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REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA

AND HOMOSEXUALITY

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The Reformed Church in America dates from 1628 when members of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands arrived in the US as the first Dutch settlers. They are a mainline denomination. They reported 559,000 members and active communicants in 1986. Their highest authority is the General Synod which meets every June. The denomination has studied sexual orientation for over 2 decades:
bullet 1978: The Theological Commission to General Synod studied the status of homosexuality as mentioned in the Bible. They issued their report titled "Homosexuality: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal". They concluded that "the Scripture's repeated endorsement of heterosexuality as the Creator's express intent is far more significant for our understanding than the few negative pronouncements concerning homosexuality...Heterosexuality is not only normal; it is normative. Homosexual acts are contrary to the will of God for human sexuality. God's gracious intent for human sexual fulfillment is the permanent bond of heterosexual love. This redemptive word must be spoken, with sensitivity, caring, and clarity to any person who would make a perverted sexual choice, and to society as a whole." On a positive note, they concluded that "The denial of human and civil rights to homosexuals is inconsistent with the biblical witness and Reformed theology."
bullet 1978: One year later, they studied how the denomination should care for and support gays and lesbians. They concluded: "The church should acknowledge its sins against the homosexual....[It] should make a genuine effort to understand the homosexual...The pastor can help both homosexual and Christian community to see that this problem is not unique, but is of the same order as other problems with a strong compulsive element."
bullet 1990: The General Synod passed a resolution stating that "the practicing homosexual lifestyle is contrary to Scripture." They urged "love and sensitivity towards such persons as fellow human beings."
bullet 1994: The General Synod asked their Commission on Theology to prepare a "study guide for use in RCA congregations, which will assist Christians in reading and understanding the 1978 and 1979 statements of General Synod on the church and homosexuality." It was to provide a "process of reflection for RCA congregations who are seeking to increase their sensitivity and awareness of the ways in which persons of homosexual orientation have wrongly suffered in our churches and in our society"
bullet 1995: The Theology Commission outlined the "guiding parameters" for the study guide requested in 1994. Their assumptions are:
bullet Homosexual behavior is not God's intended expression of sexuality.
bullet Homosexuality is no more nor less serious than other forms of human sinfulness.
bullet There are varied and complex causes of homosexual orientation and behavior; hence, simplistic analyses and solutions should be questioned.
bullet Any expectation for persons of homosexual orientation to experience wholeness should be shaped by both the hope and the realism of the Christian life.
bullet Homosexual persons should be accorded their full measure of human and civil rights.
bullet 1998-JUN: Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, RCA general secretary, stated, in reference to equal rights for gays and lesbians:  "No issue today has as much potential to spawn divisiveness, mistrust, gossip, suspicion and conflict in the church as this one. No issue has more capacity to confuse our focus, drain our energy, injure our fellowship and divert our mission than this one. No current issue can so easily demoralize our meetings, paralyze our process, fuel our anxiety and cripple our confidence as this one." He proposed a moratorium of debate on the issue at the RCA's General Synods through to the year 2000.

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References:

  1. John Burdick, "RCA wants end to debate on gays: General secretary says issue is divisive and should not be discussed until 2000," at: http://www.thehollandsentinel.net/stories/

Copyright 1999 to 2001 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2001-MAY-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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