Aaron Vriesman

Christian Reformed Church Stands Strong for Biblical Sexuality

The results were landslide decisions in favor of the historic church view of sexuality. Synod voted 131-45 to recommend the Human Sexuality Report to the churches. Synod then voted 123-53 to affirm that the traditional stance on sexuality is “confessional” and therefore binding on all officebearers.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) held its denomination-wide synod meeting in June and the result was a strong stand for biblical marriage and sexuality.
Much was building up to this meeting. The long-awaited Human Sexuality Report (HSR) was on the agenda. This 175-page report presented the historical church’s position on sexuality and called for synod to officially recognize that position to already have “confessional status.” In other words, all pastors, elders and deacons would be expected to uphold and abide by the historical stance on sexuality.
Reinforcing the need for this clarity was the Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan that in 2020 ordained a deacon living in a same-sex marriage.
Less prominent was an overture asking for synod to declare heretical any denials of penal substitutionary atonement. This was in response to a minister who was ordained despite his objections to the atonement language most prominent in the CRC confessions.
Synod 2022 might go down as the most monumental meeting for the CRC of this generation.
During debate on the synod floor, one delegate said the CRC theology of sexuality “has caused there to be blood on our hands.” The chair ruled this comment out of order. The delegate was told he needed to apologize or lose speaking privileges. He refused to apologize and lost his right to speak.
As delegates were deliberating the report on sexuality, around 200 protesters filled the parking lot waving rainbow flags and singing hymns. The next day a smaller crowd gathered wearing black clothing. Spelling out “lament” on cardboard, they wore masks and remained silent.
The results were landslide decisions in favor of the historic church view of sexuality. Synod voted 131-45 to recommend the Human Sexuality Report to the churches. Synod then voted 123-53 to affirm that the traditional stance on sexuality is “confessional” and therefore binding on all officebearers. An instruction to Neland Avenue to “immediately rescind its decision to ordain a deacon in a same-sex marriage” passed 134 to 44. The same number of votes approved the formation of an in loco committee for Neland Avenue to “oversee its compliance” to synod rulings. The in loco committee was also tasked to “admonish” Classis Grand Rapids East (the regional body of congregations where Neland Avenue is a member) for their failure to hold Neland Avenue accountable to CRC positions.
During the debates on sexuality and Neland Avenue, delegates who spoke in favor of the HSR and biblical marriage were noticeably younger, from the generations rising at a time when Christian faith increasingly means standing out from the greater society. Orthodox voices were also more diverse. The CRC’s Korean Council and the Hispanic Consejo Latino both released statements ahead of synod strongly supporting the orthodox Human Sexuality Report.
On atonement, synod passed statements by overwhelming voice votes saying “to in any way deny that Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection provide a substitutionary work of bearing God’s wrath on our behalf because of the just punishment we deserve for our sin” is a “serious deviation from the teachings of the confessions” of the CRC.
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Christian Reformed Church Renewal Movement Stands Against LGBTQ Theology

One third of the Calvin University faculty signed a statement opposing the Human Sexuality Report. All One Body has released a series of talking head videos of therapists, social scientists and pastors discrediting the Human Sexuality Report. Synod 2022 meets June 10-16 at Calvin University and will likely be monumental. The Abide Project’s stated goal is to adopt the Human Sexuality Report and hold all church leaders to the historic biblical view of sexuality.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC), a 200,000-member denomination in the United States and Canada, now has a renewal movement named the Abide Project.
Organized in 2021, the Abide Project seeks “to uphold the historic, beautiful, Biblical understanding of human sexuality in doctrine, discipleship, and discipline” in the CRC.
Once forbidding movies, card-playing and dancing, the CRC has drifted leftward in recent generations. Across the past decade, the push for full inclusion of LGBTQ members has gained momentum and prompted the organization of the Abide Project.
The focal point of contention is a report adopted in 1973 by synod (the CRC’s annual assembly and highest body of authority). The report says believers with same-sex attractions are to be fully accepted in the church, but declares homosexuality to be “a condition of disordered sexuality” and “Homosexualism – as explicit homosexual practice – must be condemned as incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Holy Scripture.” This has been the official position of the CRC since 1973.
At Synod 2011, an overture asking to reexamine the CRC position on homosexuality was voted down. The overture came from Classis Grand Rapids East, the regional body of churches surrounding the CRC headquarters as well as the denomination’s educational institutions in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Shortly after Synod 2011 voted down the Grand Rapids East overture, a group called All One Body emerged to promote full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the CRC.
All One Body hosted events at Classis Grand Rapids East congregations. Speakers called into question the CRC position on homosexuality. Professors presented on new scientific findings. Ex-members identifying as LGBTQ spoke about the hurt-feelings over the 1973 position.
As national polls tipped in favor of homosexuality and same-sex marriage became legal in more locations, another regional group of churches (Classis Zeeland) asked Synod 2013 for guidance on how to apply the 1973 stance on homosexuality in the changing society. Some synod delegates seized the opportunity to amend the request for guidance into reconsidering the whole topic from scratch. However, amendments from the floor were defeated. A committee was tasked to give guidance on applying the current stance. But when members were chosen to fill the committee, the vast majority were pastors and scholars with an LGBTQ-inclusivist view.
The committee of nine divided along ideological lines, producing majority and minority reports. The inclusivist 7-person majority report’s advice stretched the CRC stance on homosexuality as far as possible. The 44-page report made passing references to only four Scripture verses, frequently stressed the complexity of these issues and contained thinly veiled disparagements of the 1973 position. Dividing marriage into civil and religious unions, the majority report said ministers could perform same-sex civil ceremonies as long as the ceremonies were not religious.
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