Synod 2016, the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church, ended on June 17. But for some, the pain evoked by the same-sex marriage debate continued to reverberate. The following week there were responses of lament in a number of Ontario churches.
After a three-year study on how respond pastorally to those in same-sex marriages, synod chose to recommend pastoral advice that was much more restrictive than that given by the majority of the study committee.
At Jubilee CRC in St. Catharines, Ont., on the first Sunday after synod, 70 rainbow ribbons were made available before the worship service. The ribbons symbolized grief over the Orlando shootings, lament at the recent synodical decision, and the desire to be an inclusive church. “The ribbon supply quickly ran out as young and old, and some council members, those serving communion, and praise team members took ribbons to wear,” said Jubilee member Marlene Bergsma.
A number of people at Bethel CRC in Waterdown wore rainbow ribbons and buttons to church in memory of a young man who was from that congregation, to grieve Orlando, and in response to synod. “I wore my ribbon because of synod, Orlando, and for Andrew, who died of depression and suicide. Exclusion can have a big impact on mental health,” said Joyce Van Egmond, a member of of Bethel.
Ken Van Wyk of First CRC in Toronto wore a rainbow button to church. He ordered a thousand of them. “I want to find other CRC members in good standing willing to symbolically protest the synodical vote,” he said. There were rainbow colors on the windows, and coffee time after church featured unique baked goods. “Along with ally buttons, tears, and prayers, there were rainbow cupcakes too,” said Peter Noteboom.
At Community CRC of Meadowvale in Mississauga, where colorful flags were planted beneath the cross, worshipers scooped water from a bowl, and poured it onto the floor. “The water symbolized tears of lament for Orlando and synodical decisions that exclude. But it also symbolized hope. The carpet was drenched,” said Peter Reitsma.
Allie Stevens, also of Community CRC, said she had strong feelings of thankfulness toward the CRC. “That has little to do with synod but has lots to do with individual CRC people who have been inclusive and caring. I’m not saying that this missed opportunity at synod wasn’t important. But it’s not the most important thing going on in the CRC for me,” she said.