Classis Grand Rapids East (GRE) is sending a communication to Synod 2016 that summarizes a 142-page report on same-sex marriage created by a committee of that classis. Twice in recent years the classis asked synod to reexamine the Christian Reformed Church’s 1973 position statement on homosexuality, which states that same-sex orientation is not sinful but homosexual activity is. (A classis is a regional group of churches, and synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church. Classis GRE has approximately 20 congregations representing 8,500 church members.)
After its requests were rejected, the classis appointed its own committee to examine the biblical/theological support offered by Christian proponents of gay marriage and to examine how that differs from the biblical/theological perspective that serves as the basis of the the CRC’s position.
Last week, Classis GRE received and accepted that committee’s report. In its communication, it is offering the report to Synod 2016 as “an additional resource for ongoing study and discussion regarding pastoral guidance for dealing with same-sex marriage and related matters.”
In the summary of the report, the authors stated that “there has been significant theological consideration of these issues since 1973, both in the Reformed tradition and in the wider Christian church.”
At various times in history, they said, the Holy Spirit prompted and guided the church into reinterpretation of some parts of Scripture, including such issues as slavery and racism. “Through these various means, the church was led to better interpretations of parts of Scripture. Comparing the issue of same-sex marriage to these other historical cases suggests that this might be another occasion in church history when the Holy Spirit is prompting a reexamination of Scripture.” The extensive report includes sections on:
- advances in scientific understandings of sex and gender, intersex and transgender
- guidelines for interpreting scripture according to a Reformed hermeneutic
- interpretation of biblical passages referring to gender differentiation and same-sex Intercourse
- historical, biblical, and theological foundations for marriage
- psychological issues involved in considering full inclusion versus non-inclusion
- personal stories of LGBT Christians.
Classis clerk Rev. Al Mulder characterized the discussion of the report at classis as cautious and respectful. Rev. William De Vries, who chaired the committee, expressed his enthusiasm for the content of the report, while Rev. Dave Beelen, also on the study committee, acknowledged his support for dialogue but also voiced his basic disagreement with Christian proponents of same-sex marriage. Mulder said most of the discussion centered on the most effective way to encourage meaningful denominational dialogue on the subject.
DeVries expressed his hope that “a gracious dialogue, as marked the work of the study committee, move forward in the churches of Classis Grand Rapids East, and in all the churches of the CRC on this vital issue; and that [people] listen to others without attacks on their faith or their commitment to Christ or Scripture.”
Synod 2016 is also receiving the report of the synodically appointed Committee to Provide Pastoral Advice re: Same-Sex Marriage. That committee was mandated to remain within the bounds of the 1973 position.
The communication from Grand Rapids East, which will include a link to its full report, will be published in the Agenda for Synod 2016. Synod 2016 delegates will gather in June in Grand Rapids, Mich.