An informal group of Christian Reformed people from across North America have created a project in response to the human sexuality report, the work of a committee assigned by Synod 2016 to articulate a foundation-laying Biblical theology of human sexuality.
The Hesed Project takes its name from a Hebrew word sometimes translated “unfailing love,” or “steadfast love.” The project invites people “to explore, discuss, and discern what this kind of embracing love means in relation to human sexuality. The specific purpose of the Hesed Project is to provide resources for those with questions about the way the Christian Reformed Church in North America is responding to current concerns.”
The group began asking questions and sharing resources in spring 2021, a few months after the human sexuality report was released. Kathy Vandergrift, a member at Kanata Christian Reformed Church in Ottawa, Ont., was involved in finding resources and creating the website. She said the project “is designed to fill a gap for those with questions.” Jacqueline Donkersloot, another contributor, wants people to not turn off their minds “from being curious in what we’re saying. You don’t need to agree with us, you just need to be curious about what this website has to say.”
The Hesed Project website launched Feb. 24, 2022. Vandergrift said the group hoped to launch the site sooner, but volunteer limitations prevented that.
“The response to the website has been positive,” Vandergrift said, seeing the group to be “fulfilling a real need.”
Questions the project addresses include “Is the Bible clear on its teachings on sexuality?” and “Does the approach of the HSR (human sexuality report) cause harm?”
Donkersloot, a member at Mapleridge (B.C.) CRC, collected and wrote some of the stories from LGBTQ+ individuals. She said, “Theology doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but it impacts how we live and interact with one another. For many people, the LGBTQ+ issue is a theoretical theological issue until we personally know someone impacted. and then we see it’s not an ‘issue.’ It’s a reality, and we see the impact theology has on people’s lives. Through sharing stories in a personal way, hopefully, people who don’t have LGBTQ+ people in their lives can have the opportunity to empathize with that experience.”
The human sexuality report does include stories from church members, using pseudonyms, but some have criticized the scope as being too narrow. Noting conversations the committee had over its five-year mandate, page 4 of the report relays dates and descriptions of interactions the committee had “with people in specialized ministries or life situations whose input we sought.”
The Hesed Project has decided to keep the names of most participants confidential. Since they are unable to list some names due to perceived risks to employment for unpopular views, they decided it would be best to avoid listing most names. Outside of the website, some of the people participating have helped to foster congregational discussions and are offering pastoral support for people who have had negative reactions to the report’s contents.
The time for congregations and classes (regional groups of churches) to share reactions to the human sexuality report is drawing to a close. Synod 2022, the broadest assembly of the CRC with delegates from each of the denomination’s 49 classes, will gather June 10-16 in Grand Rapids, Mich. The report, and any duly processed requests or communications received by March 15, is expected to take up much of that meeting’s agenda. (For reports of adopted overtures, see Classis Watch: Winter 2021, Classis Watch: Spring 2021, Classis Watch: Late Spring 2021, Classis Watch: Fall 2021, Classis Watch: Late Fall 2021, and Classis Watch: Winter 2022.)