Beliefs about homosexuality by various Christian denominations.
Part 1: The Christian Reformed Church
||"I wish I had someone who would look into my tear-filled
eyes and simply say 'God loves you for who you are!' "
Anonymous gay youth, a member of "AWARE." 1
The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) is a conservative Christian
denomination founded in 1857. It is an evangelical "Protestant
church in the Calvinist tradition." 2 They sponsor
the Back to God Hour which is heard on many Christian radio stations. They had
about 300,000 members in 1995, mostly from the U.S. Northeast, Midwest, and Western coast
as well as Canada. Total membership had dropped to about 275,000 by 1999. Their membership in 2012 was about 252,000. For historical reasons. Many of its members are of Dutch ancestry.
The CRC did not allow women
to hold positions of power until 1995. They encourage the building of private
Christian schools. They condemn divorce except in cases of adultery. They condemn abortions except in the very rare cases when they are necessary to save the life of the woman.
A "classis" (plural "classes") is a local level of church organization that has authority over
multiple congregations in a defined geographical area.
The CRC holds annual synods
CRC discussions on homosexuality:
||1973-JUN: Their 1973 synod stated the denomination's official position on homosexuality. They called
for compassion towards gays and lesbians, saying that:
|| "the church must exercise the same patient
understanding of and compassion for the homosexual in his sins as
for all other sinners."
The synod also declared that:
"homosexualism -- as explicit homosexual practice -- must be condemned as
incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Holy Scripture."
There appears to have been little discussion about homosexuality over
the next two decades. One reason might have been the distraction caused by the denomination's
growing debate over female ordination.
||1995-OCT: Classis Grand Rapids East: A chronic state of tension
appears to have existed between the local classis and some professors in the nearby
Calvin Seminary -- the official ministerial training institution
for the CRC. During the early 1990s, some seminary professors had taken
individual actions to pressure the classis into taking conservative
views towards homosexual behavior. During 1994-OCT,
the classis debated a majority and minority report on homosexuality that
had been submitted to it. They rejected the minority report that called
homosexual behavior a distortion of God's plan for sexuality and stated
sexual activity outside of marriage is disobedience. They adopted an
ambiguous statement instead. This was seen by many in the CRC as an
action which water down the 1973 statement. In an unprecedented move, at
least in recent times,
14 Calvin Seminary professors sent a a joint letter to the classis,
criticizing its decision. They felt that classis had been reluctant to affirm
the moral stance, and the theological reasoning behind, the 1973 report. 3
1996-JUN: Synod 1996: Delegates approved the creation of a
committee to restudy the issue of homosexuality, and:
"... to give direction about and for pastoral care of homosexual members in a manner consistent with the decisions of Synod 1973 (Acts of Synod 1973, Report 42)." 4
concerned about the makeup of the committee; they wanted assurance that the committee membership would not represent the full range of beliefs within the denomination concerning homosexuality. They insisted that
all members must support the 1973 statement. That is, there
would be no LGBT or LGBT-positive voice on the committee. This guaranteed no change in the Church's position. A roll-call vote
defeated a motion to add Rev. Jim Lucas, a celibate, openly gay minister, to the
committee. A second vote rejected the the entire proposed membership of
the committee. The responsibility to appoint committee members was
assigned to to the denominational board of trustees. The committee report was finally issued in 2002.
1997-OCT: Freedom of speech: Calvin Seminary's publication,
the Calvin Seminary Forum is sent "to all church
councils... as well as to significant contributors to the seminary." 5 Referring to the 1973 CRC statement on
homosexuality, seminary president Dr. James A. DeJong wrote:
are free to disagree with it, some claim, because we are not bound by
synodical decisions. So, some disagree openly -- in personal
conversations, on the internet, in articles in church papers, perhaps
even in classrooms or from the pulpit. We should tolerate, even welcome
these voices, it is said. These dissenters have a right to their
opinions and to express them. By giving them a platform in the church
the church tests its positions, learns, and moves forward. Even church
leaders, office bearers, have claimed this right for themselves and for
He was concerned that people will be confused "when
the church deals with such dissent in a vacillating or indifferent
manner." He felt that dissenters should be able to send an overture
(resolution) to a CRC Synod giving biblical support for their position,
but should not otherwise advocate any other change publicly.
1998-APR: Study conference: Hope Christian Reformed Church in Oak Forest, IL (a suburb of Chicago) held a homosexual study conference,
called "Conference of Hope." This led to numerous
protests and a formal call to "rebuke the sponsoring church,
pastor, and organizers of the conference." At a meeting in
1999-MAR, Classis Chicago South ruled that the conference:
"... did not provide for the proclamation of the
Christian Reformed position on homosexual acts."
They rejected a request to require two ordained ministers involved in the
"explain to classis their belief and teaching on
chastity and to state clearly whether or not they believe and teach that
all homosexual erotic acts are unchaste." 6
1999-JUN: Synod 1999: Delegates accepted, with modifications,
the report of a synodical study committee which investigated pastoral
care for homosexuals within the denomination. The report called their
"... to repentance for their failures to minister to those
who experience same sex attractions."
Dr. Melvin Hugen,
chairman of the committee commented:
"We have not done what
Jesus did, sit down at table with those who are in public sin."
The delegates voted to change the text of the report at one point:
"Scripture seems to forbid such sexual intimacy with persons of
the same sex" was changed to "Scripture forbids..." No wiggle room was to be allowed.
A resolution was submitted by the First Toronto CRC. It had been
prepared by Dr. Henk Hart of the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto and former CRC minister Jim Lucas. Dr Hart lost his license to
exhort (preach as a lay person) because of his pro-gay views. Lucas lost
his ordination status because of his endorsement of committed monogamous
same-sex relationships. The First Toronto overture
"very recent history in our denomination provides
evidence that people who discuss views that deviate from [the CRC's]
1973 [declaration on homosexuality] can expect
censorship in one form or another."
Hart and Lucas had circulated a petition calling for a
"safe place" to discuss homosexuality within the CRC. It was signed by
over 300 CRC members, including almost three dozen ministers. The
"asked the churches to consider whether
same-sex partners should [be permitted to] take communion, as well as to
consider how to respond to members whose views differ from [the CRC's]
1973 [declaration on homosexuality]." 7
"no discussion, debate, or public announcement," the
Toronto resolution was ruled out of order. "CRC General
Secretary Dr. David Engelhard simply announced that the synodical
officers were recommending that no new materials would be added to the
synodical agenda without specifying what those materials might be." 8
- "A gay youth's story," As We Are, at: http://www.asweare.org/ This group and web site are no longer online
- The Christian Reformed Church's official home page is at: http://www.crcna.org/
- "Calvin Seminary Professors Urge Classis Grand Rapids East
to Affirm CRC Synod's Ruling that Homosexual Practice is Sin,"
Renewal/United Reformed News Service at: http://www.iclnet.org/\
- "Pastoral Care for Homosexual Members (1999)," CRC web site, 2002, at: http://www.crcna.org/
- "Seminary President to CRC: All Christian Reformed Members 'Obliged
to Support' Synodical Stance on Homosexuality," Christian
Renewal/United Reformed News Service at: http://www.iclnet.org/
- "Classis Chicago South Criticizes Hope CRC's Homosexuality
Conference," Christian Renewal/United Reformed News Service
- "CRC Calls Congregations to Repent of Lack of Ministry to
Homosexual Members," and "Christian Reformed Church
Calls Congregations to Repent of Lack of Ministry to Homosexual
Members; 'Nervous' synod delegates express fear of news media response,"
Christian Renewal/United Reformed News Service at: http://www.iclnet.org/
- "CRC Synod Rules First Toronto Homosexuality Overture Out of
Order," Christian Renewal/United Reformed News Service at: http://www.iclnet.org/
Copyright © 1998 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2013-JUL-23
Author: B.A. Robinson