual orientation but do not engage in homosexual practices are eligible for church office, but those who engage in homosexual practices are not;
- our congregations must show full acceptance to all our brothers and sisters who have a homosexual orientation, lovingly enfold them in the fellowship of believers, and support them with pastoral care in living out God’s will for their lives.
On that last point, synod admitted that our congregations have failed miserably in fulfilling our responsibility to those among us who are homosexual. I've asked around. We've made precious little progress on that since Synod 2003 made that admission. Congregations, de facto, use a "don't ask, don't tell" policy that continues to marginalize those who are homosexual and makes them feel anything but welcome in our midst.
This "ostrich in the sand" approach isn't serving any of us well. I know of a number of congregations who have members living in committed homosexual relationships and in which church leaders are not actively applying church discipline. Why not? It's not because those leaders are lazy or uncaring but because present CRC policy doesn't help them deal pastorally with 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.
Perhaps more common is the ongoing exodus of those who must choose between a lifelong same-sex partnership and membership in the CRC. They quietly leave our congregations to worship elsewhere.
Rev. Mike Veenema's IMHO on page 8 reveals the deep personal pain that people suffer because of this present reality in the CRC. Perhaps we need to maintain our official position with respect to homosexual practice but build on it and train local church councils how to implement it properly. Perhaps we need to modify it in some way to address differently those who are in committed same-sex relationships. In either case, we need to converse and deal openly with each other in seeking God’s will and God's way in this very significant pastoral matter—without the chilling effect of ecclesiastical censure.
It's time to take another look at the best way for us to proceed together in faith, love, and unity.
Why risk discussing this again, seeing the pain it has brought in other denominations? Because, as Pastor Mike's IMHO shows, the pain is already here. It's quietly borne by those who are silenced and excluded and by their loved ones. For their sake and all of ours, let's heed Paul's urging to "speak the truth in love" so that we will "grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4:15, NRSV).
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