The 2019 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) received the interim report of a committee of ten individuals that was tasked to write a “theology of human sexuality.” This is a committee that was appointed at Synod 2016 “to articulate a foundation-laying biblical theology that pays particular attention to biblical conceptions of gender and sexuality” (Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 917–19). A final report is to come before the Synod of the CRC in 2021. The reason for coming to Synod 2019 was that delegates of this past year’s Synod might give feedback for the committee in its ongoing work.
The thirty-four-page document gave “a biblical overview of sexuality, emphasizing that sexuality is a good thing and that churches should be discussing it openly. It also laments the brokenness that surrounds sexuality in our culture and in our churches.” In an article in The Banner July/August 2019 entitled “Let’s Talk About Sex,” Professor Jeff Weima, co-chair of the committee, is quoted as saying, “Our primary purpose is to hear from you. We will pay careful attention to what you say.” Delegates spent an hour discussing the report in small groups. In another article in the same issue of The Banner, “Council Chair Gives Spectators a Voice,” it was reported that Paul DeVries, chair of the CRC’s Council of Delegates noticed in the audience a group of about 25 protestors. They came dressed in various versions of the rainbow, used to symbolize LGBTQ+pride. The chair took it upon himself to go to them and ask for their input also. He promised to pass their voice on to the authors of the report. (I might add here, how shameful that the symbol of the rainbow picturing to Noah the faithfulness of God to His Word is now used by those who desire to persist in their wickedness, sin, and rebellion against God.)
This report is part of a lengthy study on the issues of sexuality and homosexuality. One can trace it back to 1973 when Synod submitted a report on homosexuality to the churches for study. Synod also adopted a series of statements of pastoral advice to the churches. These have been the CRC position establish by Synod 1973 and affirmed by several subsequent synods. What are those statements?
“Homosexuality: a condition of personal identity in which a person is sexually oriented toward persons of the same sex.”
“Homosexualism: explicit and overt homosexual practice.”
“Homosexual: a person who has erotic attractions for members of the same sex and who may or may not actually engage in homosexualism.”
The 1973 Report on Homosexuality gave pastoral advice that persons who are sexually orientated to others of the same sex may only bear minimal responsibility for their condition. Therefore, “they may not be denied acceptance solely because of their sexual orientation and should be wholeheartedly received by the church and given loving support and encouragement.” Not only is membership in the church commanded, but also “opportunities to serve within the offices and the life of the congregation.” Synod 1973 went on to say that “explicit homosexual practice, however, is incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.” A synodical report titled “Pastoral Care for Homosexual Members” is available at www.crcna.org/SynodResources.
Challenges against the 1973 Report have continued to rise over the years. The CRC has so far consistently sustained the 1973 position in spite of pressure from within and outside the denomination. The complaints against the new study committee say that it is biased, “composed of those who adhere to the CRC’s position on homosexuality.”
Why report on these issues? First, because the CRC is our mother church. We are concerned for her and the members of those churches. Second, this challenge to the Bible’s teaching regarding sexuality is affecting many denominations, with terrible apostasy and the schism and breakup of the church. Third, we live in a sex-saturated society that promotes all kinds of sexual perversion. Our churches need to be warned of false teaching and ungodly behavior all around us, and need to be prepared spiritually to do battle with the sin that lies in our own bosom, our sinful nature.
One can say several things. First, why does such a committee, tasked to give a biblical overview of sexuality, need to ask for and open itself up to feedback from a synod or LGBTQ+pride protesters or the general audience of The Banner readers? Go to the Scriptures! Is that not one of the hallmarks of the Reformed church? Sola scriptura! We do not need the opinions and desires of members of the church or the society around us. Second, why is there the need for a committee to do this new study? The answer given already by one writer in 2011 was that the synodical position was 38 years old! That means that in 2021 the position on homosexuality will be 48 years old! Oh, no! The answer of some as to why we need to have another biblical study on the issue is because of the scientific complexities surrounding sexual orientation. Others state that they have heard all sorts of biblical interpretations across the theological and ideological spectrum. They believe that the church must now evaluate those interpretations critically and confessionally. Those familiar with more recent interpretations regard the CRC’s position as automatically obsolete or superseded by the newer models. They ask, “How can we expect our 38-year-old report to respond adequately to all the biblical and theological discussions of nearly forty years? What was once taboo on commercials and television shows is now a major theme. What was once regarded as deviant and a disorder is now considered a sexual variant.” In other words, we need an up-to-date response to the culture that we live in. The state and national laws now allow for homosexual marriages. Therefore, the church also must recognize these marriages. Does culture dictate or change what the infallible Scriptures say or what God demands?
Gayla Postma in an article in the July/August issue of The Banner entitled, “Times Have Changed,” writes:
There was an undercurrent of anxiety as Synod 2021 approaches. This is the synod that will receive the final report of Committee to Articulate a Foundation- Laying Biblical Theology of Human-sexuality.…Many denominations have discussed homosexuality, and many have divided over the issue. But now it is getting closer to home. The Reformed Church in America is the CRC’s closest ecumenical relative. That denomination is exploring whether to stay together, reorganize, or divide. Its ecumenical officer told The Banner that delegates at the recent RCA synod were leaning toward that third option.
Roxanne Van Farowe in her article in the July/August issue of The Banner, “RCA Ecumenical Visit Highlights Uncertain Future,” stated, “The sister denomination of the Christian Reformed Church may be headed toward a painful split.” She also quoted Monica Schaap Pierce of the RCA, who said, “Factions of the denomination disagree on matters of sexuality, missiology, and more.” The RCA changed its rules so that, if accepted next year, a simple majority will allow for a split. Previously, a two-thirds majority would have been necessary. Will the CRC be next?
Indeed, there should be a split in the face of such apostasy! That is the spirit of Reformation—a call to repentance, and if a church or denomination continues in the way of sin and evil, “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (II Cor. 6:17)!
But I would also say, by all means, revisit the 1973 Report on Homosexuality. Not because it is “middle-aged,” as its opponents claim. Not because it is too restrictive. Revise that report because it is not biblical or confessional. It tries to distinguish between the urge to sin and the sin itself. Is it true that only the act of homosexualism is sin? Is not the inward desire to have sex, men with men and women with women, itself sin? Does not Jesus say that “whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28)? We cannot separate the thought and desire from the action. In Romans 1 we read,
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet (Rom. 1:24, 26–27).
Human depravity is not just a matter of action, but a matter of the thoughts and desires of the heart behind the activity. In the Heidelberg Catechism we are taught “that all uncleanness is accursed of God: and that therefore we must with all our hearts detest the same, and live chastely and temperately, whether in holy wedlock, or in single life” (Q&A 108). God “forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desire, and whatever can entice men thereunto” (Q&A 109).
May the church give a clear and sharp warning in the midst of the perversity of our society and sinful sexuality. God created man and woman good and in His image. God gave one woman to the man for life. May God guide His church with His unchanging infallible Word as our guide.