U.S. Christian Reformed Churches Advised to Adopt Wedding Policy

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Christian Reformed Church executive director Steven Timmermans sent a memo in August to U.S. congregations in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision making same sex marriage legal across the country. (Same sex marriage has been legal in Canada for more than a decade.)

Synod 2016 (the annual general assembly of the CRC) will receive a report from the Study Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance to Churches Re Same Sex Marriage. In the meantime, many are turning to the denominational office for advice.

“The purpose of this memo is to provide such advice, to situate it in our positions on marriage and homosexuality, and to offer it to our churches in the United States,” Timmermans wrote.

In considering the near-term impacts the court’s ruling may have on local congregations, the church turned to material by Carl Esbeck, a key legal advisor to the National Association of Evangelicals.

Esbeck advises churches, mission agencies, and schools to adopt positions and policies to strengthen their ability to exercise their religious freedom, including adding a statement of faith into their articles of incorporation and bylaws. That statement could be modeled on the Public Declaration of Agreement with the Beliefs of the CRCNA adopted by Synod 2013.

Further advice includes adopting a position statement focused on the church’s position concerning marriage and same sex attraction. The memo includes a sample position statement drawn from existing denominational positions.

Churches are also advised to adopt a policy about marriage ceremonies conducted by the church and a facilities use policy clearly defining the facilities as private property, not public accommodation. A church’s marriage policy could affirm that the church views marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman and that any marriages that take place on the church’s premises must fall in line with that policy.

A sample facilities use policy could establish that use of the building must be compatible with the mission and identity of the church and that the church’s consistory or council has non-appealable authority over a decision whether a use is consistent with Christian theology, doctrine, and witness.

“Our denominational attorneys very much agree that member churches should be responding to the present circumstances through constructive and balanced decision-making, which should include proactively formulating and implementing relevant statements and policies,” Timmermans wrote.

Timmermans’s memo and the sample policies can be found here.

About the Author

Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.

See comments (3)


  As an out trans woman who grew up in the CRC and served as a CRC minister before coming out, I'm well aware of the CRC's position regarding these issues. I disagree with that position theologically, but that is the freedom of churches to set out their interpretations. What bothers me about this call from the denominational offices is the effect it has on a younger generation sitting in CRC pews. The denominational church position is the church position. But highlighting this position in every single U.S congregation, modifying local congregation constitutions sends a very clear message to the LGBT kids in your churches, you aren't wanted, hide who you are, we don't love gay people. When they get older they'll be the who they are, they will meet many amazing people who love them just how they were created, but the injury of being ostracized and excluded by their local community will remain. And FYI, LGBT people have so many more options that fully support and include them for church weddings than CRC congregations.

It was wise to consult with Carl Esbeck.  Carl has been a constitutional expert, as to these issues (religious free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment) for some time now.

I would disagree with Haley Reyna to the extent that she suggests the Exec Dir doing this somehow creates a denominational position or modifies local church constitutions.  The denominational position already exists and cannot be modified by a unilateral action of the Exec Dir.  And local church constitutions, most of which are somewhat different from other local congregations, aren't modified by even an act of Synod, let alone this kind of Exec Dir action.

This Exec Dir action amounts to aquiring some expert legal opinion/advice about a well established matter, so that local congregations don't need to.  Nothing more.

YES...we agree that weneed to protect our churches....have heard lawyers speak on this and it is very serious...Bill Johnson from the American Decency Association in Fremont has many good resorces also...They also have meetings/conferences on many subjects Christians need to stay informed of...

Also we need to protect our MINDS..learn spiritual warfare...there is HOPE when those thoughts come to your mind that you are something that God did not create you to be...a male or female made in His image...God's WORD is a great weapon against Satan's temptations....Whoever came up with the words "sexual orientation"?   

A great book to read.. The author just spoke at Central Ave CRC in Holland...."THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT" by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield..."an english professor's journey into Christian faith"

no unloving words in her book!