Grand Rapids Event Advocates Full Participation of Practicing Gay Church Members

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Dr. Amy Plantinga Pauw was the speaker at a recent event to discuss allowing gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual individuals, including those living in same-sex relationships, full participation in the Christian Reformed Church. Pauw, a professor at Louisville Seminary who graduated from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., received her M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.

The event, held September 17 at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, drew an overflow crowd of about 170 people. It was organized by All One Body-A1B, an organization that promotes full participation in church life “by all persons who confess Christ as their Savior and Lord, whether they are single or faithful partners in a committed, monogamous union, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).”

Synod 2011 (the annual leadership meeting of the CRC) chose not to reexamine the denomination’s stance on homosexuality, adopted in the 1970s. Dissatisfaction with that decision led some members of Christian Reformed churches in Grand Rapids to form All One Body.

Pauw argued that the church was “traditionally inclusive” and did not take into account the fact that marriage, in addition to being a traditional Christian commitment was also an earthly commitment. She specifically noted that originally celibacy was considered a gift to those who chose a life of ministry. Now pastors enjoy the commitment of marriage in addition to following their call into ministry. The title of her speech, “A Yes to God’s Earth,” summarized her opinion that the church was forgetting the broader experience of earthly relationships.

Pauw referenced Romans 1:24-27, where Paul wrote about homosexual acts as contrary to nature, and challenged her audience to also remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:14: “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him.” She cited it as an example that context is important to the interpretation of Scripture, and that ideas written then do not necessarily equate to the human experience now.

“The vast majority of marriages are going to be heterosexual,” Pauw noted. But she also stated that the role of marriage in life, for both heterosexual couples and homosexual couples, achieved the same goal—a faithful commitment that produces “creaturely flourishing.”

The evening included a panel discussion with three men, including those who identified themselves as heterosexual and LGBT.

One panelist, identifying himself as a traditionalist, questioned Pauw’s idea of context and interpreting certain Scriptures differently. Agreeing that some things, like hairstyles, did not hold the same meaning for today’s Christians, he noted that sexuality was not necessarily a hairstyle equivalent and less likely to change over time.

Another panelist, self-identified as gay, noted that he grew up in the church. He participated as a music director and offered to commit himself to celibacy before being asked to leave his church. It was after that that he met his partner. He expressed a desire to include individuals like him within the church.

Audience members were encouraged to write comments or questions on cards and pass them forward.

“[Does this] open the door to polygamy?” asked one audience member. A panelist responded  that that would need another, separate discussion.

Another asked, “Will the church provide resources to those who desire to remain celibate?” The panelist who identified himself as a traditionalist said, “We can work to provide more textual materials, and possibly, if that member talks to a pastor or member of the church, emotional support.”

After the panelists spoke, one pastor extended an apology for a sermon he had preached many years ago that would have been hurtful to the LGTB community. “I am sorry,” he told those present.

Audience members’ questions included skepticism of contextual interpretation mentioned by Pauw in addition to questions about celibacy and creating support groups for LGBT individuals. The evening ended with refreshments and individual discussions.

The event at Calvin CRC is the first in a series planned for the Grand Rapids area by All One Body. The group also hosts monthly meetings at Eastern Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids.

About the Author

Kristin Schmitt is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Hudsonville, Michigan.

See comments (25)


Being 42 and having grown up gay in the CRC, I suppose I am very glad that there were places and homes for me beyond the harsh judgment and ignorance of the CRC.  It simply must be said within any discussion of the topic that the church has erred grievously on this topic, and I do not say that based on popular media opinions or the views of other churches; I say that as someone who was treated as an outsider, a pervert and an undesireable by friends, family and "community" within the CRC, and yet was fortunate to find solace in Christian, academic and other social environments that were gracious and welcoming when they saw the pain and isolation experienced by individuals such as myself.  

I wish the CRC the best as this important topic is finally being discussed again; perhaps a new generation of young gay Christians will not be sidetracked and barred by an institution with stubborn and unkind conviction, and instead will be able to move forward and be effective citizens of Christ's kingdom. Beyond our anger and hurt, there must be forgiveness, even if it is wary and quiet and happens far beyond the boundaries of your community. Good luck.

"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galations 1:10)

You can read a version of Dr. Amy Plantinga Pauw's lecture at:

Thank you to the Banner for covering this event. I am glad there are many folks willing to engage in respectful dialogue on this topic, difficult as it is.

Before the more harsh comments come along, I would like to share a thought from a blog post I read this morning by Jason Micheli. He asks if there is an unforgivable sin (such as unrepentant gay people living their lives authentically) His response is to quote Jesus in Mark 3:28-30

28 ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— 30for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

The author goes on to say...

The Holy Spirit is what reminds us that God didn’t speak or work in the past.

God continues to speak and work in the present.

God can do a new thing.

And that new thing might even go against everything we’ve understood about what God did and said in the past.

God can affirm and welcome and ‘declare clean’ what God’s word once declared quite to the contrary.

If I have to connect the dots to make clear how this is a relevant issue today, I’ve not been nearly the writer my wife tells me I am.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit =


So reifying your understanding of how God willed and spoke in the past- in scripture- that you’re willfully blind to see the liberating, healing work of God in the present.


My hope for this comment section is we will heed the warning of Jesus in Mark, remain respectful and open to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Reformed Church.

Thank you, All One Body, for doing important and essential work. I live to see the day when our covenant children, born and baptized into the body, are no longer told, "You do not belong here." The Spirit is moving mightily in this movement, and the fruit it is producing is good. 

"Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consisider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws." ( Psalm 119:1-7)

Thank you to All One Body for the essential work they do, for staying with the CRC to effect needed change. Thank you to The Banner for covering this event. I left the CRC, the church Ioved after Synod's 1973 decision because I knew there was no place for me in the church. For nearly 40 years I wandered, learning from other spiritual traditions. I now belong to a Presbyterian Chruch (USA), where I am warmly welcomed, and my gifts are used. This happens to be the denomination of the Louisville seminary where Amy Plantinga Pauw teaches. 

I am grateful to All One Body for organizing such events and creating gracious space for these urgently needed conversations.  Well done!  

Isn't "Earthly" another word for "worldly"? What other sins ought we consider ignoring as cultural mores change?

I have often wondered how the period of the judges got to be dominated by religious syncretism. Tracking Plantinga Pauw and her supporters explains a lot in that regard. Today I listen to a passionate defense of Christian "swingers-clubs" in Florida...The proponents beleived they were in step with God leading and that in heaven there would be no marriage so what's wrong with getting a jump on share and share alike regarding spouses. When Pauw's exegetical presupositions become the order of the day, all things are permitted....there is no bottom. Besides, grace cannot be out-run, so let's all sin boldly. We are in deep trouble. 

I did not attend this event but read Plantinga-Pauw's article of the same title. It echoes many of the points that James Brownson is making in the RCA. One of particular note is the connection that both make between egalitarianism and becoming an "open and affirming" denomination. If patriarchy is removed gender roles and sexual ethics have the potential to be understood in new ways. However we, or at least I, have been told all along that those two issues are unrelated. I heard it at Calvin Seminary from a professor that I truly respect, and I want to believe he was right. Now those calling for a new denominational position on homosexuality are telling us egalitarianism allows for–or even supports–a change to our long-held beliefs. Which is it? Is the issue of women in ecclesiastical office fundamentally related to a new doctrine of sexuality as Brownson and Plantinga-Pauw claim? Or can egalitarianism and traditional, orthodox understandings of sexuality coexist? I hope the latter proves true for the sake of our denomination.

"Houston we have a problem"

Speaking of RCA:
    I noticed that Kevin DeYoung's congregation voted with their feet because they are just plain sick of the "death by dialogue." Are we seeing this here?

A pattern seems to be developing:
1. A group who is on the fringes of the church decides to form a "study" "mutual caring group."
2. The tools of the best emotional language available to them at the time, especially those that appeal to guilt, to being less than caring, and to being less than inclusive are employed.
3. Church facilities are used to sponsor events in order to get their agenda known.
4. Outside speakers who have something close enough to the main body of the church so that it is not rejected, are invited.
5. It is posted as an open event and it is pitched with an air of neutrality.
6. A denominational magazine is used to report on the event.
7. Multiple commentators affirm the event. 

8. A beach-head is made. 

9. Repeat the cycle and gain more ground.


So what is the problem?
a. What if the lobby group is no more than a group of those in rebellion to Christian orthodoxy? 
b. What if the lobby group is essentially saying "Did God say?"
c. What if the lobby group, under the rubric of the values of the spirit of the age, simply pushing to get its agenda through, come what may?
 d. What if the said denomination is so hell-bent on pleasing people, that it cannot see through the emotional fog?.

So what is the solution?
a. Ask first and foremost, How is this group or its agenda informed by the spirit of the age?
b. Ask secondly, Have we seen this before?
c. Ask thirdly, Is the denomination being manipulated?
d. Ask fourthly, What specifically within the denomination allows it to be manipulated?

As for me, I am nauseuous with the words "creatively flourishing." Cancer cells "creatively flourish" Ebola viruses "creatively flourish." And what do they bring us? Death.

When a  denomination begins to permit individual or collective rebellion to clear injunctions of Scripture read through the eyes of the global church for two millenia, then it may inherit the moniker used of another such assembly in Rev. 3:9, namely "a synagogue of Satan."  

God help us.


My body trembles and tears flow. As a pastor I know how this undercuts people's faith, people I love and serve, people who cherish and cling to God's Word even when it seems to rub against what our world calls "authentic" and "natural." My judgments don't really matter. God's judgements reign supreme. Scripture passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 call us to the washing, the justification, the sanctification, the gift of the Holy Spirit, all given through Christ to overpower the sin that entangles, the sin that we are now repackaging and celebrating. I am a sinner and what Christ tells me is not that God is fine with that, but that Christ came and rescued me, through blood, agony and divine forsakenness, and is at work in me to put it to death. My brothers who have same-sex attractions, I love you and I care about you. Call me up when you are weary and alone. Let me stand next to you in the trenches of the battle. I will join you in rebuking the accusers that would say such struggles separate you from God. Let's show the world guys can care about each other and love each other deeply without it being sexual. I must join the repentant if I've contributed to any shunning or excluding where the church deemed one sin so much worse than another. But I will not, I can not, I must not, bless sin. I plead with my spiritual family, do not call wrong right and right wrong in the name of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV): "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

I stand against this movement because I care about people participating in and inheriting the kingdom of God. The Christian Reformed Church has a process for deliberating doctrinal and ethical matters. Those who found that didn't serve their agenda have circumvented it and set themselves up as the prophetic voice of our Reformed Faith. If our church order is like a covenant we agree to abide by together, then by definition "All One Body" has broken it, sowing more seeds of divisiveness. Talking about sin in order to be comfortable with it, letting dialogue be the salve of our consciences will not stir us to be the God-glorifying, united holy catholic church. 

This has convicted me that I need to spend more time on my knees.

As I read the comments to the article, I am struck by the fact that so many of the comments are not comments of love, but of hatred.
Many of you have clearly said that homosexual sex (or “homosexualism” according to the 1973 synod) is sinful; I think that you would not hesitate to make the logical leap to hating homosexual sex—after all, hate the sin, love the sinner, right? Unfortunately, this formula fails in the homosexuality debate.

What is hated? Is it homosexualism or homosexuality? 1973 Synod bifurcates the two and places the former in the “broken” category and the latter in the “sinful” category. As noble as this attempt to salvage some decency for people with same-sex attractions was, it unfortunately makes no sense. If you hate the logical product of something, you hate that thing. It would be like saying to me “I don’t hate your Asianess, I hate it when you act Asian.” Or, “I hate that you’re dying from cancer, but I don’t hate your cancer.” If you hate the one you hate the other. If you hate homosexualism, you hate homosexuality. You think it’s broken, completely broken, so broken that no expression of it can exist beneath the wrathful gaze of God. And the fact is you hate it.

What is hated? Is it homosexuality or homosexuals? It’s possible to claim that you hate a person’s actions but not that person. (Many a murderer’s parent has loved their child even when they have abhorred what that child did.) But when you hate someone’s nature, then your hatred moves closer to the person the more essential that nature is. For instance, if you hate a person for being African or a woman, then you hate them, in spirit and in truth.
You might argue that sexuality is less essential to a person than race or gender, but it is not. If a person loves another person with an erotic love, eroticism is a fundamental part of them. It touches everything they do, everything they say, everything they are. A person cannot be human without being for other humans. If you hate the basic mechanism by which a person feels attraction, then you hate that person.

I am a transgender, queer woman. And we’ve established that in your heart of hearts, you hate me. But do you show your hatred towards me in these comments?

Your excuse would be you’re just calling sin sin. But that’s not the truth. Because there’s a lot of sins you pass on naming every day. When people who actively abuse their wealth come to your church, do you say “Get out, you sinners?” When people who abuse their children and spouses walk to the communion table, do you turn them away? When politicians who make a living on lies and corruption visit your church, do you stand up in outrage? When gossipers and slanders and the unkind and the scheming and the aggressive come through those church doors, do you shake your head in disgust?

No. Because you don’t care about them. You don’t hate them. You hate me and those like me.

Now you have one out. Perhaps my actions are so disgusting, so repulsive that you have every right to hate them, the nature they come from, and the person who is inseparable from that nature. And now you crow with delight, for you have me.
Does not the Lord find homosexual sex an abomination (Lev 18:22)?? (Ignoring the fact that the same word for “abomination” is used to describe unclean food (Deut 14:3), money from prostitution (Deut 23:18), and a man remarrying his ex-wife after she married someone else and was divorced (Deut 24:4).)
And isn’t homosexuality in the list of sins in 1 Cor 6:9–10?? (Ignoring the rather obvious interpretation of the words used there as pointing to exploitative male homosexual sex)
And Romans 1:26–27, isn’t that a slam dunk text? (Ignoring the growing scholarship that says Paul is talking about the same exploitative behavior)

Let me grant all of this. So the Bible condemns homosexuality clearly and emphatically.

But let me ask you this. Without using the Bible or traditions derived from it, or other such religious texts, can you give a single good reason for why sex between consenting adults of the same sex is wrong?

I assure you there is none. Every argument against homosexuality ultimately boils down to “God says it’s wrong.” There is no evidence in nature. The fruit of homosexual coupling is just as good or bad as heterosexual coupling. There is simply nothing but the divine command, which, made intelligible only to the select few who believe in whatever religious text they believe in, becomes to them a kind of secret knowledge that no one else has access to.

Finally the concern for theology over lives is completely unChristian. Ultimately, theology by itself is meaningless—having the right thoughts does not save oneself and it does not save others. It is simply a tool for better relationship with God and for helping to figure out what to do in complicated situations, and ultimately theology must be judged on those two bases. Does it bring people closer to God and does it help them act more Christlike?
Christ over and over again rejected strict mosaic codes for the fulfillment of Torah—he healed on the sabbath, touched a corpse, and fellowshipped with "sinners"; he loved his neighbor rather than his theology.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, jesus further undermines theology in favor of practice. Even further, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' words on the importance of intention show that righteousness is not about doing what is technically or theologically right, but about doing what is actually right. In fact, it seems almost like good theology plus bad actions still equals sin whereas bad theology plus good actions can still equal Christlikeness.

You are driving people in hordes from the church in order to cling to some secret knowledge which justifies your hatred for me and people like me. You say and do cruel things and demand that we call you loving. I for one no longer can.

The Bible is the holy, inspired Word of God. The apostle Paul's Biblical writings about the sinfulness of homosexual practice are divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit.   The Bible is crystal clear in condemning homosexual practice. These efforts of Dr. Amy Plantinga Pauw are contradictory to the clear teachings of Holy Scripture.  It is my sincere hope and prayer that Amy, and others who deny this important truth of Holy Scripture, will soon repent and align themselves fully with God's Holy Word.

"Love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices with the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:6)

"Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth." (John 17:17)

"He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord." (Proverbs 17:15)

In response to Nicola Koh.  I find your comments hateful.  But I do not hate you.  One can hate murder, without hating the murderer, even if it is repeat murder.  Just watched "Amish Grace" a movie which demonstrates forgiveness for a murderer, even when the amish hate murder so much they don't even own guns.  As christians, we hate murder, and we hate hatred, and we hate the thought of murder. 

Whether it is homosexuality, or homosexual acts, or homosex inclinations, it is all detestable.  No different than the inclinations of many men to be profligate, adulterous, fornicators.   Whether they do it or not, even the inclinations  and so called nature of such is to be detested and hated.  When these inclinations are not hated and repented from, then we become slaves to our inclinations and imprisoned by our so-called "nature" which rebels against God. 

When we love to indulge our sinful natures, we are really saying that we hate the God who told us to repent.  The "All One Body" is despising God under the banner of loving others.   The epistles of John are very clear that the only way you know if you love your neighbor is by loving God and keeping his commandments.  (which means not creating your own commandments to override God). 

Nicola- I'm sad that you read and feel hate from followers of Christ.  Undoubtedly some of that is real and it is something which I always need to evaluate in my understanding of the Bible and interaction with people.  John 3:16 reminds us of God's love for all of the world, and that is something all of us must strive to live up to.  I ask for grace, and humbly ask that you might also extend grace.

Your analogy about homosexualism and homosexuality is helpful but you miss some of the distinction (at least in my mind).  The doctrine of the fall teaches that all of us are fallen and all of us have sinful tendencies.  So my tendency to be physically attracted to women who are not my wife is part of my sexual brokenness.  It is part of who I am, but it is a distortion of the image of God in me.  Others have a tendency to be greedy, or lazy, or to lie.  The fact that we are tempted in certain areas is a result of the fall (brokenness).  The behavior of indulging in that temptation is sin.  Jesus was tempted in every way, but was without sin.  I don't hate myself, or people who are broken, but I do hate that sin has caused their borkenness.  I long for all people regardless of their broken tendency to find joy, peace, healing, and grace in Jesus.

On another level of something more fundemantle to identity.  Someone who has Downs Syndrome or who is born blind, or who is born with another physical challenge is a mark of the fall.  Without sin there is no disease or illness.  I do not hate people who have physical challenges, but I do hate that they have physical challenges. Their physical challenges are not sin in any way, but they are marks of  a broken world.  Just as I sometimes struggle to effectively communicate loving acceptance in a meaningful way to folks who have physical brokenness I also sometimes struggle to effectively communicate loving acceptance in a meaningful way to folks with sexual brokenness.  That struggle is not the same as hatred.

Nicola - I have preached about the sin of same-sex intercourse.  But I've also preached about the sins of racism, and greed, and abuse, and lying, and pornography, and gossip, and adultery.  This Sunday I just preached that Payday Lenders were an evil business.  I don't preach about any particular sin "every day" including same-sex intercourse.  As a pastor, I don't worry about offending those who are engaged in a particular sin.  I do pray that they will be convicted even if that may initially be offensive.

When it comes to discipleship, there is a distinction between someone who is a practicing LGBTQ and someone who is practicing greed.  An LGBTQ individual will be with his or her partner.  It is obvious and public.  A greedy business person is not as easy to recognize.  Are all prosperous people greedy?  Does greed only affect people who are prosperous?  Sadly the church has disproportionately focused on disciplining visual sins (sexual sins being one kind) because it is more recognisible.  You rightly point out that the church has often failed to disciple individuals whose sinful tendencies lie in less visible areas - to our own harm and the harm of the gospel.

You are right, my understanding of same sex behavior as sin comes entirely from the Bible.  Without my firm belief in the authority of Scripture, I would have no problem with many sins, including same-sex intercourse, poly-intercourse (among consenting adults) and several other sins too.  Apart from the Bible who would ever call coveting a sin - it is so natural!

However, since you asked.  The research says that same-sex intercourse (at least between men) is riskier to your health.  Active gay men are at a higher risk for HIV, Cancer, STD's, and other health problems compared to their active heterosexual peers.  That doesn't make their behavior immoral - but it is riskier to their health.  Likewise, smoking (ignore second-hand smoke) is not immoral - but is risker to health. 

In claiming that love is more important than theology and pointing to Jesus, what do you do with the myriad of times he says things that don't sound very loving?  "You brood of vipers."  "Unless your rightesousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."  "You whitewashed tombs."  "Go and sin no more."  "You must deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me."  If we are going to point to Jesus, we must point to the Jesus revealed to us in scriptures, not Jesus as we want Him to be.

My sins and temptations and habits and proclivities are no worse or no better than someone who is LGBTQ.  All of us are sinners; all of us fall short.  The church is a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints.  But we cannot bring the healing cleansing power of the gospel to broken sinful people unless we help them to recognize how great their sin and misery are - and how great a savior we have.

If this happens...I would think there should be a MAJOR exodus from the CR church...we have already gone...What a slap in God's face...

Full partisapation woould mean the this person would repent of their sin.  Full partisapation would mean  that they would strive hard to advoid partisapation in such sins. It would mean the acknowledgement of and support for the biblical teaching on the subject. The church should be supportive of such people and maintain the scriptural teachings.

I'm sorry, but I've had it up to my eyebrows with this LGBT junk. People don't know whether they are a man or women, how to dress, or what restroom to use. Where does this end? Incest, polygamy, assisted suicide, abortion, infanticide are all on the table. Why should the church follow our countries free fall from its Judeo Christian Heritage? What was once considered unthinkable is now the norm. Sadly what we are seeing is many of our Churches becoming nothing but social clubs. I hear enough of this garbage every day on the news and from our left leaning government officials. Our churches should be a beacon on a hill not a smoldering garbage heap.

What I am not hearing.

A member of the church must confess their sin and be repentent for it.  This means that they strive to advoid the sin, do not speak of it as acceptable to God and accept the word of God as true. I have heard nothing of this from the LGBT. If they do not agree with this the is no reason for them to join the church.  How would they answer the questions raised by the Heildelberg.

Another thing I haven't heard is any suggestion about how to lead the LGBT to confess their sin and feel  repentance and graditude.

I am interested in how Dr. Pauw can conclude that "single or faithful partners in a committed lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender union should be given full access into the church's life  in light of God's word in 1 Corinthains 6:9-10, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God". If this is true, then what about Romans 6:2, if "we died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" 

The reality is that no one is 'born gay'   Twin studies contradict this theory, e.g. identical twins - one homosexual and the other not.  See: