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Council of Delegates Debates Suggested Style Guide LGBTQ Additions

Suggested additions of LGBTQ terms to the style guide used by publications of the Christian Reformed Church generated much discussion at the recent meeting of the CRC’s Council of Delegates. It was not endorsed but the committee that dealt with it noted that it “received it with appreciation,” leaving it unclear as to whether it will go into use.

Of particular concern to delegates was an addition to the human dignity section of the style guide regarding LGBTQ awareness. Some of the additions include:

  • Inclusion of synod’s definitions for the terms homosexuality (a condition of personal identity in which a person is sexually oriented toward persons of the same sex), homosexualism (explicit and overt homosexual practice), and homosexual (a person who has erotic attractions for members of the same sex and who may or may not actually engage in homosexualism).
  • Suggestions to avoid the term “sexual preference.” This term can suggest that same-sex attraction is a choice. Instead, use “sexual orientation” or “sexual identification.”
  • Avoid referring to the “homosexual/gay/lesbian lifestyle.” Just as there is no one heterosexual lifestyle, there is no single LGBTQ lifestyle.
  • Avoid referring to the "gay community." This term does not accurately reflect the diversity of people within the community. Rather, LGBTQ community is preferred.
  • Always use a transgender person’s chosen name. Some transgender people may have legally changed their names. Others haven’t. All should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone who uses a nickname, anglicized name, or other name that differs from the one they received at birth.
  • Always use a transgender person’s preferred pronoun. A person who identifies as a certain gender should be referred to using the pronouns recommended for that gender. If you are not certain which pronoun to use, ask.

In presenting the changes, delegate Susan Hoekema, Classis Muskegon, explained that the style guide discussion was focused on the synodical reports of 1973 and 2002. “What we looked at is the current statement on the CRC page and the direction particularly in 1973 about providing pastoral care. We didn’t have a theological discussion about pastoral care and inclusion.”

Aaltje Van Grootheest, Canada delegate at large, asked the Council to endorse the style guide. “We’re not taking positions regarding LGBTQ issues. All we’re doing is showing grace, telling people they are welcome.”

However, Sid Jansma Jr., present as a guest from Calvin Theological Seminary, said it was extremely important. “The style guide specifically addresses how we word our communications. But I think a differentiation we have to make [is that] this style guide does not address theological underpinnings.”

Ron Meyer, Classis Zeeland, worried about some of the changes, saying it is a small step toward eliminating the distinction between practicing and non-practicing.

Verney Kho, Canada delegate at large, said, “It seems that if we use it as a form of communication, we approve the lifestyle. We are pastorally caring, but the truth remains.”

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