Skip to main content

Young CRC Members Send Messages to Synod

Authors of Communication 10 and Communication 11 to Synod 2024, Lain Vasquez, 23 (left), and Aaliyah Verhoef, 17.

Communications from two young women—a grade-12 student and a recent college grad—are among the 26 official communications included in the Agenda for Synod 2024.

Synod, the annual decision-making gathering of the Christian Reformed Church, will meet June 14-20 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Lain Vasquez, 23, wrote a three-page poem as her communication. A lifelong member of Ivanrest CRC in Grandville, Mich., Vasquez recently graduated from Calvin University with a social work major. In the poem, she implores churches who disagree with the CRC’s stance on human sexuality to “separate themselves from this denominational entity.” She writes: “So I do understand that what I am suggesting would be incredibly hard for you to do. But at the same time, the Spirit has been continuously prompting me to be honest with you.” In the introduction to her poem, Vasquez shared that she identifies as LGBTQ+. She does not identify strongly with either the traditional or affirming stance on same-sex marriage, she told The Banner.

Aaliyah Verhoef, 17, a member of River Park CRC in Calgary, Alta., wrote a seven-page communication. In it, Verhoef urges the CRC to seek “unity without uniformity” and stop “setting a bad example” by “failing to listen to others with open mind and heart.” To encourage the denomination to listen to young people, she quotes seven high school students giving their takes on human sexuality and the church.

Both Vasquez and Verhoef followed the prescribed process of bringing their communication to their local congregation and then to their local classis before submitting it to synod. In both cases, neither congregation or classis adopted the communication.

“I like to write poems and songs,” said Vasquez. “I write about my feelings, and I have so many feelings about this.” As she brought her communication to her church council members, she was also letting most of them know for the first time that she identifies as LGBTQ+. “It took a lot of courage for me to put my thoughts out there. I’m a pretty quiet person. I’m more articulate on paper than talking to people,” she told The Banner.

“More than anything, I just want the best for all the churches in the CRC,” Vasquez continued. “I want them to stop hurting each other. … There’s a tendency to think those that have a lot of knowledge about things have the most understanding about how relationships can play out. I’m a very relational person.”

As a result of her foray into church government, Vasquez was invited to join a Zoom group that met early this year proposing a “gracious separation” in the CRC. The group discussed “how to provide adequate support for those walking away,” Vasquez said, including tangible support like buildings and pensions as well as support through the stages of grief.

Verhoef, also a lifelong CRC member, told The Banner, “In this moment in the church, I have witnessed and heard about the conflict and the turmoil that is happening, especially surrounding the HSR. … I felt compelled to write something. … Can we not all just do our best to respect each other and love each other despite our differences? God loves us all, and we are all just trying to love God.”

Verhoef wanted to include voices from youth with differing views on sexuality in her communication, but synod’s early submission deadline limited the scope of her youth questionnaire. She herself takes an affirming stance on same-sex marriage but thinks differing on this issue should not divide the church.

“I just don't see why any issue should divide a community of people just trying to love God.” Verhoef told The Banner. “The church is supposed to be a place that welcomes everyone trying to live their lives faithfully for God.”

Verhoef acknowledged that her home congregation might leave the CRC. “It saddens me that this is the path that we may have to take, but I understand that there is only so much a person—and congregation—can take before politely excusing themselves.”

Whether or not her church leaves, Verhoef said that she might leave: “If this is a denomination in which I will constantly have to fight to be heard and respected and I am still being called unfaithful or a fake Christian, I cannot stay. However, I hope that, in the end, we can all find a way to exist, unified without being uniform. Loving and respecting each other because we are all trying to love and respect God's Word.”

Vasquez's synodical participation won't end with the submission of her communication. She is one of seven young adults aged 18-26 who will serve as non-voting participants at Synod 2024.

We Are Counting on You

The Banner is more than a magazine; it’s a ministry that impacts lives and connects us all. Your gift helps provide this important denominational gathering space for every person and family in the CRC.

Give Now