Brief Highlights from the CRCNA’s 2016 Agenda for Synod
The Christian Reformed Church in America’s 669-page agenda has been posted on the Internet. Below are some of the interesting items on the 2016 Synod’s agenda.
- The Synod will receive recommendations from the Board of Trustees to adopt “Research Methodology Guidelines for Synodical Committees and Task Forces.”
The paragraph that introduces the “Methodology Guidelines” is a noteworthy and candid admission that the CRC does not use Scripture alone as the foundation for its faith and life. It reads,
Nearly every year synod appoints study committees and task forces. In the past, the mandate of such committees has often been focused on scriptural interpretation to make recommendations for ecclesiastical positions and practice. However, more recently, the methods of social science have been called upon, as the scope of tasks has broadened. Surveys are conducted, case studies are elicited, and personal stories are recorded—all in service of synodical study assignments.
- The Synod will spend much time dealing with social issues.
Through its Office of Social Justice the CRC is seeking to “address the root causes of hunger, poverty, and oppression around the world.” The Office of Social Justice reports that some of its work includes:
—Providing a workshop that “walks participants through the history of relationships between Indigenous and non- Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States.”
—Responding “to a request from Nigeria to explore the possibilities of a peace process to resolve economic and religious conflicts in the nations’ Middle Belt region.”
—The Office of Social Justice along with the CRC’s World Renew Committee has also been involved in dealing with “climate change.”
- Synod will treat a report from its “Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance of Same-sex Marriage.” Synod will receive a minority report along with the majority report.
The majority report is an open attack on the biblical truth about marriage and a thinly-veiled effort to push the CRC toward fully embracing homosexualism. Regarding the origin of marriage, the report expresses doubt about whether God created and instituted marriage on the sixth day of creation. It states, “Marriage is an ancient institution, and if one is speaking biblically, the adjective might be primordial.” This is an unbiblical statement that can only be made by an individual or a committee that believes marriage is a man-made institution. And if the CRC adopts the perspective that marriage is a man-made institution, then it will inevitably adopt the position that man may define marriage in a way that sanctions homosexual unions.
The minority report is also severely flawed. It is basically an attempt to hold to the CRC’s 1973 decision that condemns homosexual behavior but does not condemn homosexual orientation. The CRC allows one to have homosexual desires but does not allow one to act on them. The position outlined by the CRC in 1973 is confusing and untenable. The confusion caused by the 1973 decision is evident in the minority report. For example, the report argues that it would be sinful for two who are Christians to enter into a “celibate samesex marriage,” but it would not necessarily be wrong for two people to remain in a “celibate same-sex marriage” if they were married prior to their conversion. What confusion!
- The Synod will treat 37 overtures.
By my count, nine of them encourage synod to reject the majority report on pastoral guidance for dealing with homosexuality, and two of them encourage synod to adopt the minority report. One overture encourages synod to adopt the practice of appointing homosexuals as advisors to synod. One overture urges synod to require the website of its radio ministry to remove articles that endorse homosexual marriage (!). Another overture desires the adoption of the Belhar Confession as a fourth creed for the CRC.
Michigan Church Responds to the Bullying Tactics of a Homosexual Activist
Many Jenison, MI area churches were subjected to slander during a June 2015 gay-rights rally. Signs were used with the names of the churches, without their consent, proclaiming that they “believe in love.” One sign read, “Faith Protestant Reformed Church Believes In Love.” The words may sound innocent, but since the sign was being held up by a gay-rights activist during a pro-gay rally, the message conveyed by the sign is that Faith PRC, and the other churches, support and approve of the homosexual lifestyle. The gay-rights activists were suggesting that condemning homosexuality is hateful, and that any church that truly “believes in love” must accept homosexuality. One church has decided to respond to the use of its name this way by suing the individual, a Daniel Vanderley, who is responsible for the signs. No, it is not Faith PRC that is suing, but Jenison Bible Church.
On MLive.com Matt Vande Bunte reports1 on Jenison Bible Church’s lawsuit:
The suit states that the church’s ministry was harmed because the sign suggested the church is “opposed to the biblical definition of marriage and in favor of ‘same-sex marriage.’” The complaint seeks a public apology from Vanderley.
“Jenison Bible Church, and any other church for that matter, has the right to teach and hold fast to its Biblical beliefs and teaching and to defend against having those beliefs intentionally and falsely misrepresented to the public,” said Jim Wierenga, an attorney for the church.
“Vanderley tried to bully Jenison Bible Church, and other local churches, by threatening that, if they did not hold a sign conveying that their church believes in socalled ‘same sex marriage,’ that he would make sure that someone of his choosing held such a sign and misrepresented the church’s position to the media and the public at large. Vanderley knew that he did not have Jenison Bible’s permission to associate the church with his message. Yet he did so anyway.”
Jenison Bible Church has good reason to be appalled by the use of its name in support of homosexuality. The church’s suit states, “Any intentional and public distortion of Jenison Bible’s position on marriage and sexual immorality negatively impacts Jenison Bible’s ability to effectively share the gospel.” The gospel is indeed at stake. Daniel Vanderley’s actions are part of the largescale attack on the gospel by the homosexual movement today. And churches that desire to be faithful pillars of the truth of Scripture must publicly and courageously defend and declare the truth concerning marriage and sexual immorality. To do this the churches must receive and pray for much wisdom from God.
It is not always so easy to know how to respond to the slanderers. I dare guess that many readers of the SB have different reactions to Jenison Bible Church’s lawsuit. Some probably think it is a great idea, and wonder why Faith PRC has not also actively sought a public apology from Mr. Vanderley in order to clear the church’s name from any hint of support for homosexuality. I do not see anything wrong with the Jenison Bible Church’s lawsuit. However, a church is not compelled to respond to every bit of slander hurled its way in order to give a clear wit ness to the truth. For one thing, the homosexual activists want to provoke responses so as to paint an even bigger target on the backs of their enemies. Responding often seems to play into their hands. But more importantly, the church has better ways to give her testimony and protect it from slander. I refer chiefly to the preaching of the gospel, but also to other means the church has to proclaim her faith, such as lectures, pamphlets, articles, webpages, and more—means that allow us to control the content and tone of the message we wish to convey.
As long as the PRC maintain and support the preaching, teaching, and practicing of the truth concerning marriage and human sexuality, there is no reason to respond to every particular slander of the enemy. No one can complain that Faith PRC or any other PRC has failed to provide a public testimony about the truth of Scripture concerning marriage and human sexuality. If anyone wants to know what Faith PRC or any other PRC believes concerning these issues, there are plenty of resources available for their enlightenment. The target is already on us, and the enemy will see it soon enough. May God give us the courage to continue to testify to the truth.
Sunday and Sports
Members of the church today face increasing pressure to participate in sports on Sunday. Often it is simply a matter of scheduling: the powers that be schedule games on Sunday. Sometimes these schedulers are willing to accommodate those who do not participate in sports for religious reasons. Other times they are not, and then the Christian faces the temptation to break the fourth commandment in order to participate. In a day when many who carry the name “Christian” play sports or allow their children to play sports on Sunday, I am happy to report about Covenant College’s decision “to forfeit the women’s tennis conference title match rather than to play on Sunday.”2
Covenant College is an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America. The decision of the college not to play on Sunday stands in contrast with other “Christian” universities in their league. In the semi-finals Covenant defeated North Carolina Wesleyan, whose coach ques tioned why Covenant even participated in the tournament knowing that the women would not compete for the championship.3 Evidently, the Wesleyan institution planned to participate in the finals had they won the semi-finals. The team that left the tournament with the championship because of Covenant’s forfeit was from Methodist University—they were also willing to participate on Sunday.
Covenant joined the USA South Conference in 2013 knowing that the league holds sporting events on Sundays. However, the South Conference accepted Covenant’s membership knowing College’s policy of not participating in sports on Sunday. As it has done in the past, Covenant submitted the proper paperwork to request a change of date for the finals before the tournament. The USA South Conference denied the request. At the tournament, the women’s team won the semi-final and qualified for the championship. Many Christian institutions would have caved in to the pressure of this situation (many already have!). Covenant withstood the temptation.
What about the women who missed the opportunity to compete for a championship? Should we feel sorry for them? The USA South Conference certainly could have been more reasonable and simply switched the date for the finals. Apparently, the conference’s fall and winter championships occur on Saturdays. But the women probably joined the Covenant team knowing the policy of non-participation on Sundays and its possible repercussions. If winning tennis championships meant more to them than the Sabbath Day, they could have attended other colleges. They and their parents should be thankful that they attend a college where decisions are made based on the Scriptures. And if the women and their coaches missed out on possibly winning the conference championship because they used the day instead to attend divine worship services, hear the preaching of the Word, and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ, then there is no reason to feel sorry for them. God’s blessings, which are far richer than a tennis championship, flow to them who gather with their fellow saints for worship on the Lord’s Day ().