A group of concerned Christian Reformed pastors, scholars, and church leaders have launched the Abide Project. The new venture features a website and a binational leadership team that, according to its mission statement, seeks to uphold “the historic, beautiful, biblical understanding of human sexuality in doctrine, discipleship, and discipline.”
The Abide Project grew from a Zoom discussion group in late 2020. Pastors and church leaders in the group were alarmed by the decision of Neland Avenue CRC to ordain a deacon who was in a same-sex marriage, and by Classis Grand Rapids East’s lack of reaction to that decision. The group also discussed their take on the CRC’s human sexuality report, published in late October 2020. Soon, the Zoom discussion group grew to include a sea of faces, nearing the limit of 100 participants.
Deciding they needed more coordination, the group nominated a leadership team of 15 people representing specific areas of the United States and Canada. They chose the name “Abide Project,” developed a logo, and on Sept. 1, 2021, they launched a website that features regular articles by contributors. A podcast is also planned. “Dozens of people are taking up different tasks,” said Abide Project chair, Chad Steenwyk, who pastors Central Avenue CRC in Holland, Mich.
The Abide Project aims to reach people who might feel that they are alone in their traditional views about gender and sexuality, according to Steenwyk. “We don’t want anyone to sit up there like Elijah thinking they’re the only one left.”
In fact, Steenwyk asserts, “The majority in the pew hold to the traditional view of sexuality and marriage. There is broad support across the denomination connected to almost every classis.” (A classis is a regional group of congregations.)
The group has provided a forum for those eager to share their thoughts and experiences related to the topic of gender and sexuality and the church. “I’ve been really surprised at how many people have said, “I’d like to write a piece,” said Aaron Vriesman, who pastors North Blendon CRC in Hudsonville, Mich., and serves as clerk for the Abide Project’s leadership team.
In general, the Abide Project supports the CRCNA’s human sexuality report, which is slated to come before Synod 2022 in June. (See “Sexuality Report Released to Churches, Suggests Historical Position is Already Confessional,” Nov. 25, 2020.)
“The goal for the Abide Project is to see the HSR passed,” said Steenwyk, emphasizing that this is not a political goal, but a prayer for the movement of the Holy Spirit. “I do believe that matters of sexuality have confessional status, like many other issues of holiness and discipleship. Where we need more guidance is in pastoral application. We’re finding new pastoral situations every day.”
Several churches and classes have already communicated to synod, the broadest assembly of the CRC, their support or concerns about the human sexuality report, and because the report’s discussion was delayed due to the cancelation of Synod 2021 more are expected ahead of the synod in June. (See “Reaction to Human Sexuality Report Includes Responses From a Group of Students,” April 16, 2021; “Classis Watch: Winter 2021,” March 5, 2021; “Classis Watch: Spring 2021,” April 2, 2021; Classis Watch: Late Spring 2021,” June 11, 2021.)
Synod 2022 will be a “watershed moment” for the denomination, Steenwyk said.
Vriesman agreed. “Synod needs to make a decision, ‘all in’ on one side or the other. Trying to make everyone happy has not worked. One side is in serious error. If we try to make everyone happy, no one will be happy.”
“If I was in the other camp, too, I would not be satisfied if people were calling out what I believed to be a godly expression of human love in the same fellowship,” said Steenwyk. “In no other denomination have they been able to walk together holding both views.”
Related: “The Reformed Church in America Moves Toward Restructuring, Prepares For Departures,” Oct. 19, 2021.
About a decade ago, Steenwyk and Vriesman helped launch a group for concerned CRC members called The Returning Church, now a Facebook group. The Returning Church has focused on West Michigan, while the Abide Project has brought together people from across North America who represent a wider range of views, they said.
Steenwyk said the group has “been growing organically so far,” and is “just at the point where we’re reaching out beyond pastors and church leaders.” Right now, with primarily pastors subscribing, “we are approaching 200 on the email list,” he said.