Synod 2015 (the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church) held a listening session in order to gather the opinions of the delegates about how to respond pastorally in a variety of situations involving same sex marriage.
Rev. Rolf Bouma is the chair of the synodically appointed Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance re Same Sex Marriage. He introduced the listening session by calling attention to the mandate of the committee and to the rapidly changing situation with regard to same sex marriage in the past decade in Canada and the U.S.
What has changed dramatically, Bouma said, are the cultural and legal maps of the two countries to which the CRC belongs. Same sex marriage is now legal in all of Canada and much of the U.S. What are the legal and pastoral implications of these shifts?
The committee’s mandate instructs it to “give guidance and clarification” for churches and clergy for how to deal legally and pastorally with same sex marriage. Bouma emphasized that the committee was specifically instructed not to revisit the denominational stance on homosexuality itself, but to “address the cultural and legal aspects of same sex marriage as they impact the church and its ministry.”
The committee will not report its findings until Synod 2016, but it is committed to a “shepherding model,” which engages the church in conversation while the committee completes its work.
For this purpose, the delegates were divided into small groups and presented with three topics for discussion. The first two were potential pastoral situations: the baptism of a child of a same sex couple and the same sex marriage of a child of a church leader. The third topic presented several definitions of marriage for consideration by the delegates.
The committee has also held listening sessions with various classes (regional groups of churches) and other groups. It will gather the results of the small group discussions and include them in its deliberations.
Synod 2015 is meeting at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, from June 12-18. For continuous Banner coverage, please follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.