When the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church met in special session in lieu of Synod 2021, it was sometimes required to approve its own work on synod’s behalf. The CRC’s normally annual leadership meeting was canceled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
One of those actions was noting and approving that it had excluded Bethany Christian Services from the list of organizations endorsed for church offerings. At its May 2021 meeting, acting in its normal capacity as the Council, it took Bethany off the list because Bethany has included same-sex couples for prospective adoption and placement of foster children. The position of the CRC is that explicit homosexual practice is “incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.”
Paul DeVries, Classis Thornapple Valley, told delegates that following the May decision, he received letters of concern and that he shares those concerns. “I do not think that Bethany Christian Services has explicitly taken a position contrary to the denominational position,” he said. “They do not in fact state that they believe that same sex marriage is legitimate biblically. They simply removed, from their own rules, that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
DeVries said he didn’t know that the other organizations on the list would pass this same litmus test, and we don’t ask them to. “I think it lacks grace and is a slap in the face of an organization whose board members struggled with this,” he said.
Organizations can request to be on the list and criteria for approval include sound financial and administrative management and a close alignment with the CRCNA’s ecclesiastical tasks. Synod has moved to exclude other organizations in the past.
An organization not on the list can still receive offerings from churches. It just means that the congregation’s deacons will have to do their own due diligence.
Much of the discussion at the June meeting centered around whether the Council, acting in lieu of synod, should or even could overturn the decision made by the Council.
Mark Vande Zande, Classis Heartland, said he didn’t think they could backtrack on it. Andy DeRuyter, Classis British Columbia North-West replied that synod always has the final say.
John Lee, Classis Iakota, said that regardless of the merits of the decision, he was uncomfortable litigating what had already been decided. “In my neck of the woods, there were many who were upset by what Bethany did. If it remains on the list, that's an endorsement,” he said. “People would just no longer trust the list.”
The Council voted to take note of its earlier decision, with no change. Five delegates recorded their negative vote: Elsa Fennema (U.S. delegate at large), Frederick Wind (Classis Quinte), Jeanne Engelhard (Grand Rapids East), Laurie Harkema (Lake Erie), and Sheila Holmes (Hackensack).