In light of increasing public support for same-sex marriage and the fact that it is legal in Canada and in more than a third of U.S. states, Synod 2013 appointed a committee to help the Christian Reformed Church lovingly and pastorally communicate its position on homosexuality. The CRC’s 40-year-old stance states that homosexual orientation is not sinful but that homosexual activity is.
Synod 2013 (the CRC’s annual leadership meeting) specifically declined to reopen discussion of the CRC’s position.
“Church members are increasingly connected to persons in same-sex committed relationships, whether involving legal marriage or not,” said committee chair Rev. Rolf Bouma. “Family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers and colleagues—[same-sex relationships are] a part of our interconnected lives.”
Bouma said that the eight-member committee is giving focused attention to the varied experiences and questions pastors and church members have with same-sex committed relationships, with an eye to providing pastorally and spiritually appropriate guidelines for navigating the challenges that exist.
To learn what those experiences are, the committee is gathering information and input through consultations, roundtable conversations, and a survey conducted by the Calvin College Social Research Center. “The survey covers the topics of same-sex marriage and homosexuality and will help us gather the scope of questions, concerns, and experiences present within our community,” the committee noted. “[It] is not a ‘vote,’ but a way for the committee to hear the variety of experiences and views within the denomination.”
Bouma said the committee is aware that the topic can generate fear for a variety of reasons. “It touches on important core values that go to the heart of who we are as followers of Jesus. This is an opportunity for us as a denomination to exercise the fruit of the Spirit, respecting one another and respecting the process synod has called us to,” said committee member Julia Smith.
Bouma said that Synod 2013 also had an eye toward generational shifts in thinking and experience when it gave the committee its mandate. “The college students and young adults I work with in campus ministry think about these matters differently than the generation I grew up with. Their experiences are dramatically different.”
Another committee member, Karl Van Harn, said that the issue of same-sex marriage is also related to other issues such as the church’s relationship to the state, the nature of marriage, and our understanding of human sexuality. “When synod requested that we follow a shepherding model, it asked us to listen carefully to both Scripture and church members’ experiences with same-sex attracted brothers and sisters,” he said.
The committee is scheduled to submit its final report in the fall of 2015 for deliberation at Synod 2016.