Synod Approves New Study on Ministry to Those Who Are Gay

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After exhaustive debate, Synod 2013 decided to appoint a study committee to provide guidance on applying the denomination’s policy on homosexuality to a rapidly changing culture. The Christian Reformed Church’s stance on homosexuality is contained in a report to Synod 1973, and reaffirmed in 2002 report on pastoral care.

Delegates decisively denied efforts to re-examine the CRC’s 40-year-old stance that homosexual activity is sinful but the orientation is not. The new committee’s mandate does not include new biblical or sociological studies.

Instead, a study committee will work on how to communicate the current position in a loving way, given increasing public support for gay marriage and its legalization in Canada and in 11 states and Washington, D.C.,

Pastors said that they need help in ministering to gay persons and in responding to those asking to be married. While upholding the 1973 policy and a 2002 report calling for more gracious outreach to those who are gay, increased cultural pressure has created new challenges and legal issues, they said.

“This mandate is exactly what we need to speak in love toward people who are hurting on all sides of brokenness,” said Rev. Michael Bentley, Classis Northcentral Iowa.

“Obviously we need to understand the pastoral concerns,” said Rev. Chad Steenwyk, Classis Holland. “But when you have pressure from groups like that, it colors our ability to look clearly at Scripture.”

Others insisted that the CRC should revisit the biblical grounds of the policy because of new psychological, biological, and biblical scholarship over the past 40 years.

Elder George Monsma Jr., Classis Grand Rapids East, and Rev. Sean Baker, Classis Grand Rapids North, urged a wider study reexamining biblical teachings related to homosexuality and marriage.

“It is people from within our own tradition who are writing the books that I and my friends and many others are reading, that are challenging the assumptions of 1973,” Baker said.

Young adult representatives made strong pleas for a wider study, saying that this is a prime issue for their generation.

“I’m speaking on behalf of all your children and grandchildren when I say this is the issue we are struggling with,” said Laura de Jong, who will enroll in Calvin Theological Seminary this fall. “These are our best friends and housemates and family who are struggling with this.”

Chadd Huizenga, another young adult representative, said language in the 1973 report is “offensive” in calling for churches to help gays overcome their “disorder.”

“This is the women-in-office issue for my generation,” said Cedric Parcels, a young adult representative and candidate for the ministry.

Elder Aaltje van Grootheest, Classis British Columbia North-West, implored delegates to heed the youth voices.

“I think we have to listen to our young people,” van Grootheest said. “They are leaving us in droves, and they are telling us this is our major issue.”

But some said that changing the 1973 policy could force them out of the church.

“I love the CRC,” pleaded Rev. Joseph Byun, Classis Hudson. “Don’t kick me out, please.”

In the debate’s most dramatic moment, elder Joseph Bowman of Classis Toronto said he spent 20 years in therapy trying to change his orientation, to no avail.

“I stand before you as a 44-year-old, single, celibate, and chaste yet openly gay man . . . no longer willing to be silent,” Bowman told the hushed delegates.

Saying he had been excommunicated from another church, Bowman added, “I want to thank this denomination for being affirming of somebody like me.”

Delegates gave him a standing ovation.

The new committee is asked to report to Synod 2016. Its mandate includes using the shepherding model used by the Faith Formation Committee, which means that it will engage with churches and classes (regional groups of churches) in an ongoing way, and report to synod yearly on its progress.


Synod 2013 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. from June 7-14. For continuous Banner coverage of Synod 2013, please follow The Banner on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at www.thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit www.crcna.org/synod. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.

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I watched the entire debate from the gallery.  This action by Synod amounts to a twisting of the knife that was thrust into the collective belly of LGBT church members by the Synod of 2011.  I found the gleeful victory dance performed by a delegate from Classis Thornapple Valley when the vote count was announced to be particularly offensive.  

May we as a church not forget that any form of sexual lust expressed in thought, word, or deed outside the boundries of biblical marriage is adultery, and sinful. With no need to boast in that sin.

May the church always be a hospital for sinners, where sexual purity is the standard once again.

 

For those who are concerned about "young people" leaving the CRC… I am a pastor who has spent the last several years working in a church plant, ministering to young people in a state which recently ratified homosexual marriage. I minister in a college town within that state which is probably one of the most pro-homosexual communities you could live in. I can tell you without blinking an eye, the primary concern of the Christian college students and young people I minister to is that we stay faithful the gospel, and committed to the word of God. Our church is growing, seeing conversions, and new baptisms. I have not once worried that my position that homosexual behavior was sinful would negatively impact the kingdom of God and the church of Jesus Christ. In fact, I believe the opposite to be true. The more diluted the gospel becomes, and the more we capitulate to the culture, the more we risk losing our identity as ministers of reconciliation. We are ambassadors of God’s kingdom. We need to be willing to speak the truth in love, and to share with people the hope and freedom which comes through a personal relationship with Christ. Are we not reformed? Do we not believe the Lord to be sovereign and able to change the heart of stone to one of flesh? Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rest on your own understanding… Seek first His kingdom. Don’t bend to the voices in the world who say we need to affirm this kind of behavior to remain culturally relevant. It’s a lie, and the Lord has demonstrated it to be a lie in my context, and in my experience. We need to be loving and respectful, but also consistent and truthful. God’s word very clearly declares this behavior to be sinful. I implore you men and women, for the sake of the gospel of the kingdom; do not abandon God’s word in favor of doing that which is politically / culturally expedient. Instead, stand firm and contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

I am concerned that too many bpeople have some misconceptions about this subject. The Gay community want us to believe they are born this way. There is not a homosexual speices, There is no test that can determine anyone is such.  People should never be branded a homosexual.  Homosexual is a behavior of choice.    Many in the Gay community say we have no choice.  While they may feel they have no choice Romans 1 says they have no excuse. The church is called to love all people, but not to approve of all behavior.  All have sinned and are required to confess their sin and to look to Christ for their redemption.  To claim that homosexual behavior is not a sin or to promote homosexual behavior is not Christian.The Church must accept all people and encourage them to repent of all sin.

At this time it has been well established that current translations are faithful to the orginal text.  Any new translation that is not faithful to those text cannot be valid.  The field of social sciences is relative new and there are many questionable conclusions being formed.  The writings of man can never be used to overrule the Word of the Lord.

Ryan, what you said resonates with me.   We say in the crc that we should be constantly reforming.  What we don't concentrate much on is what we should be reforming to, or what should influence our reforming.  Reforming does not mean being reformed by the world, but rather being reformed by God's Word and Spirit.  Our interaction with the world should always be in terms of reforming the world, not being reformed by the world.  And young people instinctively understand that if we are merely being culturally reformed according to the standards of the world of the day, then the church becomes less and less significant.  Glad to hear of your experience.

Really appreciate comments by Ryan and John Z. below. Engaging our culture in love does mean speaking the truth, based on Scripture, not current thought. I think part of the conversation should reflect on the amazing fact that out of all creation, man/woman were "created in God's image" in order to glorify him. Our purpose in life isn't to "find love" or "happiness." Yes, all of us choose to mar God's very image with sin choices (Rom.3:23), and we all need to repent. But loving communication often needs to be tough, in a gentle way. Homosexuality was not God's plan when creating male and female "in His image." We were created for "his glory" and to bring Him joy. If words like "abomination", "shameful", "impurity", "degradation","immoral" are used in the Bible to describe homosexual acts, it would seem highly unlikely that these acts would bring God joy or glorify Him even if it is OK "in our culture."

The ongoing argument against full inclusion of LGBT members should not be framed as scripture v. culture, it is instead culture v. culture.  Conservative understandings about what scripture says on this issue come through conservative culture.  Others in the church read the same texts, listen for God's guidance and arrive at very different conclusions. 

John the discussion is not something vs something, the discussion is what does scripture say.  Thinking that a person is lgbt is an insult to that person. We can talk about lgbt behavior or lgbt associations but homosexual is a behavior of choice. We must love all people we must call all sin sin. We cannot allow culture to over rule scripture.

Actually George, "what does scripture say" is not part of the discussion for the new study committee. The study committee's mandate is to provide advice about practical issues that may arise given the church's current position.  For example: what should a pastor do when a happy and legally married gay couple shows up at church?  Should the pastor counsel that couple to divorce?  If that couple has children, what happens to the children?  What does the church value more, family or dogma?   

Recent episodes like in the schools, workplace, and boy scouts are telling us that the lgbt is forcing their beliefs on to others. I think this may be the coming persecution the church is going to have to face. If it wants to remain faithful. The church and the gospel of repentance and faith must still move forward inspite of this coming oppression.

 

John

The Church's job is to lead others to Jesus and to scripture.  Then let Jesus deal with them. To condem them or to offer approval for sinful behavior is to bring judgement to your court.

I figured I'd chime in here, as the person in the photograph who "outed" himself at Synod.

Was I born this way? I dunno. Did God create me this way? I don't have an answer to that either. But whatever the case, God in His sovereignty has seen fit not to "change me." Like I said on the floor of Synod, I spent 20 years of my life in therapy and counseling, begging God to "fix" me.

I reiterate... I am celibate. I always have been. I know I am a "rarity" in the gay Christian community. I believe that "homosexualism" (although I hate that word) is indeed contrary to Scripture. But I'm a gay person. So I choose celibacy because I believe that's what Scripture commands of me.

The conservative straight Christian community rejects me because many people believe that just by affirming myself as a gay man, I'm already in sin. I don't believe that I am. And the pro-gay (I hate that word too) Christian comminity rejects me because I'm not "affirming" of them either... so I can't win.

But I shared my story at Synod because "on paper" both in the 1973 and 2002 documents, as a celibate gay man, I am free to use my gifts and may serve office. And I have been as an elder at my church.

Joseph you have my respect because you acknowledge that the behavior is sin, and strive to follow scripture. I do not believe that it is sin to love someone of the same sex, and that is why I try to carefully separate the behavior from the person.  I too, being human have my  own sins that I must struggle with daily and must admit that I often fail.  Our comfort is that we serve a God of grace.

Joesph brings up some good points.  A teacher once asked a defiant child to sit down. He sat down but said, " I'm standing up on the inside."  So we can be changed on the outside, and that's good, and we should, but not changed on the inside. I am not sure if our churches, pastors, sunday schools teachers, or parents do a good job in helping us understand just how totally depraved (morally corrupt, utterly sinful) we really are. That we were born this way, and not created this way. Isn't this the reason Jesus said, "you must be born again" in order to enter heaven?

Could it be that the lack of identifcation of what sin is, is because we have not opened the 10 Commandments from the pulpit? You know, that schoolmaster that was put in charge to lead us to Christ. You know the law that says, have you ever told a lie?  Have you ever taken something that didn't belong to you?  Ever used God's name to curse?  Have you ever looked at another person with lust?  Or ever hated anyone?  Yeah that law, the one that carries the death sentence of judgment and hell. The one that says whoever sins by the law, will be judged by the law.

The law that says the only thing you can contribute to your salvation is sin. The law that sends us to the cross for mercy and grace through repentance and faith.

 

 

 

 

The notion that scripture prohibits gay marriage in today's world is absurd.  The seven passages typically cited in support of this notion deal with specific forms of idolatry and practices unique to the ancient world, they do not address committed relationships between two consenting adults. Any ministry the study committee develops to communicate the current position of the CRCNA will communicate false and misleading information.

John Slager In the beginning God knew everything about the year 2013.

Malachi 3 vs6

 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

Yes George, you help make my point.  If God had intended to prohibit gay marriage in 2013, he would have plainly articulated this intent.  But he did not. 

John,

The Bible tells us that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of widom, and knowlege. By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." ( Proverbs 1:7,16:6) The Bible tell us concerning sinfulness and wickedness. "There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and do good. Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong." (Psalm 36:1-4)

Learning of God's wrath, judgment, and hell against sin. I came to Christ as 2 Corithians 7:15 states, ..."you recieved him with fear and trembling."

Not only should we fear God by showing honor and reverance, but so too, fear God as Jesus said himself. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) Jesus also said in Luke 12:5 "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I say fear him!"

God has already passed judgment on all forms of lust outside the perimeter of biblical marrage. Including heterosexual lust. Which Jesus called, "adultery" (the alter of sexual idolarty). "Whoever "looks lustfully" has already commited adultry in his heart" (Mathhew 5:27). Passages like 1 Corithians 6:9, among others, make this clear. "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfer. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

One fear of inviting God's judgment that I am scared of, is that God has proven over and over, and its reiterated throughout Scrpiture, that He will give people what they have shown they desire and want. 

Will the CRC church capitulate?

 

Books written by christian scholars from the reformed tradition that may help readers understand my position include:

"Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church's Debate on Same-Sex Relationships," written by James Brownson, published by Eerdmans, 2013, and

"What God has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage," written by David Myers and Letha Scanzoni, published by Harper San Francisco, 2005. 

 

John

Books written by God about same sex behaior. The Bible especially Romans 1 verses 18-26.

Again, if you read the books I recommended, you will find discussions about Romans 1 and other texts.  These discussions explain why the traditional assumption, that this text can be used to condemn the sort of same-sex marriage relationships being discussed in the CRCNA today, is not necessarily true.  

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119: 9-11)

Whatever.

When a man stands before God with a life of carnality, selfishness, and unrepentant sin, his doctrinal opinions will no longer matter. His dead faith, which he exercised here on earth, will be exposed for what it is, and he will discover, to his horror, that he has sentenced himself to an everlasting place of torment-HELL! - Steve Gallagher

This discussion covers many different parts to this issue. I appreciate so much Joseph's comments as I am a celibate Lesbian who attends and volunteers at church when I am  in the country. My question for discussion is:"how does the church as a whole treat gays who want to follow Christ and lead celebite lives?" Does the church walk along side these people/ us? Imagine being gay and deciding to be celebite in the church. Much in church is geared around families. Im 49, so everyone I know is either married, or single with children (my age). It can be a lonely place to be with not much community. And, many Christians dont want to talk about it. So for the person who is leading this life, at times they can be walking it alone... and trying to deal with something like this alone can be eventually very difficult. Is the church willing to talk about this... not just what the bible says, but address what it may be like to be celibate and gay in the church? And to think about what that means for someone who walks into the church seeking God? Of course talk about what the bible says. The truth should not waiver. But also consider for that person what it means. Giving up the chance forever to have family... children...forever.  Being the outsider in church. Im not saying it's not worth it, but just consider the pain and lonliness of this choice. "Better is one day in Your house than thousands elsewher." Im just asking for the church to be patient, to be willing to walk with gays (maybe for the rest of their lives), listen, show compassion and dont be afraid to talk with gays about how they are doing. Be willing to listen. Thanks for those few Christians in my life who have walked with me!

Merrill, 

I am a little unclear as to whether or not you believe homosexuality is a sin? Based on that understanding it would seem to me the church has one of two options.

Keep in mind Kevin, the CRC differentiates between homosexuality and homosexualism. The former refers to the "state" of being same gender attracted. The CRC does not believe that homosexuality (in and of itself) is sin. The denomination does believe that homosexualism (homosexual acts) is sin. And so do I. And by the sounds of it, so does Merrill.

But Merrill makes good points. I am 44 years old (and not 40 as posted in the article above). I am an only child. I am likely going to be alone my entire life. And that just seems scary. Churches have great ministries to teens, then "college and careers" and then it moves on to "young families." What about those of us who never marry. We get left out. That is Merrill's point.

Like Merrill I have some wonderful friends who journey with me... but not as many as I would like.

Joesph, I have always struggled with the CRCs compromised interpretation on homosexuality. The Bible teaches that God desires so much more then just outward behavior modification. He wants purity in our hearts. Jesus came down pretty hard on the teachers of of the law and pharisees and called them "blind guides". He told them in Matthew 23:25-28 "You hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence...You are like white washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hyprocrisy and wickedness."

I think the CRC has a responsiblity to call us down from the internal throne of sexual idolatry to purity, through repentance. I submit that a church that does not teach or encourage those who struggle with sexual issues in the heart, to get right with the Lord, but allows it. Does not love.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Matthew 5:7.

"Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false." Psalm 24:3,4

I agree with Kevin.  The CRC's position on this issue is an archaic and untenable compromise. Contrary to Kevin, I believe there is nothing sinful about being gay and there is nothing sinful about gay love and marriage. Two people who love each other should be free to get married and live together in full communion with the church (out of  context proof texts intentionally omitted as they trivialize both scripture and this discussion).

 These couple of Scripture verses address those who twist Scripture to try justify their sin. 

Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

 

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

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