News

Synodical Committee Member Participates in Same-Sex Wedding

A member of the Committee to Provide Pastoral Advice re Same-Sex Marriage revealed in a recent video interview that she has participated in at least one same-sex wedding and plans to do more.

Wendy Gritter gave the interview to Daily Xtra, a website that covers issues important to people with same-sex attraction. Gritter is the director of New Direction ministry, an organization that started as an ex-gay ministry but has since turned its focus to offering what New Direction calls “generous spaciousness” for Christians who have various interpretations of what the Bible has to say about covenanted same-sex relationships.

In an interview with The Banner, Gritter said she participated in the same-sex wedding ceremony of one of her New Direction board members, but did not officiate. “There were Christian family members experiencing inner conflict about the marriage, and he knew that I would be pastorally sensitive to them. He wanted there to be generous space within his marriage ceremony,” she said.

The context of [the interview with Daily Xtra] was a secular LGBTQ+ media outlet, she said. “My concern . . . was to communicate to their primary audience that there are life-giving spaces where the integration of being LGBTQ+ and a person of Christian faith are not seen as a contradiction.” In the video, the interviewer stated incorrectly that Gritter officiated a same-sex wedding. Gritter has a license to preach in her regional group of churches, but that does not qualify her to marry people in Ontario.

Some Christian Reformed people objected in various online forums to her participation in a same-sex wedding, specifically because she serves on the synodical committee whose mandate was to stay within the CRC’s 1973 position that same-sex relationships are sinful. 

“It is unfortunate that people jumped to a number of inaccurate conclusions, most significantly that I was an ordained minister in the CRC,” she said. “To clarify, I am a member of a local CRC congregation who serves in full-time ministry with the LGBTQ+ Christian population through a ministry that has no official CRC connection. . . . In my participation on the committee for pastoral guidance re same-sex marriage, I chose to submit to the mandate of the committee, which meant working within the boundaries of the 1973 report.”

Gritter stands by her actions. “I am a CRC member who has spent the last 15 years, including completing a doctoral degree, engaged in these matters in many different denominations, congregations, and other Christian contexts. My priority in ministry, both in and out of the CRC, is the unity of the church where people can be honest about and safe expressing their deep convictions about interpretive matters. This is much messier than the assumption of conformity. However, it may be an essential facet of church culture to cultivate if we hope to continue to engage our young people and our neighbors in our local contexts. . . . If the CRC intends to be a place that restricts the local believer from acting in accordance with their conscience on interpretive matters, we are in deep trouble indeed.”

The synodical committee has not asked her to step down. “I have had one CRC pastor encourage me to step down, and, while I am willing to do so if the committee deems it necessary, I have heard from many more pastors and members in the CRC who [indicated] that my presence in the broader CRC conversation on these matters is valued.”

Rev. Rolf Bouma chaired the synodical committee. He noted that the committee’s report recommends freedom of discernment regarding participation in a same-sex wedding ceremony on the part of church members, so participation by any non-ordained committee member is consistent with the report’s recommendations. He also stated that Gritter remains a committee member and a signer of the report.

“We trust that Synod 2016 will have the maturity and discernment to recognize that the question of the appropriateness of any committee member’s support for LGBT friends, colleagues, or family is independent of the wisdom and merits of the committee’s report.”

About the Author

Gayla Postma is news editor for The Banner.

See comments (50)

Comments

The report should, and does, speak for itself, whatever Wendy Gritter precisely did or didn't do at a gay wedding.  One need only read Wendy's book to understand what she thinks.  It is not necessary to also take note of her "participation" at a gay wedding.  Having read the book, I would have expected she would be involved in the way she was in the gay wedding.  I see no point in her "stepping down" from the committee.

I say this notwithstanding my deep disagreement with Wendy as to her key conclusion, whether in her book or in what she does, that conclusion being that the CRCNA should regard the righteousness of gay sex and marriage as being a legimate conclusion to be drawn from scriptures.

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" Aleister Crowley- "Statanist"

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"Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." (Luke 11:28)

"Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." (Proverbs 8:34)

"All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.They are are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge." (Proverbs 8:8,9)

I know Wendy personally and appreciate her willingness to walk alongside people who are confused or uncertain about how to respond to issues of sexuality and Christian faith. She is committed to the Gospel and sharing Christian love with those around her. While Synod will certainly have a lot to discuss regarding pastoral responses regarding same sex marriage this summer, Syndod certainly needs to let individual members of the CRC ability to act in conscience regarding this issues. As Wendy says, "If the CRC intends to be a place that restricts the local believer from acting in accordance with their conscience on interpretive matters, we are in deep trouble indeed.” 

Wendy Gritter's actions and words push for "generous spaciousness." The broad road to destruction is very spacious. The CRC should not walk it. The main problem of the committee is that it included people who do not believe that same-sex sexual intimacy is sinful. It is impossible to produce sound, Scriptural guidelines for pastoral care addressing a particular kind of sin without recognizing the sinfulness and seriousness of that sin. When committee chair Rolf Bouma states that Wendy's leadership in a same-sex wedding is consistent with the report, it becomes crystal-clear that Synod must reject the report and disband the committee.

David Feddes: If you actually tried to understand the concept of generous spaciousness, you might not be so quick to lash out at the authors and condemn the report before it has even been discussed. You have to know that there is sound Scriptural interpretations on several sides of this moral issue.  To pretend that your conclusions of Scripture trump everyone elses, these days, requires an underlying arrogance that is hardly helpful for the discussion. I hope more people will approach and deal with this report with greater humility than you have.

What would be the point of having a committee that all believe same-sex relationships are sinful? Then why not just skip the committee and put the hammer down? Thank you, Wendy, for your faithful witness, for your honesty, for your willingness to go where your conscience leads you. I applaud you for staying and fighting in the CRC...I couldn't do it. Bless you.

Greetings. I wonder if it is a good to take a close listen to the audio of the video? The reason I ask is because the day after the video came out a number of LGBTQ websites used the words "perform marriage" "officiate marriage".  Here are the words:

 

From her video part #2

Time:  4:14  [Interviewer]..and then you sent me the picture of you marrying a same sex couple?

Time:  4:21 [Interviewer] Why did you decide to officiate at same sex weddings?

Time: 5:18  [Wendy]  ...I've done a same sex wedding. I've done three of them now, and more on the horizon.

Since Wendy did not correct the interviewer when he used the words "maryying" or "officate", as to the fine nuance of "participate" the viewer was left to conclude that this meant that she agreed with him. It would appear that this was the same conclusion of the other LGBTQ websites.

        Thus I would beg to differ with Wendy that people judged her overly quickly.

If one wants to affirm the CRCNA and membership within it, one would think they would affirm the form for the solemnization of marriage which is clearly one man with one woman: "

......In marriage, as instituted by God, a man and a woman covenant to live together in a lifelong, exclusive partnership of love and fidelity .

If one wants to affirm the CRCNA and their membership in it , one would think that they would affirm the position of the CRCNA regarding marriage: 

Marriage is an institution created by God. It is a covenant relationship established by mutual vows between a man and a woman united by God. Permanent unity in marriage is possible in Christ and is demanded of Christ's disciples who are married.

 

Yet here the CRCNA is trying to make space for someone who affirms the CRCNA position, but not  exclusively. That is to say, it the CRCNA position plus openess to sexual expression outside of one-woman one-man marriage.  The video is clear. Wendy has thrown down the gauntlet and said, "this is an either or situation." The article above suggests that either the CRCNA changes to her position as above, or it is in the doghouse.

The problem with the ultimatum that Wendy has issued, is that it is an invitation to spiritual suicide. John Piper said it well:

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 [The Apostle]  Paul’s point is that if you embrace adultery as good and normal, or if you embrace stealing as good and normal, or if you embrace greed as good and normal, or if you embrace drunkenness as good and normal, or if you embrace homosexual intercourse as good and normal, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. This is not rooted in the nature of the sexual sin. This is rooted in sin and rebellion, regardless of what the issue is.

Officiating at a so-called same-sex “wedding” is the same as putting your blessing on the choice of two people to commit eternal suicide. The pastor is solemnizing and making official and blessing their choice not to enter the kingdom of heaven."

http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-to-say-to-a-pastor-who-wants-to-officiate-a-gay-wedding

You may respond that Wendy only "participated."  Imagine that I am at a bar and sitting beside my alchoholic friend. I participate by encouraging the bartender to keep my friend's cup full. I am not officiating since I am not the bartender. Long and the short of it, I am making a contribution, either directly or indirectly to the alchoholism of my friend.

I think it would be fair to say that the "participation" at the wedding, "with more to come" signals a contribution, either directly or indirectly to the proliferation of marriages which are clearly in conflict with the CRCNA position on marriage.

Maybe the law of non-contradiction does not hold here? 

Shalom.

Isn't it kind of ironic that the same day that I read this newspiece, I am listening to Rosaria Butterfield on Focus on the Family and my heart leaps for joy at the greatness of our Lord Jesus and the depth of His salvation in turning what Rosaria describes as someone sold out to self-centeredness in her lesbian state to one who loves the words mortification of the flesh, repentance and the grace of God.

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast/accepting-my-true-identity-in-christ-pt1

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John Span: The staff at The Banner have investigated this story and separated the facts from the less than truthful allegations.  Yet here you are, once again, trying to muddy up the waters as best you can. 

 

Don Baxter 5, Can you please give me some clear Scripture passages that support same sex marriages?

Winnie Devries, I recommend studying James V Bronson's book Bible, Gender, Sexuality for a thorough examination of the relevant Scriptures.

I also applaud Wendy Gritter's example to the CRCNA. She began her ministerial experience within the Exodus International  (reparative therapy) network. Wrestled with its failures, studied Scriptures on so many levels, and developed the philosophy of Generous Spaciousness. None of the other Committee Members have the credentials as unique and broad as Wendy.  Her contribution is invaluable. (That's not meant to diss other commitment members contributions and qualifications.)

Finally, I too read another article, this one regarding another denomination's stance of rejection of its LBGT members. Since its policy announcement on Nov 5 2015, 34 LDS (Mormon) LBGT youth between 14-20 have committed suicide.

Frankly, if the church can't figure out a way to welcome LBGT into the life of the church, abandonment of the faith and suicide become viable alternatives. That doesn't sound like Jesus to me.

Winnie Devries:  You are assuming things I have not stated.  The only thing I am supporting is that the report receive a full, open and honest hearing, free from personal attacks and personal smears of its authors.  That's all I am trying to say.

John, if I am hearing you correctly, you believe (based on your quotations from John Piper) that same-sex sexual acts are sinful, rooted in rebellion, and akin to committing eternal suicide. 

You've indicated that I've thrown down an ultimatum - and I disagree.  I have indicated that there is no neutrality on these matters.  One either allows Christians to live in accordance with their conscience, including same-sex oriented Christians who enter the covenant of marriage in faith that they are enfolded in the righteousness of Christ, or you don't.  Given that the video was filmed for an LGBTQ+ audience, I'm not sure how it is that you presume I've given the church an ultimatum. Currently, the CRC does not make room for an LGBTQ+ Christian to live in accordance with their conscience. Do I personally believe this should change? Yes I do. But that isn't, in and of itself, an ultimatum. And as I have served in CRC settings, I have honoured where we currently are. I will, however, continue to describe the implications of that current position when it comes to binding the conscience of others - particularly LGBTQ+ people.

It seems  to me that what primarily differentiates us is not the degree to which we believe sin, in this case your certainty that same-sex sexual acts are rebellious sin against God, is consequential but the cross and resurrection’s dealing with sin. You indicate, based on your Piper quote, that same-sex sexual activity is committing eternal suicide. This is the crux of our difference. I don’t believe that it is a particular sinful behaviour that determines our eternal destiny. I believe that it is our receptivity or lack of receptivity to live in the reality that the cross and the resurrection has ALREADY reconciled us to God. In other words, belief or unbelief is the crux of the matter for me. At the cross, all sin – past, present, and future in our understanding of time – has been accounted for and forgiven. God does not need our confession to forgive us. We need confession to reconnect us to the reality of God’s forgiveness. The tragedy of sin is that it prevents us from living in the reality that is already true – we are joined with Christ, adopted heirs, made right with the Father, and called to participate in God’s kingdom right now as we join the work of setting things right. The tragedy of sin is that it can so blind us that we never acknowledge our need of a Saviour.

LGBTQ+ Christians who know and love Jesus Christ, who eagerly receive the free gift of atonement through the cross and resurrection, cannot be separated from the love of God that is theirs in Christ Jesus. If after prayerfully agonizing over the text and being still and submitted before the Spirit of God, they discern that the interpretive perspectives that would make room for God’s grace in their covenant of marriage with their same-sex partner are true and they go ahead with their marriage …… but they are actually in error …. and that marrying their same-sex partner and consummating that sexually is sinful ….. that sin has been dealt with at the cross. This was not willful rebellion, it was not merely twisting Scripture to make it say what they wanted it to say – this was two same-sex orientated Christians seeking to work out their salvation with fear and trembling as they trusted that God would work within them to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phil. 2:12-13) I even know of one same-sex couple who literally prayed the night before their wedding for God to kill them in their sleep if they had discerned wrongly – so committed were they to following God’s will and not wanting to sin against God. They determined that if they woke the next morning, they would make their covenant before God. (in Scripture, God honors the request for a sign)

Scripture reminds us that if our conscience tells us something is sin – and we do it anyway, we have sinned. But if our conscience is clear, then we should act in accordance with our conscience. Paul says, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” (Rom. 14: 14)

You have indicated that same-sex sexual activity is rebellious and spiritual suicide. If I were to ask how you know this, my guess would be that you would cite Romans 1 and perhaps the Levitical texts and the vice lists from Corinthians and Timothy as well. It would seem that based on your interpretations of these texts that you have come to that clear conclusion. I can honour that and I would absolutely trust that your intentions are primarily to be faithful and obedient to God’s Word in Scripture. My point is that every single reading of Scripture is interpretive. Every single reader of Scripture sees through a glass dimly to some extent, no matter how many PhD’s might be behind their name. And in these matters, there are people who are deeply committed to Christ and to the Scriptures with multiple PhD’s in Biblical Studies behind their names who come to opposite conclusions on whether or not covenanted same-sex relationships are sinful. It would seem that some of those good folks, despite their best intentions to be faithful and obedient to the Scriptures are in error – and because of those errors there will be people who either discern that something that is sinful is NOT sinful – or that something that is not sinful IS sinful. Thanks be to God, all of this has already been addressed at the cross. When God looks at those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as the one who has made the way for them to be made right with God, God sees Christ. God doesn’t see our theological failings, our interpretive errors, our numb conscience, our selfish hearts…. and I could go on. What God sees is the righteousness of Christ – praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ! Does this seem too good to be true? Does it seem too easy? I think that is the biggest lie – and the pride of our own hearts – that prevents us from receiving this as the truth – despite it being spelled out for us in Scripture! (1 Cor. 1:30 as just one powerful example)

How dare we say something is not sinful when Scripture says it is sinful? Greed is sinful – scripture is pretty clear. But how do we discern what is greedy when we live in one of wealthiest nations in the world? Is having more than one pair of shoes greedy? Is purchasing a car that has better features even though it costs more greedy? What if we don’t discern what is greedy rightly? Will it take us away from God and unchecked, to hell? (I could offer many different examples here).

My point is not to convince you to believe differently than you do. My point is to challenge your assumption that you and those who believe like you are the only ones who know the truth, the only ones who are discerning, the only ones who know how to interpret rightly, and the only ones who are safe from hell. To be very honest, such certainty smacks of arrogance and pride to me (even if that isn’t your intention) and Scripture has a lot to say about the sin of pride.  Is the sin of pride akin to spiritual suicide in your mind? I believe that the sin of pride, including the inadvertent pride that pervades the human experience, has already been addressed, forgiven, and its power broken at the cross and through the resurrection.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom. 6:1) By no means! answers Paul. When we receive the outrageous news of grace, we die to sin. When we truly believe and live like people of the resurrection, those joined with Christ, those confident in being reconciled to God and knowing that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God – we don’t run to sin – we rest in Christ. Jesus said, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:13) and again, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matt. 12:17)

The LGBTQ+ Christians that I know who have entered the covenant of marriage with their same-sex partner have thrown themselves on the mercy of God as an act of faith in a good God. I believe, that even if they are in error, their lives are hid with Christ in God. You may not believe this – and I will not try to convince you otherwise. I will simply ask you to humble yourself enough to acknowledge that Christ may indeed make room for such in the Body of Christ. If you will not, that, I believe is consequential for a true representation of the gospel.

Wendy: God may well "make room for such in the Body of Christ," depending on exactly what you mean by that, but that is a bit of the problem with what you say, whether here or otherwise.  You ask for a rather vaguely articulated "gracious spaciousness" but what you advocate for at its core can be expressed much more simply.  

You advocate for the following: that the CRCNA change its membership, officer, and pastor qualification rules so that those who sincerely believe their sexual practice, whatever it might be, is righteous, be permitted as CRC members, elders, deacons, pastor, etc.  Please correctly me, succinctly, if I am wrong.

Of course, the advocacy of this position will cause a great deal of consternation for those who believe gay sex is sinful, not because they wish to be mean to those who so believe and act, nor to exclude them from attending church, but because sex is a serious matter and objectors do not wish those who take mistaken positions about sex (even if genuinely) to teach their children, and others in their church, nor preach from the pulpit, that what is sinful is righteous.

To illuminate all that is at stake in this disagreement, it must be said  that if your position wins in the CRCNA, those who sincerely believe that polygamy, polyamory (marriage groups), even open marriage and swinging, are good and not sinful, are eligible for membership, council appointment, and as candidates for the CRC ministry.

Are there folks who genuinely believe the above and and yet profess Christianity? Of course there are and I'm sure you know that.  Either your gracious spaciousness allows them to be members, on council, and preaching pastors as well, or your spaciousness is not gracious.  It's one or the other, and it should be clearly communicated as that.

First I want to give thanks to The Banner and to Gayla Postma for this balanced, thoughtful coverage and to God for the changes that it represents.

Second, I would respond to Doug Houck's comment that if the CRC can't figure out a way to welcome LGBT members into the life of the church, abandonment of the faith and suicide become viable alternatives. I was baptized and raised in the CRC, a passionate believer who discovered as a teen that I was a lesbian. I eventually embraced both of those alternatives, attempting suicide twice and after that leaving the church and experiencing the greatest loss of my life--the loss of my faith and my community. Forty years later, I joined an affirming church in the Reformed tradition. I believe that Jesus' most radical message was one of inclusion, and I think the CRC and the Church in general need to look at how they are following or not following this message.

Third, I have the deepest appreciation for Wendy Gritter's ministry. I do not expect church members to change their beliefs about the rightness or wrongness of loving commitment in a same-sex relationship. I do hope that they can have the humility to acknowledge that they might be wrong in their interpretation of scripture on this issue and recognize that in so doing, the church will be in a position to make use of ALL parts of the Body of Christ. If someone like Wendy had been ministering to LGBT people when I was young, think what I might have been able to contribute to the Body during those 40 years. Think of the support I might have received from the community that should have been a place of refuge as I faced a rejecting world.

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?...Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions...Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteouness?" (Romans 6:1-20)

"For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good." (Romans 7:11,12)

"Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral...nor men who practice homosexuality...will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)

"So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh. to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live." (Romans 8:12,13)

Doug, with all due respect, you have made quite a few leaps. I have indicated that I do not believe that the church should bind the conscience of people. That would include binding the conscience of those who prioritize gender differentiation (to use the language of the study report put out by Classis Grand Rapids East) in their understanding of marriage. To make assumptions regarding ecclesial offices and the tired slippery slope argument that draws in other sexual decisions is a distraction from the core question: do you wish the CRC to be a church the binds the conscience of individuals on interpretive matters?

Wendy: I don't think I'm making any (at least unwarranted) assumptions but rather following your advocacy exactly where it goes.  You want the CRCNA to allow non-heterosexuals to engage in non-heterosexual practice, provided they sincerely believe doing so is not sinful, without being subject to any penalty or restriction from CRCNA churches for their doing so, correct?

Your question, "do you wish the CRC to be a church the binds the conscience of individuals on interpretive matters?" avoids the essential point.  I don't know exactly what you mean by "bind the conscience" but the only way any CRC church could/would do that to the persons you advocate for is to deny them membership and leadership.

Let's look at your advocacy in another way.  If someone came to your CRC church and said they don't believe that Jesus is truly divine in his nature, based on their interpretation of scripture, would you "bind them?"  I assume you would, assuming "binding them" means denying them membership and leadership, even if you are happy that they come to church services and other open events, and welcome them to continue.  Me too.

I would regard those who believe their homosexual practice is righteous and engage in it, in the same way as I would regard the person who denied the divine aspect of Jesus, which means I would "bind them" or not, depending on what you say that means, in the same way -- by denying them membership or leadership, but otherwise welcome them.

Exactly how am I misunderstanding you, or making "quite a few leaps?"

Thank you for helping me to clarify.  I don't want to misunderstand you.

Doug VG - just to ensure I'm hearing you correctly, you are placing the divinity of Jesus and the question of covenanted same-sex relationships on the same level of dogma?

My friend Ken Wilson, author of "Letter to My Congregation" puts it this way, Romans 14 helps us frame our interaction with one another when these three conditions exist: 1. Biblical tension 2. Committed Christians differ in their interpretive conclusions 3. The matter isn't an essential dogma (one way of testing this is to ask whether the matter arises in the creeds or confessions).  Romans 14 addresses the matter of conscience.

To be frank, I am astonished that you would place a matter that is considered in 7 texts, with many historical and cultural factors to weigh, on par with what the entire Christian tradition has confessed to be essential to our faith - our Triune God and Incarnate Saviour Jesus Christ.

As for what I mean by binding the conscience, if one is viewed and treated as rebellious and defiant in sin rather than a sibling in Christ who has in good faith come to a different interpretive conclusion, then the Body binds the conscience of that one.  One can be treated in a manner that binds the conscience, restricts one's freedom in Christ, and exerts pressure to conform beyond simply categories of membership and leadership.  Given the history of LGBTQ+ people in the CRC attempting or committing suicide and/or walking away from church and sometimes their faith (see Anna's comment), I believe it completely appropriate to discern that such restriction on those who lack majority privilege by those with the most privilege is inconsistent with Jesus' desire that we would experience abundant life.

(Note: There may be times that binding of conscience is necessary in light of self-delusion as we often see in cases of adultery. Considering Ken's test - we don't see Christians mobilizing to articulate their good faith efforts to interpret the scriptures rightly to affirm adultery.)

Let me be clear, I would not seek to bind the conscience of those who hold deep convictions that marriage is to be reserved for one man and one woman. The question is, can the same grace be extended to the one who has wrestled deeply with the scriptures and sees God's grace for same-sex oriented persons in their covenants of marriage with same-sex spouses?

Communal questions related to ecclesial policy require wise and contextual discernment - and I continue to contend that you make unhelpful assumptions about "following your advocacy exactly where it goes."  

Wendy: Thank you again for working toward clarifying your position, but I don't think we're quite there yet.

First, you can shut off your astonishment warning buzzer.  You are assuming of me in a way you complain I have been assuming about you.  To be clear, I am not "placing the divinity of Jesus and the question of covenanted same-sex relationships on the same level of dogma."  What I was doing by presenting my hypothetical was demonstrating, with a clear example, the kind of practical, real-life, institutional (confessional) church consequences of adopting this or that position, whether about doctrine or life.  Having said that, I do believe the issues involved here are profoundly important for the church, the CRCNA in particular.

Your baseline argument for granting "generous spaciousness," it seems to me, presumes the existence of two elements: (1) that a person who believes a particular doctrine (or engages in a particular life activity) has sincerely searched and struggled and has sincerely come to a position, even if a non-orthodox position; (2) that there is a plausible scriptural argument favoring the seacher's position or allowing for that activity.  (Of course, in this instance, the doctrine/belief/life activity relates to gay (etc) sexual activity).

Now you suggest that the divinity of Christ (my hypothetical) cannot be one of these "two point situations."  Maybe, but there are 8 million Jehovah's Witnesses who will say otherwise.  The fact is, many of those Jehovah's Witnesses have sincerely struggled with the question and have sincerely come to the position they have come to.  You may deny either of the two elements in the case of Jehovah's Witnesses, but then as well, the same can be denied in the case of to practicing guys.  Of course, our discussions about sincerity and whether there is a plausible scriptural argument can go round and round forever.  Which is why I want to move past that for the moment to clarify the real-world consequences of your position, whether the question is homosexual practice or denying the divinity of Christ.

Your post immediately above appears to punt rather than answer my core question.  To remind and be clear, I believe adopting your "generous spaciousness" will necessarily translate into practicing monogomous gays, those in practicing polyamorous groups, those in practicing polygamy groups, etc., being allowed to be CRC members and leaders (elders, deacons, pastors, etc).  Your response, at the very end of your post, was: "Communal questions related to ecclesial policy require wise and contextual discernment ...."  Translated into simpler words, you are saying, it seems to me, 'we will have to have to think about that and be wise in our thinking.'  A punt on the question.

I think its better to think, even conclude, about that now.  If you conclude, as you would have the CRCNA conclude, that gay practice (again, also polyamory practice, etc etc) should be fully respected as righteous by the CRCNA, provided those who engage are sincere in their belief that their practice is scriptural, there is no reason those persons should be restricted from being members, elders, deacons, or pastors.  Indeed, your fourth paragraph may say as much when it says, "I believe it completely appropriate to discern that such restriction on those who lack majority privilege by those with the most privilege is inconsistent with Jesus' desire that we would experience abundant life," although I can't tell for sure whether you word "such" refers back to being "viewed and treated as rebellious and defiant in sin" or being denied "membership and leadership."  

CRC members need to know exactly where adopting your arguments would take us, practically speaking.  I know of one CRC member who has read your book, loves it, has adopted your thinking because of reading your book, and has consequently concluded that that practicing gays (etc.) should be permitted membership and leadership -- that such permission is part of the "generous spaciousness" you promote.  

So, is it?

 

Doug VG, I'm not sure that I'm familiar enough with football to fully understand your use of the image of punting. I'm wondering if you would view the CRC's decision regarding women in office as a punt?

As I indicate in my book, my development of generous space as a posture was deeply informed by my experience as a woman with a calling to ministry who grew up in the CRC during the most intense years of debate on the matter of women in office.

John Cooper, in the latest issue of CTS's Forum, indicates that his work on the women in office / disputable matters message cannot be applied to the question of covenanted same-sex relationships.  He indicates that this is the case because he is not convinced, in his application of reformed hermeneutics, that there is a credible scriptural interpretation that is supportive of covenanted same-sex relationships. This is where Cooper and I differ along with many other scholars on both sides of the question. So indeed, as you've indicated, "our discussions about sincerity and whether there is a plausible scriptural argument can go round and round forever."

I submit that part of what needs to be examined in this supposed impasse is the impact and influence that privilege has on what interpretive conclusions one finds to be convincing.  When heterosexual, cisgender, married, men indicate they are unconvinced of the interpretive voice from the margins, the ones that may be non-heterosexual, or transgender, or unmarried, or female, it seems entirely appropriate to question how privilege colours the capacity to be convinced. I have not seen a demonstration of engagement with this question of privilege in many of the conversations on these matters that I observe in the CRC. (Note: I would add that I believe the incarnation models for us the radical relinquishment of privilege undertaken by Jesus and his call for us to be like him ought to compel us to consider matters of privilege in our interpretive questions.)

As someone who has intentionally embraced the assignment to seek to relinquish straight-privilege and cisgender-privilege for more than a decade (which while a worthwhile assignment is always limited in its efficacy), I have begun to recognize the unconscious ways such privilege creates barriers to what we allow to be received as sincere or convincing.

I have also witnessed the reductionism of theological and exegetical focus on sexual activity divorced from the covenantal, kinship, and relational contexts in which such sexual intimacy is embodied. In the lives of LGBTQ Christians committed to living in the way of Jesus, sexual activity cannot be disconnected from the covenantal vows and commitment to self-emptying and faithful love that shape their relational lives and sexual ethics.

So while I predict that differences in convictions about the appropriateness of covenanted same-sex relationships will continue to be a reality in the church for many years to come, I think there is much more that could contribute robust reflection than simply going "round and round forever."

Because this diversity is likely to continue, your insistence on concretizing where generous space would take the CRC in terms of membership and leadership is unhelpful.  Generous space as a posture calls for the church to acknowledge that Christians, including LGBTQ Christians, come to different conclusions on whether or not covenanted same-sex relationships are a faithful expression of Christian discipleship. This means, we won't bind the conscience (calling for repentance) of those who conclude one way or the other. 

This is what we have sought to do, hopefully, in the CRC since 1995 regarding women in office.  The path has not been simple or smooth in trying to cultivate unity in diversity. I was an officer of Synod in 2010 and passionately pleaded for unity in geographical classes rather than churches gathering in affinity classes. That year, churches were encouraged to stay in their existing classis. The next synod churches were allowed to become aligned with classes that shared their conclusions about women in office. Not a smooth or easy road as we learn how to journey together in our differences.

There are churches and classes who do not welcome women into ecclesial leadership - and as far as I understand their convictions are respected in our denomination. What has changed is that the perspective that used to hold the majority power is now a minority perspective - and this can be perceived as a loss of power.  One has to wonder if this is not a fear in the current conversations about covenanted same-sex relationships - not so much that people's convictions won't be respected - but the fear that the majority position will shift to be the minority position. I certainly encounter people whose convictions match the current official position, which is held by the majority of people in the CRC, who act as if they have already lost power, as if their convictions are no longer respected, as if they will be silenced, as if assumptions and judgments are being made about them, as if they no longer have influence.  It is very interesting to observe these dynamics - and the defensiveness that can arise despite their perspectives being the official and majority position within the denomination. I often wonder if the significance of this matter has as much to do with power dynamics as it does with concern to discern God’s will rightly for LGBTQ people. As I have articulated above, when one considers these questions in the context of the victorious sufficiency of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I have to wonder where the tremendous fear that I encounter comes from. Is it that we are so afraid that the covenant of same-sex marriage will send LGBTQ believers in Jesus to hell? Is it that we are so afraid that accepting generous space on this matter will permanently damage our priorities and capacity to interpret truthfully? Or are we so afraid that our deep convictions will no longer have the dominant influence?

As with the women in office matter, individuals, councils, congregations, classes, and synods, have had to exercise wise and contextual discernment related to ecclesial policy. And we have not all discerned the same.  Is this a punt? Or is this generous space for discernment in particular contexts?

It seems to me that when you say, “CRC members need to know exactly where adopting your arguments would take us,” you want to control outcomes that I don’t think you or I can control.  I would also add, I don’t think we need to try to control them. I don’t know what ecclesial policy decisions people in diverse contexts in the CRC might make should there be more generous space to not bind the conscience of people on the question of covenanted same-sex relationships. I have to entrust all those who engage the posture of generous space to God’s more-than-trustworthy care. In our creeds and confessions we express faith that the Holy Spirit will lead the church. The Spirit can be trusted. Those God gifts for leadership can be trusted to seek the Spirit. I have immense respect for pastors and leaders in the CRC – and I believe that God will continue to lead, guide, and grow the CRC in all of the contexts in which God has called us.

Might that mean some individuals, councils, congregations – even classes discern that membership and leadership ought to be open to LGBTQ people in covenanted relationships? Perhaps.  But can we not trust that if people in such contexts come to these convictions that the Spirit is more than able to lead, correct, clarify, guide? I honestly don’t understand why some would seek to exert such control over others’ capacity to discern, interpret the scriptures, and follow the Spirit.

Now clearly, the two conditions that you present, namely (1) that a person “has sincerely searched and struggled and has sincerely come to a position”; (2) that there is a plausible scriptural argument favoring the searcher's position, are ones that I consistently encounter in my ministry with LGBTQ Christians and other Christians allies.  The Christians I know that support covenanted same-sex relationships meet both criteria.  What is damaging is when other Christians, who hold different convictions, insist that they DON’T meet such criteria. Perhaps you’ll understand that I find this lacking in both humility and faith that the Spirit is able to lead others rightly.

What people will do in their own hearts, in their council rooms, in their congregations, in their classes or even synod, with generous space to not bind the conscience of those who disagree on the appropriateness of covenanted same-sex relationships, I cannot fully predict or control.  But I will advocate for the Christian Reformed Church being a place where there is freedom to engage the scriptures, prayerfully discern the leading of the Spirit, and follow the convictions of their conscience on this matter.

Wendy: Again, thanks for the exchange.  

I actually read your book quite some months ago.  Frankly, I liked most of it as I read it, including – I thought at least – your suggestion that there was some sort of "middle ground" possibility (my words) that I hadn't conceived of as possibly existing on the “gay question.”  Once I was finished, though, it seemed to me that even though you had wanted to communicate ("pitch," but in a good way) your proposal as a "generous spaciousness," what you were really pitching was formal institutional church acceptance of gay sex as righteous, if those sincerely wrestling with the question decide it is for them. 

You insist the CRCNA should acquiesce in your proposition – that gay sex as righteous, if those sincerely wrestling with the question decide it is for them – separately from considering the effect such acquiescence on its ecclesiology.  In other words, you want to evaluate the theological/doctrine question without taking into account the effect how any answer would affect the real world institution church, in this case, the CRCNA, including the denominational, classical and local church levels.  I don't think the two can be separated.  In my practice of law, I never consider a law, or a judicial decision, or an argument for a law or judicial decision, without also considering its impact in the real world.   I think the two are inseparable parts of a whole.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that when folks want to separate such questions, there is usually an "incrementalist’s strategy" (I would call it that) at play.  In other words, the proponent of the separation between the theoretical and its practical effects wants to get to a known (real world) end but won’t admit the actual real world effect to diminish opposition to the theoretical proposition.  I'm sure you will disagree that such is your motivation.

Here are my conclusions after our exchanges:

  - I very much agree that gays (or the whole of LGBTQ+) are people deserving of respect and honor as image bearers of God. I believe I have personally practiced that for decades now.  I have had gay clients for decades and I have practiced generous spaciousness with them and others, even if as I would define generous spaciousness.

  - Institutional churches, especially ones that claim to be "confessional" like the CRCNA, do and must establish fences that you would regard as "binding the conscience."  I know you won't agree with this, but I think we "bind the conscience" – as you define it – of those who deny the divine nature of Jesus after sincerely struggling with the question and coming to the conclusion that Jesus' claims of being the son of God mean he was the son of God, not God himself.  No, I don't believe that but millions of people do, including people who have seriously wrestled with the issue before concluding, and who call themselves Christian, even if you and I would classify them as otherwise.

   - The kind of "middle ground" you seem to me to be looking for -- or at least suggesting is possible -- simply doesn't exist.  Opening the CRC offices to women meant that women would be fully accepted as deacons, teaching elders, and pastors, even if the CRCNA also decided that local churches could exclude their local church from that decision.  Those local churches were inseparably part of a broader classis and denomination, where decisions would be made by those who believed all offices should be opened to women, and where women were part of the authority structure.  As an aside, I believed the offices should be opened, based on my own questioning and analysis of scripture done back in 1992.  I don't think the "gay question" is "like" the "WICO question."  I just don't, but not without a lot of exposure to the arguments you make in your book, and Classis GRE makes in its report.  I've been reviewing those arguments for years before I ever read your book.

   - If your argument is accepted by the CRCNA, that is, if the CRCNA decides it should not "bind the conscience" as you define it in the circumstances you argue for, then there will be no fence that the CRCNA can maintain in the future to exclude a broad array of sexual practices, including polyamory, polygamy, swinging, simply living together (gay or straight) without marriage, or practices you and I now agree are "libertine," or practices that are not monogamous and engaged in just for the fun of having sex.  It makes no difference that groups of CRCers are not now calling for those practices to be declared righteous. They will, using the logic you are urging now, because of that logic (if accepted by the CRCNA).

   - Perhaps even more concerning, if the CRCNA decides it should not "bind consciences" as you define it, other fences will eventually have to be removed too, including fences you might think are pretty high an unassailable.  This fences are already taken down in the Unitarian Universalist Church, a denomination that really knows how to do diversity.  I suspect John Suk's church (Lawrence Park Community Church in Toronto) has a lot of downed fences, at least compared to the CRCNA. They affirmatively pitch themselves as "UNorthodox" and "UNlimited."  They know how not to bound a conscience, even as to the divine nature of Christ, I'll bet.  But your proposal, under-described by your phrase, "generous spaciousness," gets us to that place as well.   It won’t get us there instantly of course, but it lays all of the necessary ecclesiastical framework/logic for it.  Appellate court decisions have exactly the same effect, in exactly the same time-delayed way.

 

Wendy,

I think your answer to 2 questions will give all of us a clearer understanding of the situation.

1) Is gay sex a sin?
2) Who created marriage?

I look forward to your answer. Thanks.

Doug VG - I do appreciate the breadth and depth at which we've been able to engage these questions.  There are points on which you and I will likely not agree - but I think it fair to say that we are both concerned to honour Christ, build up the church, and minister well with LGBTQ+ people.

I have gathered up my reflections on the last few weeks in a blog post that can be found here:  http://www.newdirection.ca/blog/responding-to-resistance-to-generous-space/

Some parts will be recognizable from this comment thread - though I have written the post more generally and not focused merely on the CRC.  Point 6, "Generous spaciousness does not require a single determinative ethical or ecclesial destination" will offer my thoughts on some of the matters you raise in your latest comment.

Additionally, it would seem that while I lean to contextual ministry in the local congregation you perhaps lean to the broader institutional through classes and synod. 

Might God lead all of us in our prayerful reflections and commitment to discern how to respond and fulfill our roles in the Body of Christ..... for one part of the Body cannot say to another part, "I have no need of you."

Imagine with me...

Synod forms a committee to examine the divinity of Christ, and recommend ways to teach newcomers and young children about Christ's divinity. The committee is supposed to come up with Sunday School material, pamphlets, books, videos, etc. that teach newcomers and children about the divine nature of Jesus as fully God.

As the committee is being formed, one person is placed on the committee who, it turns out, doesn't actually believe in the divinity of Christ. She thinks that Jesus was simply a good man and a moral teacher, and she's been outspoken in her desire for the CRC to change it's doctrine and practices to reflect that. Why would such a person be seated on that committee in the first place?

"Oh but wait," people say. "Don't worry. For the purposes of this committee she'll follow CRC doctrine on the divinity of Christ and act as if she believes Jesus is God. She doesn't let her personal beliefs cloud her committee work."

The committee proceeds with its work. And when it's all said and done, the committee's report recommends (surprise, surprise) that in our teaching to children and newcomers, the CRC should de-emphasize the divinity of Christ. "It's too confusing for kids," says the report. "And it will scare away newcomers who think we're being close-minded. We should focus on Jesus as a good, moral teacher...that's what we recommend!"

Should we be surprised if this happens? Of course not. This is the logical outcome when the committee is populated by people who don't believe in Christ's divine nature.

In the same way, let's say we form a committee that is supposed to provide recommendations for giving pastoral guidance regarding same-sex "marriage," while remaining faithful to Scripture and doctrine which firmly states that gay sex is sinful. Then we appoint a person or persons to that committee who think gay sex is NOT sinful, and that Scripture and established doctrine are wrong. Should we be surprised when the committee returns a report that supports changing the definition of marriage, and condoning and accepting gay sexual behavior?

Am I the only one here who is dumbfounded at our lack of wisdom?

Dan, you are spot on. The entire report should not even be taken into consideration (thrown out). The CRCNA is so off balance Spiritually, in so many ways, that I have lost confidence that Synod will do the right thing.

"But solid food is for the mature, who through training have their powers of discerenment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:4) 

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." (Ephesians 5:1)

Wendy: You say, "it would seem that while I lean to contextual ministry in the local congregation you perhaps lean to the broader institutional through classes and synod."

Actually, no.  I generally favor a more decentralized denominational structure than exists today, and would suggest that is the original model for the CRC (via the Church Order).  Certainly, some things must be "centralized" or there is no purpose for having a denominational structure.  Hence, LDS and CRC churches will likely never form a denomination.

Certainly, a question always worthy of discussion is the extent to which local churches should be uniform, whether in doctrine or otherwise.  On that general question, it is ironic that although local churches have become more decentralized in some sense (e.g., different worship styles), the CRCNA has become more centralized in another sense.  For example, we now have a Office of Social Justice that claims to speak for the entire CRC on all kinds of political issues, despite it having no legal/political theory expertise, and Synod has claimed to know quite a bit about world climate and again has spoken for the entire CRC on that, despite it having no expertise in the multiple areas involved.  And we now have a BOT that makes decisions almost as if it were Synod about all sorts of things, again often presuming to speak for all the churches.  I favor the freedom of local churches to have different worship styles and also to be free from pontifications of a few would presume to be our political lobbyists.  I also disfavor a BOT wieldy the kind of power I can't find anywhere in church order.

Sometimes, maybe often, the tricky part in a doctrinal (or "belief") disagreement is church polity, and I think it is here. In the case of a particular gay person, or even a person who doesn't believe in the divinity of Christ, who attends a local church, for example, I would heartily support the right of a local church to have broad authority toi make decisions about "how to deal" with him/her.  The rub comes, of course, when someone who holds contrary doctrines/beliefs views, or conducts contrary gains a position of power in a local church that then of course extends to the broader church.  That position of power starts with membership.  Of course, there was no "formal membership" in the early church (e.g., Acts 15), but we have it now, and, I think, for good reason, even if it didn't exist -- in the same way at least -- in the early church.  

I think you believe denial of membership (which means eligibility for church office) constitutes binding the conscience of those you advocate for.  I'm not so concerned that your local church "affirm" those you advocate for (I might even insist you do), but I think we are unwise indeed if we alter the composition of our aggregate doctrinal/belief/conduct decision makers because someone has seriously dealt with a question and decided contrary to what the churches have previously covenanted to hold to in common.  That church polity will eventually turn the CRC into the Unitarian Universalist Church right down the road from me.

 

As a Queer Cristian this is very dear to my heart. I am deeply saddend by the homophobia that I'm seeing in the CRC right now and also in these comments. I only have one request. When you are talking about this issue please know that we are listening and we have feelings. Thank you.

Lydia, I am homophobic because eternity is at stake! A church (denomination) that advocates and condones homosexuality, or any form of sin, does not love. Love does not sit by while people comfortably sit in the pew, and slip into hell.

If you saw two people hiking down a path that you had knowledge that there was imminent danger ahead, and you could warn them, would you? Or, would you stand idly by and hope for the best? What would be the loving thing to do?

The Bible declares that God is so holy, righteous, pure, and just. That he must by his very nature punish all sin, wherever it is found. By issuing the death sentence to all who are guilty of breaking his perfect moral law (The 10 Commandments). In fact, God is so thorough that he says,"The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolators and all liars- they will be consigned to the fiery lake of buring sulfur. This is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

So, when God says, "do not be decieved... neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers- (Jesus equated lust toward another person to be adultery, Matthew 5), nor men who practice homosexuality... will inherit the kingdom of God."(1 Corinthians 6:9) He is taking this with utmost seriouness, and warning. Shouldn't we? And who are we to say differently?

This fear of eternal torment, becomes a great concern, and motivator to all who are born again Bible believers, who love their neighbors enough, to tell them. "Please don't go down this path...repent, turn around!" Now, I confess this probably sounds like hate, if you want to go down this path. But nothing could be further from the truth.

"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience." (2 Corithians 5:11)

Jesus said, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Mtthew 10:28)

But there is hope." By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil." (Proverbs 16:8)

Many homosexuals have been delivered from this sin, and have come into a right relationship with Christ. 

"But because of his great love for us, God is rich in mercy." (Ephesians 5:2)

"The Lord...is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

'For it is by grace you have been saved through faith- and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2;8,9)

The church has a responsiblity to declare this message. Anything less is anathema, and has become apostate.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8)

 

 

Doug, great insight. It seems to me that promoters of the gay agenda favor decentralization (thus the ability to reject Scriptural doctrine at the local level) up until they have enough power to enforce their ideas through centralized control.

Kevin, thank you for shining the Light of Scripture into profound darkness.

Lydia, I encourage you to reject the so-called "wisdom" of the World that would enslave and eventually destroy you. Don't listen to those who try to put you in a box and reduce you to a biological organism that's defined by your sexuality. Instead, embrace the freedom of righteousness through Christ. You are not, as you say, a "queer Christian." You are a daughter of the Almighty. Look to the words of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which promise that NO temptation (and that includes the temptation of homosexuality) can overcome you when you embrace the power of Christ in your life.

I suspect you're a young person who's been trained over the last decade to immediately label any opposing viewpoint as "homophobia." Whoever taught you that has done you a grave disservice. Such a knee-jerk reaction is illogical, rude, and strangely informative.

It is illogical because it is impossible for you to know the inner motives of my heart, or anyone else's heart, in this matter. Only God can know my motives, and I assure you they are pure, not driven by an irrational fear of gays, as the malicious charge of "homophobia" implies.

It is rude because it seeks to shut down any contrary viewpoint without letting that viewpoint have its say. (That said, I want you to know that I forgive you even before you ask, and that I love you as my sister in Christ.)

Finally, it is strangely informative because it demonstrates the weakness of the pro-gay side of the debate. Rather than use Scripture, logic, reason, or science, the people pushing the gay agenda inevitably resort to name calling and emotional arguments. This tells me that even they know how weak their arguments really are. Those of us in favor of REAL marriage and with an understanding of the proper role of sex in relation to biology, science, social structure, marriage, and Scripture do not have to resort to name calling. We have the evidence on our side.

Finally, remember this: when you hear Generous Spaciousness, it really means Generous Sinfulness.

Ouch, you guys are just plain nasty.  Someone tells you that your words hurt and you double down on the hurt.  I'm no expert, but I'm not sure this is consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I also find it very interesting that, according to the survey conducted by the study committee, almost 60% of CRC members disagree with the current position of the CRC.  Yet, based on your comments, it looks like you believe that those who favor a more generous approach are part of an extremist minority. 

John, the only thing I've seen that could possibly qualify as nastiness is the baseless charge of homophobia. But that is the conditioned response of the pro-gay side, and for me at least is forgiven.

Can you please give examples so we know what you're talking about?

Seriously Dan?

 

A fellow Christian tells you and Kevin that your words are hurtful.    Kevin says she will suffer eternal torment in hell.   He categorizes her among "The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolators and all liars…”

 

You follow Kevin by thanking him for his derogatory comments.  You then go on to lecture a fellow believer about “…REAL marriage, and the proper role of sex in relation to biology, science, social structure, marriage, and Scripture…”

 

Your comments are nasty and mean spirited. 

Kevin and Dan,  I have a hard time beleiving that you really care about me when you group me with Murderers and Rapists and tell me I'm going to burn in hell. I'm a human just like you with feeling just like you. I am a christian and I know the Bible and I don't beleive that homosexualty is a sin. I can't help who I love, I didn't decide to be queer, I just fell in love with my bestfriend who just happened to be a girl. So yes actually I am a queer christian and I don't think it's your place to tell me what I feel. Dan, the only one tryign to "put me in a box", as you say, is you, you're the one putting me in the box of "poor girl who's been corrupted by the world". I'm not putting myself in a box, I'm just alowing myself to fall in and out of love just as you do. Yes I'm a young person but I haven't been trained to do anything, I'm not a dog, I'm not "trained" I have a mind of my own (shocking! I know!!).

When I read your comments I was hurt and saddened. Hurt and saddened that you somehow think this is actually God's will. Jesus spent his time of earth welcoming and loving outcats and now you're doing the exact opposite. What happened to love your neighbor? 

 

John, thank you for standing up for me. People like you give me hope. Thank you.

This is a very emotionally-charged topic, that is plain for all to see. Therefore, we would all do well to remember that emotions are easily manipulated. That's the reason why the vast majority of arguments in favor of the gay agenda rely heavily on emotion. "Your words are hurtful." You are being "nasty" and "mean-spirited." You don't really "care about me." "I can't help who I love." These are all emotionally-charged responses that, intentionally or not, are designed to shut down anyone who takes a Scriptural stand.

True love loves the Truth.

If my son "feels" like doing something that will bring serious harm to himself or others, I am obligated out of love to act. I cannot acquiesce to his "feelings," however strong they may be.

The promoters of the gay agenda are attempting to change the CRC in a way that will destroy it and unmoor it from the anchor of Scripture. When I made Profession of Faith I made a promise to accept the Scriptures as my ONLY rule for faith and life. I certainly did not promise to rely on my emotions.

When I accepted my role of leadership in the CRC, I promised to be formed and governed by the Scriptures, and the Creeds and Confessions that are based upon Scripture. I promised to promote and defend their doctrines faithfully, conforming my preaching, teaching, writing, serving, and living to them. Nowhere did I promise to subject the Truth of Scripture to how the world "feels" about it.

I love you, Lydia. And you too, John. I love my sons and all the people in my local congregation that I serve. My love for ALL of you is what forces me to resist those who seek to destroy God's righteous plan for marriage, family, and sex. Please hear me...whether that is your intent or not is not for me to judge; only God knows the motives of your heart. I pray that your motives are pure and that you are simply misled, not malicious. Either way, the outcome is the same. Therefore, my response is the same.

While I recognize and empathize with your feelings and emotions, I must stand on Scripture, reason, science, and evidence. I pray the CRC will also.

Kevin H. You stated on Feb 8 that'many homosexuals have been delivered from this sin'. Of those many, can you name two?  Not one has posted in this conversation thread... at least one who is willing to identify as such.  Where are they?  You might refer to Exodus International, the now defunct organization that proclaimed healing from homosexuality. The founder of Exodus, Mr Bussee, states that he is and always was gay. The last executive director, acknowledges that he  has same sex attractions, and is in a mixed orientation marriage or MOM marriage.  Mr. Paulk, the darling of Exodus in the 1990s when featured on the cover of Newsweek  recently introduced his new boyfriend to his Facebook friends. The list goes on and on. My name is also on that list.  All of us sought hard and long,(read decades),  in repentance, for God's mercy, and forgiveness to manifest itself to us, to me. You have no idea of the hours and money spent in therapy, in prayer, in worship, in Homosexuals  Anonymous groups, Living Waters, sexual addiction recovery groups, abuse recovery, professional counseling, reparative therapy ... with Christian counselors and pastors, and through a wide range of modalities. All to no avail. These are not people I've read about but rather men and women I have labored along side of. I reference some, including myself,  who have been public with stories of supposed change, and who are now public with the reality that as much as longed for it, that change never happened. We are gay. Exodus International is defunct. Metanoia Ministries, the organization I founded is defunct. Now I fully know you can write us all off. But the question remains, can you name two people that have been freed from homosexuality (and not hide behind some cloak of anonymity?)

And a note to those people who are reading this thread, and are in the process of discovering that you are, or a loved one is LGBTQ+, God loves you as you are. There are numerous organizations that express that love to LGBTQ+, there are churches that welcome you. Gay Christian Network, the Reformation Project, New Direction, Highlands Community Church in Denver, Eastlake Community Church in Bothell, WA are a few resources.

             I also am a gay Christian. I was born into the CRC, and told all my life that I am a covenantal child of God. As such, it was affirmed my entire life that I was a member of this community. It is true that there is a response to that affirmation of community through a public profession of faith, but in a very real way, I had no more choice over the church I grew up in than I did over my sexual orientation. And this is why this conversation is so incredibly important. It is not solely about becoming a welcoming church to those on the outside; the question is about the message we are sending to the LGBTQ persons (especially LGBTQ youth) who we currently (perhaps unknowingly) claim to embrace in community.

            After the Exodus, when Israel was in the desert, God had to teach his children a lesson about community. They left the weak, the elderly, the sick and the lame, at the rear of the procession; and when the Amalekites attacked, there was nobody to defend the community’s most vulnerable (Duet 25:18).

            Who within our community are the vulnerable? A few that come to mind might include those who struggle with mental illness, the disabled, and yes, I would say our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. And when Amalek comes lurking in the form of depression and shame and judgement and segregation, what is the track record of our community?

In my own personal experience, it hasn’t been great. I’ve heard some of the nastiest things from the people I go to church with; crude jokes, threats of physical violence, general disdain, etc. While this onslaught has never been directed at me intentionally, it has had a massive impact. After years of prayer for “healing”, I slowly began to realize that God wasn’t going to change this part of me, and I became incredibly depressed. I wouldn’t pursue romantic relationship, and I couldn’t engage in platonic relationship either because of a deep seated fear of opening up and being vulnerable. I became incredibly isolated. My experiences taught me that my church wouldn’t want me if they knew my secret, regardless of whether I ever acted on it or not. And I thought my family would be the same way. I almost contributed to the statistically disproportionately high number of LGBTQ youth who end their lives prematurely.

I am not saying that my personal experiences negate the soundness of the ‘official position.’ And I do not doubt that many who hold and affirm that official position really do have the eternal wellbeing of God’s LGBTQ children in mind. I am also not saying that it is impossible to embrace and show love coming from the ‘official position’ perspective. What I am saying is that when I found myself in that pit of darkness and despair, it wasn’t the official position camp that made me feel like I was worthy of love and belonging; it was people like Wendy Gritter. This is why we need people like this in our community. This is why we need generous spaciousness in our community. 

Growing up in the CRC I heard the 10 Commandments read nearly every Sunday. One day I actually paid attention, and realized I had transgressed God's standard of righteousness. His perfect holy Law. For the most part the law always seemed to apply to someone else, not me.  I hadn't murdered, or committed adultery, robbed a bank. "I" was pretty good. But praise God there were pastors, parents and people who spoke into my life, not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear. And there is a big difference. 

As a senior in high school I saw the movie Pilgrims Progress. And there I saw my life up on screen. As the movie began a a whisper voice kept saying, "The wages of sin is death. The wages of sin is death."(Romans 6:23) The story is about a man who descovers he is living in the city of destruction and is encouraged to "flee the wrath to come." Through this journey he is challenged with temptations, threats, discouragement, doubts and dispair, by the world and the devil. Along this journey people come into his life and encourage him to keep pressing on, and that leads him to the cross where he repents and puts his trust in Christ.

At the end of the movie the devil is sitting on a gravestone, in a graveyard, pointing at gravestones, claiming this one is mine, and that one is mine, and then he pointed straight at the camera and said, "how about you?" I emotionally lost it there, right in front of all my peers.--snot everywhere.

But the point is this. The Bible says, "sin is transgression of the law". And to drive this home, we need to look in the mirror (the law) to find out the truth of who we are, and what we look like. To make this more clear we need to be asking some questions.

Have I ever told a lie?  What do you call some one who tells lies?

Have I ever stolen something? What do you call someone who steals?

Have I ever hated anyone? Jesus equated hatred toward someone to be murder.

Have I ever looked at someone with lust? Jesus equated lust to be adultery.

These are only 4 of the 10 Commandments

If God were to judge us by the standard of the 10 Commandments, would you be innocent or guilty?

The Bible says, "For all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law." (Romans 2:12)

Would you therefore go to heaven or hell?

Does that concern you?

"As it is written there is no one righteous, not even one." (Romans 3:10)

"Jesus answered, 'No one is good -except God alone." (Mark 10:18)

"All liars, their part will be in the lake of fire and brimstone. (Revelation 21:8)

"For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world." (1 John 2:16)

However petty and trival we think our sins might be, one lie is enough to damn our souls forever. There is so much warning in Scripture, but so little heeding, as we try to justify ourselves before a holy God.

"Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe...Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexuall immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire." (Jude 5,7)

We all have the propensity to sin, to become homosexuals, drunkards, theives, liars, fornicators, lust filled individuals... that's why we find ourselves in these sinful situations. Prideful and self-righteous. 

God tells us,"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure."(Jeremiah 17:9)

God groups homosexuality among other sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6 and says, "do not be decieved...they will not inherit the kingdom of God."

"But he gives more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with in me." (Psalm 51:10)

 

 

 

 

 

Dan,

The emotional responses are on both sides.  Your comment on February 6 is an emotional response.  Your reaction to the term homophobia is an emotional response.  The LGBTQ people who comment have good reason to be emotional.  They have been treated with emotional and spiritual (and sometime physical) brutality by their church.  The mystery is, why do you care so much?  Why so much emotional energy in opposition to the idea of generous spaciousness?  What difference does it make to you if a married gay couple joins your church?  I don't want to hurt your feelings by using the term homophobia, but I encourage you to give it some prayerful consideration.  And, by the way, you do not own the Scriptural argument on this issue so please stop claiming that you do.

John Slagter: You say, "what difference does it make to you if a married gay couple joins your church?"  Allow me to ask a few questions about that (presumably rhetorical) question.

First, when you say "join" I presume you mean become a formal member, such that each of the couple is allowed to become an elder, deacon, and delegate to classis and synod.  Is this what you mean?

Assuming your answer is 'yes' to the above, would you say the same about each person in an otherwise Christ professing polygamous group (perhaps two married under law but all publicly living as husbands and wives)?  Also about a polyamorous group?  In each case, assume that the would be members have sincerely and seriously considered their arrangement and have genuinely concluded that their arrangement was not biblically prohibited.

Thanks for indulging my questions.  In asking, I'm trying to illuminate the door that I and others would suggest is inherently opened if the argument of "generous spaciousness," as it has been defined, is adopted by the CRCNA or any other denomination or even individual church.

Doug,

Your slippery slope argument against generous spaciousness seems fallacious to me.   I don’t believe you are trying to illuminate anything. In my view, your argument amounts to little more than fear mongering.

Dan,

I don’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but let me try to explain why your slippery slope argument seems absurd to me. 

Polygamy is in the Bible.  It has been practiced by about 85 percent of human cultures through out history.  Society and most Christian churches have moved away from polygamy because it is harmful.  In cultures where polygamy is practiced, men with high status accumulate multiple wives while men with lower status must go unmarried.  Numerous studies have shown that polygamy has a destabilizing effect on society.

By contrast, gay marriage is a new concept.  It was made legal in the US because opponents failed to show that it causes any harm to anyone.  In fact, numerous studies show that monogamous marriage, including gay marriage, has a stabilizing effect on society.

I simply cannot buy your argument that a decision by the CRC to adopt a policy of generous spaciousness for people living in gay marriages, which is a new phenomenon with a positive effect on society, will lead the church to return to the ancient biblical practice of polygamy, which was abandoned long ago because it has a negative effect on society.

John: Polygamy is making a come back in the US (recently, a Utah court declared the Utah law prohibiting it unconsitutional), and polyamory is on the rise.  Both have been featured quite a bit on a couple of cable networks.  Of course, the appeal is that "we're regular people, how can it be, given that we are regular people, that you would condemn what we do, because that is condemning us as people."

The gay issue in US churches has historically followed the broader cultural changes in the US.  Polygamy, polyamory, open marriage, gender fluidity, and other emerging trends in the world of sex and gender are fast following as well in the culture.  I see no reason why the former but not the latter will be followed by the church.

But more specifically, what makes my argument not a slippery slope argument is this.  I'm not suggesting "first gay, then polygamy," but rather than the argument made by the proponents of "generous spaciousness" makes church membership available to those of polygamous and polyamorous groups.  Again, it doesn't "lead to," but rather "is" the argument needed for the broader application.

Put differently: The generous spaciousness argument says that if certain persons who otherwise profess Christ engage in certain behaviors have (1) seriously and genuinely considered their behavior as it relates to their faith, and (2) have genuinely concluded the behavior is not unbiblical, then who are we, the institutional church to deny them membership?

Are you telling us, John, that you know there will not be anyone in the future who practices polygamy or polyamory who will make the above claims, but as to their behavior?  I guarantee there will be, within time, and perhaps not all that much time.  Right now, polygamy and polyamory are not so much part of the CRC culture, but increasingly the CRC pulls members from outside the traditional CRC culture.

Ultimately, this two pronged test creates a low bar, a really low bar, and a low bar solely controlled by the "applicant."  How could it be, after all, that a church would be able to know that someone hadn't really seriously considered and genuinely concluded?  As I argued earlier in this series of posts, there are over 8 million Jehovah's Witnesses who have "seriously considered and genuinely concluded" that Jesus Christ is not part of the Triune God, and that scripture favors their conclusion.  So do we grant "generous spaciousness" to those of that view who want to be members of CRC churches as well.  Understand that many of these Jehovah's Witness (just like Mormons and Muslims and Universalists) are "really good people" who do "really good things" like showing mercy, doing justice, working hard, being honest and fair.  How would we determine that their fruit is not evidence of the Spirit working within them to create a "new interpretation," as now is referred to by the GRE study report and as is now mentioned by the generous spaciousness proponents as important in deciding whether one is "genuine" in their claims.

You say I am "fear mongering."  With respect, I would say you are refusing to consider the very real consequences of your position.

Doug,

LGBTQ people in the CRC all profess the same creeds as everyone else in the church.  They don’t want to live in polygamous or polyamorous relationships; they want to live in committed monogamous relationships – just like everyone else in the church.  The extreme doomsday consequences you describe are not real; they are a fantasy.

Ok, John.  You consider my thinking mere fantady.  But yet, I notice you didn't actually contest my suggestion that the generous spaciousness argument would allow membership to polygamists or polyamorists, claiming only that no polygamist or polyamorist would be interested in being a CRC church member.  You could be right I suppose.  Time will certainly tell.

But I would recall that not long ago, the Banner printed an article from a long time CRC member avocating that 20-somethings should be permitted by the CRCNA, even to the extent of providing some kind of back-of-the-Psalter form, to cohabitate as married without marriage.  I'm sure you rember that article, not?  And one of the arguments in favor was that it was happening a lot anyway.

Hmmm.  Are you sure my thinking is "extreme doomsday," "not real," and mere "fantasy"?  Had I predicted that reality and this Banner article 20 years ago, I'm quite sure I would have been similarly accused.  And I believe a not-so-long-ago Banner editor pastors a (non-CRC) church now near or in Toronto that is "fully non-discriminatory" as to that status.  Hmmm again.  Another "fantasy" become reality?

History does seem to move slowly, given our perception of time.  My rule of thumb for any new philosophical, worldview, or theological perspective is that it takes a half-century, more or less, to take hold in real life, that is, for people to act in significant numbers according to the logic of new perspective.  This is why I and others feel the need to examine the real world consequences of adopting new positions, like generous spaciousness.  

No, that doesn't mean the CRC ought never change a position, but it does mean we need to think through any proposed new position.  I don't think you are willing to do that.  I pray the CRCNA, as a whole, is.

Maintaining the status quo will also have consequences. 

Well there are consequences to pretty much everything John.  What do you think the consequences of staying with the 1973 position will be?

1) About 5% of the children baptized into the CRC each year will be gay. The 1973 position condemns these children to lifelong status as second class citizens.

2) A substantial percentage of these children will attempt suicide in their teens.

3) Many young people who leave the church report discrimination aganst LGBTQ people as a primary reason for leaving.

4) LGBTQ members who wish to remain in the CRC will be compelled to live lonely lives and suffer needless pain.

5) The 1973 position is based on scientific information that has since been shown to be clearly erroneous. 

6) The church will become irrelevant and continue to fade away.

Etc., etc.

These consequences are real, unlike hypothetical hoards of polyamorous Muslims attempting to invade the CRC. 

 

John: Thanks for your continued exchange.  I'll take your assertions one at a time.

1)  The 1973 position declares nothing negative, let alone "second class citizenship" about those who may have other than heterosexual inclinations (whether L,G,B,T,Q, or +).  Neither sexual temptation nor sexual inclination is attributed by the 1973 report as wrong or sinful.  Your assertion distorts the 1973 report.  As an Aside but related, the CRC would also condemn the action of sex outside of marriage (as the CRC defines marriage) for those wish to have open marriages, as it would condemn the act of sex with children, despite the fact that we know, as a scientific fact, that a percentage of people are sexually attracted to children, and inclined to have sex with persons beyond their marriage partners.

2)  I think your assertion here is sheer speculation.

3)  What you say may be true.  On the other hand, the CRC has had a difficult time keeping all of its youth in the church for a very long time now, as have all other churches, including those who are affirming to LGBTQ+.  I know this as well from my own life experience: many young and old people would leave a church who changed from a 1973 report view to one that affirmed the righteousness of LGBTQ+ sexual activiity, because they would believe, correctly in my view, that such affirmation was mere acquiescence to non-scriptural pressure and represented something of an abandonment of the authority of scripture.

4)  Increasingly, CRC members (heterosexual) are getting married much later.  I think some of those making that decision would reject and even be offended by your suggestion that their decision to get married later results in their being lonely and suffering pain.  There is more to life than sex -- a lot more.  And there are more ways than having sex to deal with loneliness and pain (whatever you exactly mean by "pain").  Many Christians throughout centuries have committed themselves to celibacy.  Your assertion unjustly diminishes them as well.

5)  You are going to have to do more than just say this.  I'm don't think any part of the 1973 position is affected by scientific information.  Can you be more specific?  I know that LGBTQ+ affirming folks like to imply or even accuse the 1973 report as declaring the status of gay inclination as sinful (as you do in your point one), but the report does nothing of the sort, and it quite clear about it.

6)  I believe just the opposite as your point 6 says, and I think at present the evidence is on my side.  I would suggest that those churches that have become "affirming" have become churches mostly populated by older people only and less attended and vibrant in general, at least as churches.  Many have become more politically outspoken on a variety of "left wing" political issues.  Some even have a lobbying presence in DC.  Yet they are becoming increasingly irrelevant as a church.

Your last sentence illustrates your inclination to hyperbolize, ironically something you accuse me of.  Muslims, BTW, don't believe in polyamory.  That would be condemned by them as sinful, as would the Christian church from the time of Christ to perhaps 10 year ago, even if most or perhaps all of those who advocate to affirm LGBTQ+ would not.

Yes, the Muslims I know do not believe in polyamory.  So we agree about something!  But, neither do Christian Reformed people and the risk of polygamy and/or polyamory becoming an issue in the CRC as a result of a decision by Synod to adopt a welcoming and affirming position concerning its LGBTQ members is effectively zero.

I apologize for the last line in my previous comment.

I'm finished with this dialogue.  You may have the last word. 

John, an emotional "response" (what I have done) is very different that an emotional "argument" (what you have done).

My arguments in favor of the true definition of marriage, of a recognition of God's authority over our lives, of a strong and vibrant CRC that is unashamed of the Gospel of Christ, of a commitment to reason and sound scientific understandings...in all these arguments that I make, there may well be an emotional component, but it is merely because of the passion I have for the Truth. My apologetics for all these things is based first of all in Scripture, secondly in logic, and thirdly in empirical evidence. For me, emotion is not a basis for an argument, but merely a way to make a strong case even stronger.

Your arguments, on the other hand, are based ENTIRELY on emotion. "Second class citizens," "children will attempt suicide," "discrimination," "lonely lives," "suffer needless pain," "the church will become irrelevant." These are ALL emotionally-based arguments.

And you're not alone. Wendy Gritter's entire stance is also based on appeals to emotion. Where is the Scripture? Where is the logic? Where is the science?

I have begged and begged for a proponent of the gay agenda to offer a truly good argument for their side. In reference to Scripture, why should we throw out a clear definition of gay sex as sinful? Logically, what are the reasons for accepting and promoting an activity that cultures and societies the world over correctly identify as dysfunctional? Scientifically, what are the biological reasons to defend two men having sex with each other as "good"?

Wendy? John?

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