A group of members and pastors from several West Michigan Christian Reformed churches have organized to provide educational opportunities for congregations about the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals in their churches.
Complete Covenant members Sheryl Mulder, Arlene Beukema, Cara Oosterhouse, and David LaGrand at a recent meeting of the group.
The action was prompted by the decision of Synod 2011, the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church, not to appoint a study committee to review the biblical teachings regarding homosexual orientation and practice.
“Initially I was surprised at the synod decision, and angry,” said Sheryl Mulder, 51, an elder at Eastern Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids. She felt she had to do something, so Mulder began to network with representatives from other churches around the region. They have been meeting monthly since last September.
They call themselves All One Body to emphasize that God’s covenant of love expressed in baptism is not broken by one’s sexual orientation, nor should the commitments made by a congregation at baptism be compromised.
All One Body has already provided presentations at adult Sunday school classes in the region. Presentations have included both personal testimony and scriptural analysis. The group also plans to develop resources for pastors on providing pastoral care for individuals with a same-sex orientation as well as for congregation members who may express opposition.
Art Jongsma, 68, a member of Calvin CRC in Grand Rapids, has made presentations on alternative interpretations of key scriptural references. Reflecting on the large turnout at such events, he noted, “People want to talk about this. It is maybe not just controversial, but it touches a lot of people’s lives too.”