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Synod 2024: Not Necessary to Declare Unrepentant Sin A ‘Salvation Issue’

Henry Kranenburg, reporter for minority report: “The term ‘salvation issue’ is not a clearly defined term.”
Steven Herppich

Synod 2024 of the Christian Reformed Church in North America rejected a report that recommended the body specifically call out “any and all unrepentant sin” as a salvation issue. Some delegates spoke firmly in favor of needing a declaration on the matter but others said a new statement would add nothing to what the confessions already declare.

Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It is meeting June 14-20 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Synod received two related overtures (28 and 29) calling opposition to the confessional understanding of “unchastity”—a decision of Synod 2022 that defined the term to include homosexual sex—either “heresy” or “worthy of special discipline.” The majority report from the committee reviewing the overtures asked synod to make a declaration “that any and all unrepentant sin, including all sin addressed by Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 87 and Q&A 108, is a salvation issue.” After some discussion, synod rejected that recommendation (on a vote of 100 to 79) and took up the committee’s minority report instead.

Joseph Vanden Akker, Classis Grandville, presented the majority report, reading, “The Scriptures and confessional standards, particularly Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 87, make clear that Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108 does address a salvation issue and that unchastity and sexual ethics are salvation issues.”

Vanden Akker continued: “It is a serious deviation from the teachings of the CRCNA to reclassify that which is a matter of salvation as a disputable or questionable issue or some other classification. Such serious deviations from the clear teachings of Scripture and our confessions endanger the unity of the flock entrusted to the officebearers’ care.”

Chris deWinter, Classis B.C. South-East, asked for clarification as to why, if Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 87 was already clear on what constitutes a salvation issue, an additional statement was necessary.

Jeff Kempton, Classis California South, said he believed it unwise for synod to single out the sin of unchastity “especially in the current context of our denomination.”

“I believe it is highly likely to give the sense that not only is the practice of homosexuality a salvation issue, but even one’s belief about the sin of homosexuality practiced by other people is also a salvation issue—that what you think about this sin is a salvation issue,” Kempton said.

Reading from the minority report, reporter Henry Kranenburg, Classis Alberta North, said, “The term ‘salvation issue’ is not a clearly defined term. When linked to a particular ‘unrepentant sin’ it is understood by some to mean that such sin is equally in need of the saving grace of Christ—hence ‘any and all.’ Others hear it saying that this particular unrepentant sin is more worthy of eternal damnation than other unrepentant sins.” Continuing, Kranenburg said, “This lack of clarity is unhelpful and open to misinterpretation, especially to those struggling with sin.”

Calvin Theological Seminary professor Mary Vanden Berg called the term “salvation issue” “exceedingly ambiguous.”

“It seems to suggest condemnation. You don’t know who’s in and who’s out,” Vanden Berg said. “The Reformed scholastics were insistent on this.”

Vanden Berg also said that if she died tonight, “it’s absolutely certain that I’m dying with unrepentant sin. Does that worry me? Not at all, because I’m covered by the blood of Christ, and I know I will be welcomed into his arms when I see him.”

In the end synod accepted the minority report (on a 103 to 59 vote), rejecting Overtures 28 and 29.

The adopted report states, “Scripture is already clear that all sin, including unrepentant sin, is a ‘salvation issue’ as is reflected in the Heidelberg Catechism, question and answer 87, and therefore does not need a statement to declare that.”

Eight votes against adopting the minority report were recorded.

Synod 2024 is meeting June 14-20 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at Visit for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.

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