Returning Church, an informal group of pastors and other church leaders who take what they view as an orthodox view of marriage, has published a website in support of traditional marriage in response to the report from the Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance Re: Same-Sex Marriage. Synod 2016, the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church, will receive and discuss the committee’s report in June.
CRCNA Biblical Marriage went online in February of this year. Rev. Chad Steenwyk of Holland, Mich., is one of the steering committee members for that website. “We wanted to provide information . . . on contemporary sources that were consistent with our ’73 report,” he said, referring to the study committee report adopted in 1973 as the CRC’s position on homosexuality. The 1973 report states that homosexuality is not sinful but homosexual activity is. “We hope to provide CRC congregations, church leaders, classes, and future synodical delegates with information that will help them to promote and defend biblical marriage both in the CRCNA and in the broader society. We believe that God is clear in his Word that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.”
A document on the website entitled “Biblical Reflections on the Synodical Report,” written by three CRC pastors, raises several issues with the synodical report going to synod. Among them are a charge that the report “hardly cites or quotes Scripture.” The authors argue that the report is “blind to evil powers, satanic deception, and the spirit of the age.”
“The world is exerting much pressure to approve of same-sex sexual activity,” they wrote. “There has been a well-organized effort in society and in the church to orchestrate public approval of same-sex intimacy. Yet the committee condemns phrases such as ‘gay agenda’ and offers no pastoral guidance for discerning the sexual revolution as a manifestation of the wicked power of the world.”
The authors of the critique charge that the “throughout the report, the bottom line seems to be avoidance of hurting anyone’s feelings.”
The website includes more than 20 overtures (requests) and communications to Synod 2016, most rejecting the synodical committee’s report. Some of the overtures call for an addition to the supplement of Article 69 of the Church Order (the rules by which all CRCs agree to abide). The proposed addition would state that same-sex marriage ceremonies, civil or religious, are in conflict with the Word of God, and ministers who do not uphold that would be subject to church discipline.
The Returning Church has been around for nearly 10 years, now functioning primarily as a Facebook group that includes some 400 men and women from Christian Reformed churches across the U.S. and Canada.