Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ont., passed a mandate for a new ministry team in May, forming a group it believes to be the first of its kind in the denomination. “In response to Synod (1999)’s call to repentance for the way churches have failed to minister to LGTBQ+ members,” the mandate reads, “we recognize and lament the hurt that Meadowlands’ failure in this area has caused our LGBTQ+ members and their families. We believe that ‘the church must reach out with love and compassion, creating a fellowship of mutual honesty, caring, and support’ (Agenda for Synod 1999, p. 257). Therefore, rather than perpetuating a painful silence regarding the belonging of our LGTBQ+ siblings in Christ, we seek to actively demonstrate our welcome and care for them and their families.”
Bettie VanGils Kloet, the team’s lead contact and one of the four people elected as its executive, has been a part of Meadowlands Fellowship for 30 years. She said the impetus came from “what I believe to be a push from the Holy Spirit to say that we need to take action so that we reach out to all these families. We don’t want young adults feeling that there is no place in our church for them.”
VanGils Kloet said that while their church knew of other congregations where similar groups were working without an official mandate, “we really believed we could be more useful as changemakers if there was a way to fit within the reporting structure and then the official conversations of our own church.” The team will meet four times a year and report to Meadowlands’ pastoral elders at their monthly meetings.
Meadowlands faith formation ministry coordinator, Marja Fledderus, said the church has many specifically focused ministry teams, including three that have formed in the past two years. Teams can form at any time, Fledderus said, and after having a mandate approved by the church’s board (administrative elders, pastor, and a deacon) they fit under one of five pillars of ministry, each led by a staff person.
“With the LGBTQ Support team, the board approved the mandate,” Fledderus said, “but it was felt that the congregation should approve this team, which is not our usual practice. Because of the sensitivity of the topic, the board felt the need for transparency, so it was brought before the congregation.”
VanGils Kloet said the meeting had record attendance and the mandate was “overwhelmingly approved by 99%.”
The team’s action plan, which members began working on at its first meeting, includes partnering with Meadowlands’ adult education team “to present learning opportunities around LGBTQ+ issues,” making “recommendations to our church leadership on the use of welcoming and inclusive language in worship,” and sharing educational resources such as podcasts and books from Christian LGBTQ individuals, VanGils Kloet said.
She said 15 people were part of a front porch meeting in July 2020 that kicked off the process of forming the team. “We had conversations with various individuals, mostly parents of kids who’ve come out, but also various other allies within the church,” VanGils Kloet said, “including one young woman who had left our church over this very thing but was willing to come and share her insights with our group.”
The formation of this team at Meadowlands CRC comes at a time when the Christian Reformed Church prepares to formally receive, at Synod 2022, a report from the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality. The report was released to the churches last fall, and while it asserts that any expression of sexuality outside of a marriage between one man and one woman is contrary to Scripture and goes on to state that this view already has confessional status in the church, it also admonishes the church for failing to live up to recommendations in the 1973 synodical report that call for acceptance, recognition and compassion for people with a homosexual orientation. “It is a sad truth that the Christian community, including our Christian Reformed denomination, has failed in its calling to empathize with, love, and bear the burdens of persons who are attracted to the same sex, making it very difficult for them to live a life of holiness,” the 2020 report reads, p.95. The 1973 report made a distinction between same-sex orientation and practice and characterized only the latter as sinful. The 2020 human sexuality report maintains that distinction.
VanGils Kloet said she responded to a question at the Meadowlands congregational meeting about whether the support team would “make a distinction between members of the congregation who are same-sex attracted or transgendered and celibate versus those in same-sex relationships or marriages” by saying, “That question (of distinguishing between) is not part of our mandate.”
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