GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Christian Reformed Church of America voted on Tuesday to recommend a report on human sexuality to churches.
The CRC’s 2022 Synod meeting has been happening throughout the week at the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids.
After an afternoon of discussion, delegates voted to recommend the Human Sexuality Report “as providing a useful summary of biblical teaching regarding human sexuality.” Two voted to abstain, 45 voted no and 131 voted yes.
In doing so, delegates agreed to the first recommendation from an advisory committee’s majority report. Synod has yet to vote on its other recommendations.
The majority report also recommends making the denomination’s stance on LGBTQ relationships a confessional issue, a core belief for members of the church, and adding to question 108 in the Heidelberg Catechism, saying that “adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography and homosexual sex” all violate the seventh commandment.
Church leaders read some of the Human Sexuality Report during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.
“Synod warmly encourage the institutions and agencies of the Christian Reformed Church to develop resources to support effective, life-affirming pastoral care in the areas of sexuality marriage and gender,” a committee member read.
As the discussions were happening inside during the closed meeting, dozens gathered outside on Calvin’s campus to rally in support of the LGBTQ community. They are concerned about the language used within the report and say the issue could cause people to leave the church.
“The report has been somewhat upsetting to many of us who are in the LGBTQ community and who are their family members and allies, because it is so negative and we think there are many, many flaws in the report,” CRC member Tom Hoeksema told News 8.
Many in the group are concerned about what the changes will mean for leaders within the church who are part of the LGBTQ community.
One woman at the the rally, Bethany Joy Winn, was raised in the CRC. She is now ordained in another denomination.
“I eventually ended up leaving the denomination due to my experiences of and perception of just some of the disconnect between the messages of intended inclusion and of love and the practice that I saw in the denomination,” Winn told News 8.
The CRC’s stance was first established in 1973. Some congregations have been led “to different places” based on how they understand the stance, the CRC said in a statement to News 8.
“A study committee was tasked with articulating a foundation-laying biblical theology of human sexuality. That report was approved today as providing a useful summary of biblical teaching regarding human sexuality. And yet, delegates wavered and debated on how to move forward on making a stance on homosexuality something that is confessional or binding to all those who hold ordained offices in the denomination,” it said.
It said that the human sexuality topics Synod discussed “are matters that we’ve neglected to talk about often enough and are also prominent enough in our society that the church needs to address them.”
“The Christian Reformed Church in North America is committed to the task that God has given us as the church: to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom that transforms lives and communities worldwide,” the statement says. “In today’s culture and society, in order to fulfill this calling and live our gospel witness, it is necessary for the church to respond to questions related to the LGBTQ+ community.”
A vote on whether or not the CRC’s stance is confessional may take place on Wednesday.
“What is shared by everyone is a desire to love and care for people in the LGBTQ community. We want them to know that God loves them and the church loves them. We want to care for them and walk alongside them,” the CRC said. “What is also shared by everyone is a commitment to scripture and our shared confessions. We want to do God’s will and live godly lives.
“Where delegates differ is how they find the balance between these two things. Delegates will continue their discussion tomorrow.”
— News 8’s Kyle Mitchell contributed to this report.