“Pastoral Guidance or Misguided Advice?”

In the February 2016 issue of The Banner, the official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), there is a preview of an extensive report coming to their Synod this summer. The report addresses the issue of so-called “same-sex marriages” in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Gayla Postma, “Pastoral Guidance for Churches Regarding Same-Sex Marriage,” pp. 14-15).

This report is not a change in the official CRC position on homosexuality. That position, adopted in 1973, states that “same-sex orientation is not sinful, but homosexual activity is.” This position remains yet unchanged.

The study committee reporting to Synod 2016 was mandated to provide “pastoral guidance” to the denomination with regard to certain practical situations that might arise in connection with same-sex marriages. Some of the issues addressed in the report are:

  • Whether or not it is proper to attend a same-sex wedding or provide a commercial service for such a wedding (e.g. making a cake, taking pictures).
  • Whether or not it is proper for a CRC pastor to solemnize a religious same-sex wedding.
  • Whether or not it is proper for a CRC pastor to solemnize a civil same-sex wedding.
  • Whether or not it is proper for a member to play a part in a same-sex wedding (e.g. being an attendant).
  • Whether or not it is proper to allow same-sex couples and their families to take part in the life of the church (e.g. being an usher, teaching Sunday school).
  • Whether or not it is proper to allow same-sex couples to be members of a local congregation.

The report is weak.

For one thing, in many instances it gives no guidance whatsoever. Is it proper to attend a same-sex wedding? Leave it to the discretion of the individual. Is it proper to play a part in such a wedding? Again, that should be left to the discretion of each member. Is it proper to allow same-sex couples to take part in the life of the church? Let each congregation decide for herself. This gives no guidance to the churches.

More disconcerting is the underlying weakness that the report reveals on the issue of same-sex marriage as a whole. The report distinguishes between religious and civil marriages, and then says that although it is wrong for a pastor to perform the former, in some circumstances it is proper to solemnize the latter. This “guidance” seems to grant a certain legitimacy to same-sex marriages.

The committee goes on to recommend that same-sex couples be received as members in good standing, so long as they are not sexually active. “However,” Postma summarizes, “if a person or couple agree to accept the CRC’s teaching on same-sex sexual relationships and bring their lives into conformity, no obstacle prevents their acceptance as members.” The report says, “The current position does not require dissolution of a civil marriage; nor should the church be heard to require or encourage the dissolution of functioning families.”

This means that a homosexual couple can be members in good standing, so long as they assure the church that they are not engaging in homosexual activity (as if that were possible). The church may not require them to dissolve their “marriage” or their “functioning family.” Nor may the church prevent them from having their adopted child baptized and from partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

And what is more, the report indicates that there is growing dissatisfaction with the official position of the denomination. “A number of CRC churches are already navigating the challenges of integrating same-sex couples into the life of the church, and for them the logic of being denied membership is experienced as damaging rather than life-giving.” There is even an expressed desire on the part of the committee to revisit and revise the 1973 position.

This report is worth noticing because it reveals again the fatal weakness in the position of the CRC. If one’s position is that homosexual activity is the only thing that is sinful, then allowances have to be made for same-sex marriage, so long as the couples assure those around them that, though they are attracted to one another and are legally married, they are not engaging in any sexual activity whatsoever. The weakness of the CRC position has been pointed out by others before. This simply shows the bad fruit it is producing.

It will be interesting to see what the Synod of the CRC does with this report.

Stay tuned.

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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Kim Davis: A Model of Christian Conduct?

For those of you who have not followed the news, Kim Davis is the Kentucky County Clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses on the basis of her religious beliefs. Davis, a professing Christian, believes that homosexuality is a sin. After the US Supreme Court (in Obergfell v. Hodges) gave the legal right to homosexuals to marry in all 50 states, Davis, not wanting to issue any marriage licenses for homosexuals, decided not to issue any marriage licenses in her county. Many Christians view Davis as a courageous Christian who is standing up for her beliefs. Her case certainly indicates that Christians are more and more faced with hard circumstances because of their beliefs. However, Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses in her capacity as county clerk is not an example of courageous or obedient Christian conduct.[1]

I do not believe that Davis’s decision to remain in office and refuse to issue marriage licenses is the best way that she can model obedience to scripture in her situation. The US Supreme Court has given to homosexuals the legal right (according to US law) to marry. The governor of Kentucky has also ordered the county clerks in the state to give marriage licenses to homosexuals. I am aware that there are some who challenge the governor’s authority to give such an order. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has given to local governments the duty to recognize the marriages of homosexuals. Davis has been mandated by a higher authority, the US Supreme Court, to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals. I believe that by defying this authority, in the way that she is, Davis is modeling unbiblical rebellion against authority (cf. Rom. 13).

It is understandable that Davis’s conscience would be bothered if she signed marriage licenses for sodomites.[2] But she is not in a position where her only options are to refuse to issue the licenses or sin by agreeing to grant them. She also has the option of quitting her job. I believe that this would be the right thing for Davis to do as a Christian. If the government forced her to sin by requiring that she remain the county clerk and sanction homosexual marriages, she would be right simply to refuse to issue the licenses. But this is not a case where the government is forcing Davis to sin. She has the option to resign her position. By resigning her position Davis would show due honor to the authority of the civil government and be a better model of what it means to suffer for the sake of Jesus Christ.

I am sure that I have said enough to spark a lively discussion. What are your thoughts?

[1] In criticizing Davis’s conduct I have decided not to focus on the fact that she is hardly a qualified defender of the biblical doctrine of marriage because she has divorced three times and married four times. Upholding the biblical condemnation of homosexuality while ignoring the biblical condemnation of divorce is hypocrisy. But even if Davis separated from her current husband (number 4) and tried to reconcile with her first husband, it would not justify her decision to hold office and refuse to carry out the duties of her office.

[2] However, I am not convinced that it is necessarily sinful for a county clerk to issue a marriage license to a homosexual couple in fulfillment of his or her duty as a government official. If the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality is the reason that it would be sinful, aren’t there many other cases when it would be sinful for a county clerk to sign a marriage license? Wouldn’t it be sinful to issue a license to two unbelievers who obviously have no intention to honor God in their marriage? What about the case of serial divorcees? Why aren’t there Christian county clerks who refuse to sign such licenses? My point in asking these questions is that I doubt that it is the duty of a government official to make sure that a marriage is biblical before they may sign the marriage license. Having said that, I have sympathy for Christians who say they cannot in good conscience sign marriage licenses for homosexual couples.

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Taking Scripture Seriously

‘Both sides take the Bible seriously.’ This is a common claim heard in the debates about women-in-office and homosexuality. Christians who favor the approval of women-in-office and of homosexuality make this statement in order to establish their views as legitimate interpretations of the Bible. So they make it appear that they and their opponents are the same in that both take Bible seriously. But even if those who approve of women-in-office and homosexuality do take the Bible seriously, whatever that may mean, their view and approach to Scripture must be recognized as radically different from those who believe the Bible prohibits women-in-office and condemns homosexuality.

In 2002 JI Packer walked out of an ecclesiastical assembly in protest over a decision by that assembly that gave approval to homosexual unions. In this 2003 article in Christianity Today Packer explained why he walked out of the assembly. I only share with you his explanation of how the two sides have radically different views of Scripture. After reading the second paragraph I immediately thought of Rob Bell. Here is what Packer wrote about the two views of Scripture,

One is the historic Christian belief that through the prophets, the incarnate Son, the apostles, and the writers of canonical Scripture as a body, God has used human language to tell us definitively and transculturally about his ways, his works, his will, and his worship. Furthermore, this revealed truth is grasped by letting the Bible interpret itself to us from within, in the knowledge that the way into God's mind is through that of the writers. Through them, the Holy Spirit who inspired them teaches the church. Finally, one mark of sound biblical insights is that they do not run counter to anything else in the canon.

The second view applies to Christianity the Enlightenment's trust in human reason, along with the fashionable evolutionary assumption that the present is wiser than the past. It concludes that the world has the wisdom, and the church must play intellectual catch-up in each generation in order to survive. From this standpoint, everything in the Bible becomes relative to the church's evolving insights, which themselves are relative to society's continuing development (nothing stands still), and the Holy Spirit's teaching ministry is to help the faithful see where Bible doctrine shows the cultural limitations of the ancient world and needs adjustment in light of latter-day experience (encounters, interactions, perplexities, states of mind and emotion, and so on). Same-sex unions are one example. This view is scarcely 50 years old, though its antecedents go back much further. I call it the subjectivist position.

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The Bob De Moor Plan for the CRC’s Acceptance of Homosexuality

Editor of the Banner, Bob De Moor expresses concern in this Banner article about the likelihood of conflict in the CRC over the denomination’s official position that “homosexual practice is always sinful.” He reports that the discussion about “whether or not to make declarations related to same sex relationships” revealed that “many no longer agree with the position of the Christian Reformed Church that homosexual practice is always wrong or that such practice always requires church discipline.” De Moor is concerned that this may lead to years of contentious debate in the CRC writing,

If we are unwise, we face years of conflict in which, as with the women’s ordination dispute, we oscillate between two extremes from year to year, based on who has more votes at synod. That will restart the hemorrhage of membership on both “sides.”

De Moor has a plan that he speaks of as a “local option.” This plan calls for giving each council the authority to determine what is sinful and then determine the best pastoral approach for each situation.

This plan is actually quite clever if the goal is to keep people in the CRC even though they have different beliefs (De Moor’s specious idea of unity). By its experience with the women-in-office issue, in which it allows local congregations to choose whether or not to ordain women, the CRC has learned that a “local option” plan effectively placates those who are on both sides of the issue. Many who are opposed to women’s ordination have stayed in the denomination for two decades (the CRC approved women’s ordination in 1995) and in many cases have even willingly served with women “officebearers” from other congregations at classical and synodical assemblies. If the CRC decides to allow each council to determine whether homosexual practice is sinful, which will undoubtedly lead to some councils approving of homosexual practice, some members will likely leave the denomination. But it is possible many who believe homosexual practice is sinful will stay as long as their own council’s do not approve of it.

The De Moor plan is also devilishly clever because it will settle the issue that is now in dispute immediately. De Moor wants homosexual practice to be accepted. He knows that it may take years for synod to approve of homosexual practice. But if synod takes the route of leaving it up to local councils De Moor knows that synod will have actually approved homosexuality without an explicit declaration. By approving the local option synod would declare, “homosexuality is ok, but we will let you decide as councils when you are ready to recognize this for yourselves.”

But of course the De Moor plan is foolish. It is the plan of a man who is opposed to the wisdom of God revealed in scripture. The result of De Moor’s plan, and he knows it, will be further fragmentation in the CRC where unity is in name only.

There is a wise way to deal with potential strife over homosexuality in the denomination. That way is to affirm the biblical teaching that homosexuality is a sin and discipline those who contradict the Bible’s teaching. De Moor himself ought to be disciplined. His proposal is contrary to Scripture. It also happens to be contrary to the settled and binding position of the CRC. His article promotes schism in the CRC.

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Male and Female: What’s the Difference?

On June 26 the US Supreme Court (SC) effectively legalized homosexual marriage for the entire nation.  But this was not the first time that the SC redefined marriage (as far as US law is concerned).  In this article in the Wall Street Journal James Taranto explains that in 1981 the SC decided that male headship in marriage is a form of sexual discrimination that is unconstitutional.  Thus, in 1981 the SC did away with the traditional (and biblical) view of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in which the husband is the head of his wife. 

In place of the traditional view of marriage the SC adopted the view that in marriage the man and his wife are equal.  This view is commonly referred to as the egalitarian view of marriage.  Taranto’s argument is that having adopted the egalitarian view of marriage the SC, following the rules of good logic, must approve of homosexual marriage.  He explains that when marriage is redefined in such a way to view the sexes as equal then in marriage “husbands and wives are . . . already interchangeable.”  The logic is sound.  If a man = a woman, then it stands to reason that a man could just as well marry another man instead of a woman.  

It has become increasingly clear that homosexuality is not merely an attack on what the Bible teaches about marriage.  The homosexual movement is part of society’s full frontal assault on everything that the Bible teaches about sex and gender.  This has become increasingly clear with transgenderism (and essential part of the LGBT movement) coming to the foreground because of Bruce Jenner.  The homosexual movement denies God’s creation of the sexes and their differences.  The movement denies the need for people to identify themselves or behave according to the gender God gave them at birth.  Gender identity and behavior is a matter of an individual’s preference to be male and/or female.  For the LGBT movement there is no real difference between the sexes. 

All of this is to say that it won’t do simply for the church today to affirm what God’s word teaches about the sin of homosexuality.  But the church must also affirm what God’s word says about what it means to be male and female.  The church must know, confess, and put into practice what the Bible teaches about the roles of husbands and wives in marriage and in the family.  While we are testifying that it is wrong for men to marry men or women to marry women, are we ready also to testify that it is sinful for a man to refuse to rule over his wife?  Are we ready to testify that it is sinful for a woman to rule her husband?  Are we ready to say something about the place of mothers in the home?   

We condemn homosexuality.  But do we really know the difference between men and women? 

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What It Means When a Denomination Approves Gay Marriage

The PC-USA made the news recently because of its decision to approve of gay marriage, defining marriage as “a unique commitment between two people,” rather than a union of one man and one woman. What does this mean for the PC-USA?

First, it means that the PC-USA has aligned itself with spirit of the age in approving homosexuality. The Rob Bells of the world will applaud the denomination for deciding to be “relevant.” And even secular people will applaud the denomination for no longer “discriminating” against LGBT people. Approving gay marriage will make things go easier for the denomination from an earthly point of view. The burden of bearing the reproach of Jesus Christ has been lifted from the PC-USA.

Second, it means that the PC-USA has had much deeper problems for many years. Tolerance of homosexuality is a symptom of the fact that a denomination no longer requires belief in the divine inspiration of scripture. Inevitably all of the central truths of the Christian faith are rejected when the Bible is no longer believed to be God’s Word. The recent reports that the PC-USA approves homosexuality are appalling. But much more appalling are the things written by a PC-USA minister in this article entitled, “I’m a Presbyterian Minister Who Doesn’t Believe in God.” This article is the reason I decided to write this post about the PC-USA’s decision to approve gay marriage. Here are some of the things this “minister” in the PC-USA professes to believe (these are his own words):

  • Religion is a human construct
  • The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
  • God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
  • Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife 

Third, it means that God’s fierce wrath has fallen upon the PC-USA in judgment for its other serious sins. Many Christians seem to take homosexuality seriously while they fail to recognize the seriousness of other sins. Reports are out that an alliance of churches representing 15 denominations and thousands of congregations is threatening to sever ties to the PC-USA because of its decision to approve gay marriage.  Apparently this alliance did not and does not condemn the denomination for its toleration of the denial of the central truths of the Christian faith. This is the opposite of God’s attitude. God is angry with the PC-USA for tolerating those who deny His very existence, who deny that the Bible is his word, and who deny the truth of who Jesus is as set forth in the Bible. God has expressed his intense hatred for these things by giving the denomination over to the abominable sin of homosexuality.

Fourth, it means Jesus is coming! What we see in the PC-USA is a fulfillment of scripture. 2 Thess. 2 speaks of the “falling away” (vs. 3) from Christ that we see today in the PC-USA and many other denominations. The chapter also speaks of the coming of “that man of sin” who will seek to replace God, “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” Perhaps the individual “man of sin,” the personal antichrist, has not yet appeared in the PC-USA to be worshipped. But the spirit of antichrist is at work in the PC-USA, replacing the worship of God with the worship of Satan. We are saddened. But not shaken! For we know this is a sign “that the day of Christ is at hand” (2 Thess. 2:2).

Finally, it means that those whom “God hath from the beginning chosen … to salvation through the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” need to heed the admonition to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught” (2 Thess. 2:13, 15). When we behold the judgment of God ravaging the PC-USA we need to see it as a reminder not only to maintain the Bible’s teaching about the sin of homosexuality, but even more a reminder to maintain all of the teachings of scripture that have been handed down to us, as they are summarized in our Reformed confessions.

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Synods and General Assemblies: Christian Reformed Church (part 2)

Homosexuality to be Studied Again

The Decision

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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 Reports

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.

Conclusion

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.

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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.

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Synods and General Assemblies: The Reformed Church in America (part 4)

The Homosexual Agenda Advances, Too

Like the proponents of women’s ordination (which I examined here), proponents of accepting homosexuality have a goal too. Homosexuality will not be condemned as sin. It will be viewed as a legitimate (preferable?) “alternative lifestyle.” And it will receive the complete acceptance of every congregation and member in the denomination. The RCA is not there . . . yet. But Synod 2013 made three decisions that move in that direction.

First, the Synod rescinded the following statement made by Synod 2012—“any person, congregation, or assembly which advocates homosexual behavior or provides leadership for a service of same-sex marriage or a similar celebration has committed a disciplinable offense.”

Second, the Synod passed a motion calling for more “grace-filled” conversations about homosexuality.

Third, the Synod remanded the case of Ursilla Cargill, a practicing lesbian, back to a lower assembly. Cargill is not only a lesbian but was also ordained to be a “minister”. Apparently her ordination was approved by a classis and then upheld by a regional synod that rejected a protest against her ordination. Appeal was then made to Synod 2013 to rule Cargill’s ordination invalid. But Synod 2013 sent the case back to the regional synod. Although I am inclined to believe the Synod should have treated the case, it is not completely clear to me from the information available if Synod’s action was improper. Even if synod made the proper decision, RCA pastor Ben Kappers suggests that manipulation may have been involved to ensure that Synod would remand the case. He writes, “While the vast majority of people agreed with the recommendation to send the case back to the Regional Synod, it was disappointing to hear from the President that the [General Synod] was not even prepared to address the case if the Synod delegates decided to move in that direction. This action seemed to be a predetermined outcome.” Whatever the reason for the decision to remand the case, the outcome is that Synod 2013 did not put a stop to the evil of a homosexual woman laying claim to the office of minister in the RCA.   

According to RCA pastor Kevin De Young, the acts of Synod 2013 are ominous for conservatives who oppose the acceptance of homosexuality. He writes,

Conservatives lost ground on the issue of homosexuality.  Instead of trying to strengthen our resolve, the RCA backpedaled. Instead of making up our minds after thirty years of dialogue, the denomination has called for more conversations and another study committee. There is little doubt how this will end up. Progressives do not stop calling for dialoge (sic) until their side is accepted, and eventually mandated… In the meantime, the Regional Synod of Mid-Atlantics will surely uphold the ordination of Ms. Cargill (they already sided with the classis once). The formal position of the RCA on homosexuality is being weakened and the informal position, we will soon discover, is that classes can ordain whom they wish without fear of disciplinary action.

In addition to these wicked acts of Synod, a serious failure to act should be mentioned too. This is the failure to discipline. There is a failure to discipline those who agitate for the acceptance of homosexuality. Kappers comments in his report on the presence at Synod of a group known as Room for All. Room for All is an organization made up of RCA members that is committed, according to its website, “to the welcome and affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies.” This organization wants the “full inclusion” of homosexuals in the church. Kappers says their presence at synod was “significant”. And he writes, “This group continues to be well organized and influential at Synod. In fact, their pride hearts could be seen worn by . . . professors of theology, elder delegates, pastor delegates, seminary student delegates, and corresponding delegates.” The Synod also invited, according to Kappers, two RCA authors to “do official book signings at General Synod. Both authors openly support Room for all.” These authors made their support for the full inclusion of homosexuals known during these signings.

There is also a failure to discipline those who are homosexuals. In the documents I read I found that objections were brought to the regional synod and synod about the ordination of Ursilla Cargill, but no one, far as I could tell, called her to repent for her sin of being a lesbian. Apparently her sin is public. Yet, there is no public call for repentance and discipline in case she does not repent. Even if Cargill’s ordination is overturned the members of the RCA seem content to allow her to remain a member in good standing in the denomination as an impenitent “practicing lesbian”.

The homosexual agenda will not stop, especially if members of the RCA are not disciplined for promoting the sin or living in it. If they are not disciplined they will form organizations such as Room for All. They will trouble denomination with “grace-filled dialogue” that does not end. They will gain control of a classis here and there. They will gain control of a regional synod. In those assemblies they will allow and uphold the ordination of homosexuals. And eventually they will control the broadest assembly of the denomination, the general synod. And soon there will be a synodical decision binding the entire denomination to accept homosexuality. And following that decision there will be the discipline of anyone who dares condemn homosexuality as a sin.

In light of the RCA General Synod’s decisions about the Belhar Confession, women in office, and homosexuality, there is a very serious question facing conservatives in the denomination. May they remain committed to the RCA? Or put another way, may they stay in the RCA, a denomination that holds to a confession that teaches false doctrine, that condemns the biblical prohibition of women office bearers, and that approves the vile sin of homosexuality?

To ask is to answer.

 

Click here to read Part 1 on the RCA Synod 2013.

Click here to read Part 2 on the RCA Synod 2013.

Click here to read Part 3 on the RCA Synod 2013.

 

Resources

“General Synod News” on the RCA’s website here: https://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=9443

“What Happened at the RCA General Synod?” by Kevin DeYoung can be found online here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2013/07/09/what-happened-at-the-rca-general-synod-2/

“General Synod 2013 Recap” by Ben Kappers here: http://benkappers.blogspot.com/2013/07/general-synod-overview-2013-in.html

“2013 RCA General Synod undermines previous Syond’s decision” by Glenda Mathes published in the July 31/August 21, 2013 Christian Renewal

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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. If there is a topic you'd like to Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us.

 

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