Synods and General Assemblies: Christian Reformed Church (part 2)
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Homosexuality to be Studied Again
The 2013 Synod of the CRC approved the creation of a committee to study the issue of homosexuality and report to Synod 2016. The grounds for the creation of this study committee are two:
The reports from 1973 and 2002 have served the denomination very well by laying out the biblical principles and foundations clearly, where read and applied. Nevertheless, they could not take into consideration later political, legal, and social developments. Such developments include legalized same-sex marriage and the significant shifting of public opinion, which also makes an impact on the membership of the denomination.
In light of these developments, it is prudent for the denomination to expand the applications of the teachings and conclusions of 1973 and 2002 in order to give guidance and clarification on how members, clergy, and churches can speak prophetically in a loving fashion within North America.
The 1973 report, referred to above, explains the CRC’s official stance regarding homosexuality and provides pastoral advice for how the churches should deal with homosexuals. The report distinguishes between homosexuality and homosexualism. Homosexuality is defined (in the report) as “a condition of personal identity in which the person is sexually oriented toward persons of the same sex.” Homosexualism is defined as “explicit homosexual practice.” The report repeatedly condemns homosexualism (homosexual acts) as sin. Its stance on homosexuality is not as forthright. Although the report speaks negatively about homosexuality as a “sexual disorder” and a “result of sin,” it deliberately avoids saying that homosexuality is a sin. And although the report encourages the “reorientation” of homosexuals, it nowhere calls for the discipline of those who remain “oriented toward persons of the same sex.” The report speaks about non-practicing homosexuals as “Christians” and “fellow servants of Christ.” Preferably homosexuals will change their orientation, but if they don’t, even “in their orientation [they] are like all Christians called to discipleship and to employment of their gifts in the cause of the kingdom.” Thus, in 1973 the CRC approved of homosexuality in the sense that non-practicing homosexuals who never change their orientation are not considered impenitent sinners and are able to remain members in good standing in the church.
When the synod of the CRC adopted another report in 2002, it did nothing to change the official view of homosexuality adopted in 1973. The 2002 report evaluated the implementation of the 1973 report’s pastoral advice by the congregations in the CRC, and it gave further direction to the churches about caring for homosexuals pastorally.
Now in 2013 the CRC Synod has appointed a third committee to study the issue of homosexuality. As in 2002 it does not appear that the purpose of the study committee is to evaluate and possibly recommend changes to the CRC’s official position regarding homosexuality. Because many things have changed since 2002 the synod believed there is a need to give more direction to the churches on how to handle homosexuality.
More to the Story
The CRC’s publication of the Acts of Synod does not give the full story of what happened at synod when the formation of this study committee was discussed. A more complete report is given in this Banner article. The article mentions that several people spoke of their dissatisfaction with the decision to condemn practicing homosexuality in 1973. They wanted the committee to restudy the CRC’s position and recommend accepting not only those who have homosexual desires but also those who practice homosexuality. “But,” according to the article, “delegates decisively rejected proposals to re-examine the CRC’s 40-year-old stance. The new committee’s mandate does not include new biblical or sociological studies.”
The article also mentions, and no report of the 2013 CRC synod should overlook, the antics of Joseph Bouwman, an elder in a Toronto CRC congregation. Bouwman declared on the floor of synod, “I stand before you as a 40-year-old, single, celibate and chaste yet openly gay man, no longer willing to be silent.” He thanked the “denomination for being affirming of somebody like me.” What was the reaction to this outburst? “Delegates gave him a standing ovation.”
Even More to the Story
Even though the 2013 Synod refused to revisit the 1973 decision, I do not hesitate to state that in 2013 the CRC is moving in the direction of officially approving of “homosexualism” as well as “homosexuality.”
In 2011 the CRC Synod rejected an overture to revisit the 1973 condemnation of homosexualism. In response to that decision members of the CRC formed a group called All One Body. The mission statement of this revolutionary group reads: “All One Body . . . promotes the unrestricted membership and full participation in all dimensions of chruch (sic) life by all persons who confess Christ as their Savior and Lord, whether they are single or faithful partners in a committed, monogamous union, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender ( emphasis mine—CS).” This group is aggressively seeking to spread its rebellion against the CRC’s official position on homosexuality. It has a website, a Facebook page, and gives presentations wherever and whenever possible in CRC congregations to promote its agenda.
As far as I can tell no effort has been made to stop the All One Body’s rebellion against the CRC’s 1973 “settle and binding” synodical decision. Those who want the total acceptance of homosexuality are allowed to promote their views in the CRC. Allowed to stay and promote their views, these people will work tirelessly until they get their way and overturn the 1973 decision.
And it just may be that the study committee appointed by this year’s synod will lead the way to the acceptance of practicing homosexuality, according to this report by Rev. Aaron Vriesman. Vriesman makes some interesting comments about two of the members of the study committee.
The selection of names included some notable left-leaning leaders. Rev. (sic!) Wendy Gritter is the Executive Director of New Direction Ministries of Canada, an organization dedicated to reach out to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people who have been disenfranchised from Christianity by “nurturing generous spaciousness in the church.” In explaining this concept she says, “Generous spaciousness costs us our security in our exegesis, our hermeneutics, our interpretations (especially when such exegesis and hermeneutics result in prohibitions for others that do not personally affect ourselves).”
Gritter was also the main speaker at a seminar for ministers and seminarians put on by All One Body (A1B), a group that is more or less the gay lobby within the CRC. Gritter chimed in on A1B page the next day: “My prayer is that through the shepherding model the study committee will be able to open dialogue rather than narrowly seek to answer such closed ended questions.”
Also on the study committee is Joseph Bowman, the delegate who stood up during the June 12 synod debate and admitted to being a celibate but openly gay man. His June 13 comment on the group page also suggested a slant: “I made a specific point to say that both sides of this issue (i.e, “full inclusion/welcoming” and “celibacy only”) need to talk to each other. ALL OUR STORIES need to be told.
Vriesman also reports that some of the synodical delegates interpreted the mandate synod gave to the study committee to be broad enough to restudy the whole issue of homosexuality. He writes:
Young Adult Representative, Cedric Parsels, noticed an agenda at work. “When I was at Synod a couple of weeks ago, a number of the more ‘liberal’ delegates at Synod came up to my table to re-assure some of us young adult representatives that the mandate for the new study committee on same-sex marriage was broad enough to permit a wholesale re-evaluation of the denomination’s position on homosexual behavior.
The CRC should revisit the 1973 decision. It should overturn that decision. It should repent of its sin . . . of approving homosexual desires. The Bible condemns the sinful thoughts, intents, and purposes of man’s heart and mind as well as his sinful acts. It is true that homosexuality exists only because of the fall into sin. If mankind remained in a state of perfect righteousness there would be no homosexuality. But that does not mean that homosexual orientation is merely the “result” of sin. Homosexual orientation is itself sinful.
In its pastoral advice concerning the care of people who are of a homosexual orientation the CRC has encouraged its congregations to be “tolerant” and “loving” in an unbiblical way toward homosexual people. Rather than calling people with sinful desires to repent the CRC has accepted them “as they are” for 40 years. That toleration has given way to celebration. Now standing ovations are given to those who don’t want to be silent about the fact that they are homosexual and do not want to change! This has led to a very logical question, if we can except and celebrate people who hold onto their homosexual desires, why can’t we accept and celebrate people if they put their homosexuality into practice? Today that question is being logically answered by a faction within the CRC that says, “Let’s love and give generous space in the church to everyone who confesses faith in Jesus, even if they are practicing homosexuals.”
It is possible that the current study committee will not propose approving of practicing homosexuality in 2016. But there will probably be another study committee in the near future. Like the Synod of 1973, I cannot predict the future. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the next study committee is mandated to restudy the CRC position on homosexuality. And I would not be surprised if the report recommended approving of homosexual acts as well as desires. Would the CRC synod approve that recommendation? We will probably find out . . . in the next decade?
[Note: When I left the CRC in 1998 I was aggrieved by the 1995 decision of synod to allow women to hold church office, but I did not know about the 1973 decision to approve of homosexuality. My ignorance of the 1973 decision may in part be due the fact that I was born 5 years after the decision was made. Yet, I remain surprised by the lack of vocal opposition to the 1973 decision by “conservatives” in the CRC. I sometimes wonder why they were even still in the CRC when women in office became an issue. If they took the Bible’s teaching seriously why didn’t they leave when the denomination twisted Scripture to approve of homosexuality.]
Click here to read Part 1 on the CRC Synod 2013.
______________Other blog series by Rev. Clayton Spronk:
Click here to read about the RCA Synod 2013.
Click here to read a chapter-by-chapter study of The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
This article was written by guest blogger Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, IL. Rev. Spronk will be blogging for us several times a month, taking us first through a brief study of Richard Smit's newly released book, The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If there is a topic you'd like to Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us.