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Unity, Not Unanimity, Say Organizers of ‘A Third Way’


A new group is urging members of the Christian Reformed Church to consider a “third way”: allowing for disagreement within the CRC on the issue of same-sex marriage. 

The group, called “Better Together: A Third Way,” launched its website in mid-February. According to organizers, the site,, received about 3,000 visits from 44 different states in its first week online. The group claims to include CRC “members, leaders, pastors, churches and classes.”

“We (as Better Together: A Third Way) may have a long list of differences,” the website states, highlighting the same-sex marriage issue, “but we are committed to creating space for disagreement on non-salvific ethical issues in service to maintain the prioritization of the mission of the gospel and protect the unity of the church.” Listing the group’s goals on the “frequently asked questions” page, the website states that encouraging spiritual practices that promote unity “may lead to some decisions being reversed” and that “one example could be Synod 2022’s decision regarding confessional status.”

A steering committee of 14 CRC pastors are named on the website. Four live in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area, and the other nine live elsewhere in the United States.

“Even on our steering committee, we do not agree about what God has in mind for faithful Christian sexuality,” said Stephen DeWitt, pastor of Alger Park CRC in Grand Rapids. “Yet we continue to do group ministry side by side. This (same sex marriage issue) doesn’t have to break us.”

The Better Together group received a one-time $5,000 grant from Classis Grand Rapids East and an undisclosed amount from at least one other church, Alger Park CRC.

“This (Better Together) ministry launched without the funding of our classis, but (it) shared a vision of living into the tension of differences while committing to unity with one another,” leaders of Classis Grand Rapids East wrote in a statement to The Banner. “While four churches within our classis hold policies of full participation (of LGBTQ members, whether married or single), the majority do not, and we are choosing to make space for one another. Our desire to persevere with divergent perspectives aligns well with the work of Better Together: A Third Way.”

Canadian CRC pastors were not included in the Better Together initiative because of Canada’s distinctive culture and context, organizers said. “There was an intentional effort to avoid any sense of co-opting the valuable voices found in Canadian churches,” said Nate DeJong-MacCarron, pastor of Fuller Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, who is himself Canadian. “Better Together heartily welcomes these Canadian voices, while also deeply respecting their wisdom in how to address these complex challenges in a specifically Canadian context.”

Members of the Better Together steering committee told The Banner that their churches have spent the past few years in difficult conversations about human sexuality and other weighty matters.

Joel Kok, pastor of Covenant CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa, said his congregation has been “wrestling like Jacob for a blessing.” Better Together: A Third Way is for him a way to talk with people who do not share his traditional view of marriage: “I think I can speak on behalf of my congregation that we would treasure denominational unity.”

Synod 2022’s confessional status decision of what constitutes “unchastity” clarified what is to be understood as the teaching of the church, to be held up by members and office bearers, ruling out plurality. “Just because synod says we must have unanimity doesn’t mean we suddenly do,” said DeWitt. “Alger Park (CRC) asked me to invest in this because we need a way forward. We spent the last two years studying, and we learned so much, and it’s been a huge season of growth,” he said. “Our church’s struggle is, why does this (same sex marriage) have to be the issue that has to break us? I admit that (Better Together: A Third Way) is a very optimistic way forward, but at least it gives us a path forward.”

“My church has folks on both sides of the human sexuality issue, a lot of whom also started somewhere in the middle,” said steering committee member Doug Bratt, pastor of Silver Spring (Maryland) CRC. “(We are) deeply desiring unity and working together. Our food pantry serves 700 households every other week; we could not do this without the partnership of a wide range of Christians who differ on issues including this one,” Bratt said. “Our neighbors see the value of Christians working together. … Our hope is that people on all sides of this issue would see the value of working together.”

Better Together might aptly be called a “third way” because two other groups previously launched websites to address the CRC’s stance on same-sex marriage: The Abide Project in September 2021 (affirming a traditional view of marriage), and The Hesed Project in February 2022 (questioning the traditional interpretation of Scripture on homosexuality.)


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