A Defining Issue for the 21st Century Church

Vantage Point
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In the past several weeks, issues surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and the church have been at the forefront of my mind.

The topic is important to me because my sister, who is not a Christian, is openly gay. My wife and I have spent a lot of time with her and her partner, Kate, over the past year, and we’ve had several really good conversations about their lives, their relationship, and their experiences at the hands of Christians and the church.

LGBT persons, and the questions surrounding how the church interacts with them, are not going away.

So it pained me to learn that at Synod 2011 several weeks ago, the Christian Reformed Church decided not to “appoint a study committee to consider new biblical and theological resources that have been published since the denomination’s official stance was decided” (“No New Study of Homosexuality,” The Banner, July 2011).

The more I think, read about, and discuss the subject, the more I am convinced that homosexuality will be a, if not the defining theological issue for Christians my age (in their 20s) and younger.

Many young Christians are deeply passionate about their convictions regarding how the church should or should not respond to LGBT people. The recent New York State vote to allow same-sex marriages, for example, filled Facebook and Twitter with strong emotional statements of both support and concern by young adults.

That’s because our beliefs about the nature of homosexuality are drawn from how we see and interpret Scripture and what we believe about the nature of God, sin, justice, and creation itself—many of the core elements of our life of faith.

I believe, therefore, that synod missed an opportunity by not allowing a committee to examine LGBT issues in light of new research. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if synod is not willing to do so soon, it may jeopardize the very future of the CRC. Because LGBT persons, and the questions surrounding how the church interacts with them, are not going away.

The perception by many young adults is that Christians believe God does not love LGBT people. If our denomination cannot say that it continues to remain open to God and has a teachable spirit about how we interact with LGBT people, we’re going to risk alienating many of our young adults—gay and straight alike.

I am not suggesting that synod’s 1973 report on homosexuality is wrong, in part or in whole. I don’t believe I am well educated enough on the topic to make that kind of decision.

But I am suggesting that we as a church need to be open-minded. We need to come together as a community, and with humility and much prayer, examine the fresh scholarship, stories, and perspectives that God has made available to us. That way we can be certain our teaching, preaching, and care regarding LGBT persons is in line with God’s will as best as we understand it.

I know that an honest examination of homosexuality requires time, patience, and a willingness to risk altering beliefs and ideas we have grown up with.

I have found myself on a journey as I know and love my sister and her partner. I feel less sure of my convictions and find myself wrestling deeply with what I believe about God. It has been a beautiful and wonderful experience, and I believe my faith is much better off because of it.

I know I am not the only member of the CRC walking through this. Some are themselves LGBT, while many others care deeply for someone who is. We need wisdom and guidance from a church that we know is leading us with an open mind and an open heart.

It may very well be that after a fresh examination, the church decides nothing needs to change. But denying the CRC an opportunity to study, think, and pray about such a crucial issue as a community denies all of us the chance to continue reforming. And in the end, that will only hamper our witness as we speak to the world, and especially young adults, about homosexuality.

About the Author

A.J. Gretz is a student at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He and his wife, Anna, attend Oakdale Park CRC in Grand Rapids.
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