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Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN), and homosexuality

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Leo Koffeman, a leader of the 720,000 member Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, and two other Dutch church leaders described the changing beliefs and practices concerning gays and lesbians in their denominations. The occasion was a "Padare" (gathering) in Zimbabwe which was held during the 8th assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1998-DEC-10.

The RCN extended full participation to gays and lesbians in church life in 1986. Koffeman explained: "As they [homosexuals] have come into our church, the actual meeting [with] people changes almost everyone's mind, and it becomes harder to continue opposition to `the issue'."  Karel Blei from the Netherlands Reformed Church agreed: "Homosexuality is not so dominant an issue now as it once was. It is not a theological issue any longer, but it rises to the surface as a human rights issue or a discrimination issue, so then it must, of course, be addressed."   The Netherlands Reform Church is the largest Reform denomination in the Netherlands with 2 million members.Another RCN leader, Lodiwijk Palm said: "The courage to come out is easier in a society where there is openness.  It is easier for us than for those in other societies perhaps." Liedeke in `t Veld, a representative of the 50,000-member Armenian Church commented: "It was a big step forward for many, and meant withdrawal for others, but 12 years later all parishes are very happy, and there is no discrimination."

"The Issue" is not considered of major importance at this time. Koffeman mentioned: "Many opponents [of homosexual rights] have learned to live with the pluralism of the church." 2

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OCRT Note:

We have noted a common thread among many denominations which successfully handle "the issue." As long as a denomination is able to focus on homosexuality as an issue, there is little progress extending equal rights and privileges to all of their members. It is only when individual heterosexual members meet and interact with gays and lesbians that "the issue" fades and opinions change. It is difficult to avoid the human rights and spiritual aspects of the problem, when one is dealing with individual hurting people.

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  1. Jerry Van Marter, Ecumenical News International, "Dutch Christians Explain How churches Gave Full Acceptance to Gays," quoted in PCAUSA News list on 1998-DEC-15.
  2. The term "pluralism" is ambiguous. Here, it appears to be used to refer to the diversity of religious beliefs. Other times, it refers to the belief that all religions are true.

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Copyright 1999 & 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-JAN-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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