On Tuesday, Synod 2022 recommended the human sexuality report to Christian Reformed churches as a “useful summary of biblical teaching” on human sexuality. The vote was a 74 percent majority, with 131 in favor, 45 against, and two abstaining. After the vote, 16 delegates registered their negative vote, which means that their names will be recorded in the acts of synod as standing against the decision.
This Will Help Do Ministry
Dozens of delegates waited their turn to speak as discussion on the first recommendation stretched over the entire afternoon session. Many praised the human sexuality report, saying it would help CRC churches do ministry. They also praised its biblical exegesis.
“The young people in our denomination are looking at us, and they need this clarity,” said Trevor Mouw, Classis Iakota.
“I urge us to think about our young pastors and the foundation that they are going to need in our society, which is going to question them,” said David Dykstra, Classis Red Mesa.
“Nobody wants to talk about sin,” said Harold Caicedo, Classis California South, speaking in favor of the report. “Sin is defined by the same Lord who had mercy and grace on us. … The best way to love each other is to say the truth.”
Stephen Terpstra, Classis Zeeland, said this support showed that recommending the report fits with the CRC’s goal of increasing diversity. “If we deviate from this report, we will in fact be far less diverse than we would otherwise be.”
Other delegates cautioned that adopting the human sexuality report would cause harm.
“If we adopt this, we’re going to take on a much more difficult task in ministering to the LGBT community,” said Larry Louters, Classis Grand Rapids East. “You’re going to invite them into church with the preface that they are fundamentally sinning.”
“The younger generation is watching to see how we handle this,” said Janice Kostelyk, Classis B.C. South-East. “They may walk away if they don’t see a grace-filled approach.”
Delegate Alice Joosse, Classis Alberta North, said the human sexuality report ignores alternate interpretations of Scripture passages about homosexuality. Later, Anthony Elenbaas, Classis Hamilton, challenged the way the report interprets the first three chapters of Genesis.
Jeffrey Weima, a Calvin Theological Seminary professor who is on the committee that wrote the report, responded: “Of course there are different interpretations (of Scripture passages concerning homosexuality) but I don’t think there are, factually, many alternate Reformed interpretations.” He added that the committee did investigate alternative interpretations in great detail but reported on them more concisely.
Some delegates warned of dire consequences if the report passed. Dominic Palacios, of Classis Rocky Mountain, said, “Churches like mine, which are divided 50-50 on this issue, are most at risk,” he said. “I can’t find common ground, because there is none.”
Dwayne Nienhuis, Classis Holland, spoke in support of the report. “Our denomination has open wounds. The more we discuss this (topic), the more it festers. We would probably be better off if we each went our separate way.”
Where We Agree
Before discussion began, synod heard from the chair and reporter of the advisory committee that dealt with the human sexuality report. They told of working earnestly and prayerfully to find common ground in their committee. In the end, they were able to agree on some less controversial points, but then split into a majority and minority group. “Our heart was to figure out what we can agree on,” said Tim Kuperus, committee chair. “At some point, we had to separate, and when we did, we cried.”
Synod 2022 found common ground on many of the facets of human sexuality touched on in the report. Synod turned first to pornography because “it is a sin which transcends sexual orientation.” The advisory committee noted that “we will not be successful in dealing with the rest of the (report) if we do not deal first with the sin of pornography.”
Synod also recommended:
- The pastoral care sections in the report regarding healthy Christian sexual life for married and single persons
- More study related to gender dysphoria
- Development of guidelines for pastoral care in areas such as sexual consent, sexual violence, technological advances, and the shift toward more single persons in the church
Let’s Keep Talking
Still others asked synod not to act on the report, to give local churches more time to process. “What’s the hurry? I urge that we consider the church as a whole, our unity and our capacity to receive this report,” said Dan Brown, Classis Quinte. “We’re so weary. … Please be gentle.”
Synod encouraged churches to keep talking about the human sexuality report and recommended its pastoral care guidance for churches to use. Synod declined to appoint a new committee to study human sexuality, as several churches and classes (regional groups of churches) had requested.
On Wednesday, synod will decide on a more controversial recommendation related to the report: to affirm that homosexual sex is unchaste by the definition of the Heidelberg Cathechism Question and Answer 108, along with adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, and pornography, all of which violate the seventh commandment, thereby asking synod to declare it to be “an interpretation of (a) confession” (Acts of Synod 1975, p. 103).
Synod 2022 is meeting at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 10-16. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod, download the Banner app on your mobile device, or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook. On Twitter follow #crcsynod or twitter.com/crcna. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church (it did not gather in 2020 or 2021). Connect to the meeting’s livestream, read advisory committee reports, and find other resources at crcna.org/synod.