Synod Declares Kinism a Heresy

Reggie Smith, director of Race Relations: I went alone to that church espousing Kinism. If I had taken my wife Sharon, who is white, we would have been heretical in the eyes of this pastor.
Karen Huttenga
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Synod 2019 declared Kinism a heresy. The decision came as a result of requests from two regional groupings of churches across the continent from each other, one from California and the other from New Jersey. (Synod is the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.)

Kinism teaches that the races should be kept separate in racially pure “religio-ethnic states,” supporting white supremacy. A former CRC pastor, now dismissed from the denomination, espouses kinism and did so for many years while he and his church were part of the CRC.

Reggie Smith, director of the denominational Race Relations office, introduced the discussion with a story. Word had come to him that the pastor of a CRC church was teaching kinism. He decided to visit the church. He went alone, but, he said, “if I had taken my wife Sharon, who is white, we would have been heretical in the eyes of this pastor.” Kinism forbids interracial marriage.

The delegates were unified in their condemnation of kinism. Joel Renkema, Classis Central California, said, “Kinism says that people of color are less than human.” Andrew Hanson, Classis California South, called Kinism “the Americanization of apartheid.”

Jacob Boer, Classis Alberta North, said what makes Kinism a heresy is that “it deals with who God is,” and in dealing with who God is, it deals with who human beings are, distorting the central Christian teaching that all humans are created in the image of God.

Margaret Jenista Kuykendall said according to Kinism, half of her staff would be deemed to be in unbiblical marriages and their children less than human.

Some wondered how Kinism could have been tolerated for so long in the CRC. Tyler Wagenmaker asked, “How does a pastor like this not get disciplined?” He presented a motion passed by synod that “councils and classes be admonished to promote confessional fidelity.”

The language of the synod declaration on Kinism calls it a “twisting” of Reformed teaching. Delegates wondered whether this heresy was a foreign body that had attached itself to Reformed teaching or whether there is something in Reformed teaching itself that leads towards this sort of teaching.

Jonathan Owens, Classis Yellowstone, said Kinism is not isolated to this one former CRC church. It is, he said, “a common sentiment in a number of our [western] churches.” Andrew Hanson, Classis California South, said while not all Reformed people were Kinists, all Kinists were Reformed.

In condemning Kinism, synod wanted a firmer definition of heresy. When is a teaching something one can disagree with but not condemn the people who hold it? And when does it pass over into the category of heresy? For the purposes of this discussion, synod worked with a definition of heresy that defines it as “a grievous deviation from sound doctrine.” Synod wanted more. They requested the COD to study the meaning and application of the word “heresy” in church pronouncements. The COD will report back to Synod 2020.

The delegates not only discussed Kinism, they lamented it and all forms of racism. Margaret Jenista Kuykendall said for her, the condemnation of Kinism was personal. She said she had been in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. She said, “I have seen the tiki torches. I have breathed the tear gas. It’s not abstract to me.”

Synod lamented “the historic tolerance and indifference within our Reformed theological tradition perpetuating hateful racial prejudice and the theological error of Kinism.”

Coming back to the podium, Smith had the delegates join hands. He said, “This is family. In this place we are on the same level.” He led a prayer of lament and hope. Synod concluded the discussion of Kinism singing a new song based on 1 John 4:20. The song goes, “How can I say that I love the Lord whom I’ve never, ever seen before, and forget to say that I love the one I walk beside each and every day.”

Synod 2019 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 14-20. For continuous coverage from our award-winning news team, download the Banner app on your mobile device or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted on The Banner’s dedicated Synod web page several times daily. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.

About the Author

Clayton Libolt was the long time pastor of River Terrace Church in East Lansing, Mich. Since his retirement, he has served in a variety of interim positions. He is presently serving as the interim senior pastor of Sonlight Community CRC in Lynden, Wash.

See comments (5)


A kinsit believes in separation of colors for worship and life. Black theologist's do likewise, just for blacks only. Spanish are for LaRaza

YOu give the impression in this article, that ONLY Reformed CRC members are unless I'm reading it improperly. If you are saying that, I would say you haven't branched out in life. A kinist comes in many flavors. Some are reformed, some are Calvinistic, and others are IFB, Catholic, Arminiast's.

To begin, "kinism" is not only heresy, but also just wacky, even cultish if you will.  But I quite disagree with the statement, assuming it was made, "while not all Reformed people were Kinists, all Kinists were Reformed."  Indeed, RJ Rushdoony (and his cultish band of followers and successors) were Kinist and Rushdoony claimed he was Calvinist, but few if any within the Reformed community would appreciate that and wouldn't want to greatly distance themselves.  Even fewer, if any at all, were CRC or even Reformed from the Dutch tradition.

Indeed, I don't think the CRC has ever had a Kinist strain, ever.  Kinism is as much or more a product of the US South (the confederacy and before), that is, a product of the effort to justify slavery, than it is a product of Calvinism (or Reformed).  But if some of us still insist on somehow "owning" the Rushdoony part of the equation, note should be made that Rushdoony was ordained by the PCUSA.  And then Rushdoony went to the OPC (but they've disowned him too).  When your supporters are either blood relatives or in-laws (e.g., Gary North) and you eventually can't get along with them (e.g., Gary North), you have to start thinking cultish.  That is the reality of Rushdoony and his Kinism.

Which isn't to say that some people (including those self-describing as "Calvinists" or "Reformed) who are Kinists don't believe the same things CRCers do.  I suspect most Kinists believe Jesus was the son of God, believe in the Trinity, believe that 1+1=2.  That doesn't mean ....

In other words, I think we have to be careful about "owning" heresies that the CRC does not in fact "own."  We somewhat did that with the "Doctrine of Discovery" and we are somewhat doing that here.  Our declarations of "owning" (whether declared of other groups or ourselves) need to be fair, including to our own tradition (the CRC), which sometimes we can be the least fair to.

Finally, while I have no problem with considering and condemning Kinism as heresy, there are lots of other heresies the CRC could formally condemn too I think, and should be thoughtful about how and why we pick and choose.  I'd characterize "liberation theology" and "social gospel" as heresies, although I'm not inclined to have Synod make a heresy pronouncement about it.  For that matter, I think advocacy of same sex marriage is, as the CRC now stands, a heresy.  Would we want to make that synodical declaration.

Heresy is a very strong word in terms of emotional impact but the precise meaning is, merely, "belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious doctrine."   That doesn't mean the CRC shouldn't declare some heresies.  I think the CRC probably did/does well to declare "apartheid" a heresy (there was something of a CRC connection even if not strong) but I'm less convinced it helped or helps to declare the "Doctrine of Discovery" a heresy, not that I agree with the "Doctrine of Discovery" but because it's 500 years old, the product of RC Papal Bulls and not much that the CRC can be fairly said to "own" in any way.

So while I suppose its fine to declare Kinism a heresy, I hope doing this sort of thing doesn't become a trend.  Frankly, as much as I disagree with SSM (or liberation theology), I'm not inclined to have Synod declare the advocacy of or belief in it a heresy.  

Hi Doug,

The article mentions a former pastor and church in the CRC who promoted kinism, so it does seem as though there is some connection to the CRC.  I'm not sure why so mum on who this was, but it seems to me that it was likely Bret McAtee and the now-named Christ the King Reformed Church.  Bret can be seen here. Seems to be listed in good standing.  Take note of ironic training credetials.  Quote from a Christ the King Reformed Church Facebook post on Obama-era regulations: "Obamagration is planned so as to eliminate the WASC [White Anglo Saxon Christian] identity of my Grandchildren and great grandchildren. Obamagration is the attempt to wipe out WASC seed to a thousand generations by the means of forcing assimilation upon WASC’s with those coming from non Western, Non-Christian lands. If, in two generations, there remains a WASC presence in America that generation will be treated the way South African Boers are treated now."  Yikes.  Quote from a Pastor Bret McAtee article here: "Kinism is just basic Biblical Christianity 101."  Not sure of the church's history, but their Bing search result displays them as Charlotte Christian Reformed Church. 

So, it would appear as though this dastardly teaching has hit quite close to home. 

Eric: Thanks for the links.  I note Bret McAtee was "declared eligible [for call in the CRC] on the basis of exceptional gifts [in] 2008."  Reminds me of Steve Schlissel. :-)

And his article is in a website entitled "Identity Dixie: Home of the Rebel Yell."  Telling. I'd still be of the view that the CRC does not have a "strain" of Kinism, any more than Steve Schlissel represented a CRC strain of some kind, nor that "all Kinists were Reformed."  

Not discussed openly in all of this: How is it surprising to see identity heresy spring up in a denomination that continues to obsess over external identities?  Message from the denomination over and over again: You are white and your whiteness matters!  Is it really surprising, then, that a pastor stands up and says: "We are white and it matters!"  Rev. Reggie Smith ought to look squarely in the mirror and ask himself how he and the agencies that he heads are contributing to the obsession with identity that is not rooted in Christ. 

The creed of the alt-right, as expressed by Richard Spencer is “Race is real. Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.”  Too often the agencies of the CRC absolutely serve to reinforce this creed.  As Rod Dreher astutely observes in this article, "you cannot have an identity politics of the Left without calling up the same thing on the Right." Physician, heal thyself.