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Now It’s Our Turn

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I guess it’s our turn now.

After watching the Presbyterians and Lutherans devour themselves over welcoming LGBTQ people, you might think we in the Reformed Church in America would try to chart a different course, to find a different future. You’d be wrong.

If you are part of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) you probably know more about this than I can explain here. If you’re not up to speed on RCA intrigue, I’ll keep this synopsis short.

Last summer, the RCA’s General Synod (its annual, widest assembly) passed two amendments to the RCA’s constitution. Both are attempts to forbid same-gender weddings in RCA congregations and performed by RCA ministers. A colleague described the amendments as “churlish.” I agree. Right now they are before the local assemblies (we call it a classis) across North America. If two-thirds of these local assemblies vote in favor of the amendments, they will return to this year’s General Synod for final approval.

If these anti-gay amendments are viewed as referendums on LGBTQ people in the church, they will likely pass easily. In the Reformed Church in America of 2017, “traditional” views on human sexuality still hold a pretty significant majority.

But, if we see these amendments as about how we do church together, I like to hope neither amendment would pass.

The first and biggest casualty in this debate has been community. Trust, openness, and collegiality are tattered in the Reformed Church right now. Fear and suspicion, even intimidation, are rampant. Nuance has disappeared. As far as I can tell, no one seems to care. Or at least no one is trying to remedy this.

Last fall, I undertook an ill-fated effort to assemble what I called “courageous conservatives”—RCA ministers with traditional views on sexuality, but who would oppose the amendments because of their many flaws. I had hoped to find people who would stand up for being conciliatory, stand up for being in-between, stand up for finding better ways forward.

I didn’t find many. It’s possible that my efforts failed because people simply didn’t agree with my premise, or that I don’t have a lot of credibility with the people I was trying to talk with. But in my conversations with RCA ministers I heard over and over, “I just can’t sign on. My congregation, my classis, my colleagues just wouldn’t understand.” Or “I’m largely sympathetic, but that would get me in all sorts of trouble.”

As a pastor, I tend to give other pastors the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to push too hard. I don’t know their context. Some were very new to their congregations. Other felt surrounded by unsupportive, maybe even hostile, colleagues.

It is never simple for a pastor to be prophetic. It takes trust. It will cost some chips. No pastor, at least no wise pastor, tells her congregation everything she thinks. A wise pastor wants to offer thorough explanations and important caveats, but he knows that many people will only hear “yes” or “no.” Sometimes taking a righteous stand feels noble, but instead only alienates and divides. I can’t criticize or shame colleagues in circumstances I don’t know.

But I also wonder when will more RCA pastors be willing to risk, to stick their neck out, to say what they really believe? Not soon enough, I suspect.

I’ve been disappointed—shocked, actually—that so few people seem willing to fight “for the church”—how we treat one another, how we do business together, the lines of demarcation, respect for local, contextual authority, what it means to be Reformed, and all sorts of other elusive but important traits of our life together.

Instead, it seems there are all sorts of people who want to fight about gays, lesbians, people bisexual, transgender, queer and otherwise. And many people, possibly even most people, who are just trying to keep their heads down and their mouths shut.

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell and his wife, Sophie, are the pastors at the Second Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa. Steve has served on numerous Reformed Church commissions and task forces, and also edited the Reformed Journal's previous iteration, Perspectives for many years. Before coming to Iowa, he lived and served as a pastor in upstate New York. He holds a Ph.D. from Boston College in theological ethics.

36 Comments

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Thanks for this. And it’s a grief.

  • Well said. You have discussed a very sad truth.

  • randy buist says:

    Thanks for these words. It seems we’ve settled for quietly getting along for a while now… it’s apparent in our politics how some of us understand the second commandment so differently than others…

    Personally, I’m searching for how we in the reformed tradition have so quickly turned our backs on our neighbors… a good reformed theology should be good news for humanity, but we’ve seemingly preferred bigger barns and larger homes time and time again…

    grace & peace

  • Gloria McCanna says:

    Very well written, and most timely. Thank you.

  • R Herrema says:

    Troubled by your label – anti-gay. Could they be pro-traditional marriage? Is one who supports traditional marriage and also loves an LGBTQ community member automatically anti-gay? Is the member or pastor who supports traditional marriage is fearful, while those who speak up in support of change prophetic and righteous?

    • Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell says:

      Thanks for entering the conversation and I hear your concerns. On the noble/prophetic/fearful labels, I didn’t intend to suggest that anyone has a monopoly on those. People of all stripes can be any of those things. On the “anti-gay” label is it churlish of me to suggest you should ask LGBTQ people what they think? I think the “hate the sin/love the sinner” argument has been pretty much discredited. Still, I appreciate your attention to language and words, and asking me to play fair. Thank you.

  • Abby Norton-Levering says:

    “The first and biggest casualty in this debate has been community. Trust, openness, and collegiality are tattered in the Reformed Church right now. Fear and suspicion, even intimidation, are rampant. Nuance has disappeared. As far as I can tell, no one seems to care. Or at least no one is trying to remedy this.”

    In the Regional Synod of Albany, we care, and we are trying to remedy this. But it is hard work. We don’t know what will do the trick. Nevertheless, we are trying many things to promote dialogue and what we call “robust conversations.” We are trying to stay connected even though we have some pretty fundamental differences amongst us around human sexuality.

    • Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell says:

      Thanks, Abby. That’s heartening news. Not surprised it is happening in Albany Synod. You people are always ahead of the curve! Sometimes it feels like the silence from other places has been deafening, but then I tell myself I don’t know their circumstances and pressures. May your good work flourish.

  • Curt Day says:

    I am confused as to whether the objections of the writer of this article are about the flaws in the amendments or in the general message of the amendments to prohibit same-gender weddings in the churches of the RCA denomination.

    On the other hand, the refusal to distinguish between the validity of same-sex marriage (SSM) in society from those in the Church has caused many a problem. Most of the religiously conservative Christian leaders I am familiar with saw no need to distinguish between SSM in society and that in the Church. This caused many who saw the marginalization of the LGBT community to view SSM as allowed by the Scriptures. Here, two wrongs did not make a right.

    Had these leaders recognized that SSM is valid in society but not in the Church, then marginalizing the LGBT community would not be associated with teaching what the Scriptures teach about sexuality. But, tragically, that did not occur.

    We need to be both faithful to the Scriptures while working to ensure freedom and equality in society.

    • Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell says:

      Thanks, Curt. I do have objections to the many flaws in the proposed amendments. Both are poorly conceived and executed, but that seems like lesser, “in-house” details. My bigger concern is that most “traditionalists” feel compelled to vote for them as an expression of their views on human sexuality. I want to encourage them to vote against them simply because of the vision and kind of church the amendments flow from and will help make the RCA. Not to open a big can of worms here, but please recall that those of us who are open and affirming believe we too are faithful to scripture. We don’t get where we are by ignoring or rejecting the Bible, but we are motivated and directed by the scriptures.

      • Curt Day says:

        Steve,
        Many people both past and present have believed that they are being faithful to the Scriptures. In NT times, those beliefs were often tested by standards written in the NT. These standards apply to all of us.

        As I wrote before, religious conservative Christians have caused confusion because they have associated acts of marginalizing those from the LGBT community with Biblical standards of sexuality. This is tragic for a number of reasons.

  • There is a way forward – as morally coherent leaders in separate denominations. It’s time to define (theologically and ethically) and re-align (denominationally). We can have fellowship on terms we can both agree with, while maintaining our moral integrity, as members of separate denominations. Then we can follow our moral convictions unhindered by unending in-house conflict.

    • Meine Veldman says:

      Thanks Randy. That is probably the best solution. On the other hand, as is clear from this article, it is a minority which is seeking to divide the majority and/or cause divisions. Has the author looked in his own mirror? It is the pro-gay, pro-LGTB lobby in the RCA which is causing upheaval and division in the community of our church. From that perspective this article is completely self-contradictory.

      • Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell says:

        One comment about Room for All and its “minions”: it is such a small, underfunded, and virtually powerless group. At General Synod, its reps are treated like beggars or lepers. I simply can’t see how open and affirming folk are nearly as cunning, powerful, or organized as many comments here seem to suggest. It isn’t RfA or its friends who are bringing items to General Synod or proposing divisive amendments. All of these complaints about RfA pushing and strategizing feel like some giant creature, an elephant or lion perhaps, complaining that the little mouse is just so dangerous and powerful.

        • Meine Veldman says:

          I do not think I mentioned RfA. I did refer to, however, the irony that people like yourselves are stirring the pot with ideas and proposals that run counter the stated position and majority practised faith and life-style within the RCA. I call this, ‘lobbying.’ Your article calls for some sort of unity, ‘The first and biggest casualty in this debate has been community.’ I would say, true, but not caused by those who hold to the stated and biblical view on marriage, etc, but by such people like yourselves, ironically. In other words, it would be better if you would leave the RCA so that community, trust and unity would be attainable again on biblical and truly reforming grounds guided by the Word of the Spirit and the Spirit of the Word.

          • Just think how many conflicts in the church could have been avoided if this sage advice had been followed! In particular, minority dissenters like Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr., would never have troubled the church.

  • Jim says:

    As a former RCA Elder, it is sad to see the denomination still stuck in this very conservative position. I had hoped that it would have moved forward into a state of acceptance and grace by now.

  • My message goes here: says:

    Wow, it reads like you have all the answers. Hasn’t the Church spoken? Time and time again the Church has approved the same standards. Yet, you keep pushing. They are leaving–they aren’t talking to you because they’re DONE, moving on.

    I too have moved on from the RCA because of people like you always wanting to change everything to fit society’s whims. It’s so tiring! I found this article via a Facebook post on RCA’s page.

    “Not surprised it is happening in Albany Synod. You people are always ahead of the curve!” Apparently so–nearly ever single congregation in that Synod has dropped 1/3 to 1/2+ membership in 15 years. Leading the charge. Not to sound rude–just pointing out facts and reality, and maybe something for you to consider.

    I’m sure I sound like a crazy person, and I don’t consider myself jaded–but wanted to give you a thought from my mind. You did this to yourselves. I’m not a Minister, so you’ll have to look at this as a message from a congregant rather than a peer.

    • Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell says:

      Just FYI: Albany Synod is a perfect example that numbers don’t tell the whole story. Those congregations have been facing economic and demographic changes that are coming, or probably have arrived, for the rest of the RCA. They are “ahead of the curve” in that they truly face many of the challenges that are coming to the rest us, but just about 30-50 years earlier.

      • My message goes here: says:

        Thank you for the reply–I hoped my comment wouldn’t appear too “fresh”, but didn’t intend it to be roses either. I have to wholeheartedly disagree with you though. Many of those congregations now list 25 members–that is beyond economic changes! Most in the Midwest have held steady the past 15 years (this could be said for their steady/growing economies also). East Coast congregations appear to be dying (maybe I should use the word “dwindling”?), while Midwest is holding–so who are we to study and learn from??? Keep listening to the side that is dying? Does that make any sense? Thankfully, I’m no longer a part of this group, or I’d feel sorrow for what is going on. You said the small group has no power–well, their subversive tactics really disgust many members–they just may get their wish and all that comes with it.

  • Brad Kautz says:

    I’m not sure of where to chime in here. Thanks for sharing your point-of-view Steve. I was neither at General Synod nor able to follow the debate that took place there while it was happening. I know that you and I have different perspectives on this issue. At my classis meeting we spent more time determining who was eligible to vote than we did discussing the amendments. One person, the same person, spoke briefly in favor of each. No one spoke in opposition, which was a bit disappointing to me because I would have like to have heard someone express that perspective in their own words. They each passed 18-3. Anyhow, drawing from your thoughts, I have these two particular points to mention.

    First, “fighting “for the church.”‘ From my point-of-view, these amendments do fight for the church, in a way each of our Formula of Agreement partners have not. The amendments might not be the ideal way for us to take this position on marriage, but I believe it is the right position nonetheless.

    Second, “what it means to be Reformed.” My move to the RCA came late in life, at roughly age 50 and in the second of my five years at seminary. 5+ years removed from seminary and 3+ years into what I hope will be my only pastorate, I would say that the RCA seminary I attended could do have done a better job at teaching Reformed doctrine than when I attended. I think it was both too little and too late in the curriculum. Reformed theology is rich and one general theology class plus six credits of systematic theology aren’t enough. You taught my class on standards, which was fine for 1.5 credits, but looking back I would have a firmer idea of where we stand confessionally with an entire class on each of the three standards of unity.

    • Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell says:

      Hi Brad, I have only respect for you.Wish we could have a good face-to-face conversation to discuss “what does it mean to be Reformed” and “how we do church together.” But all-too-briefly, one thing it doesn’t mean is putting two ill-conceived amendments into the BCO, and in the case of the second, a poorly written and unclear amendment. These things are knee jerk reactions, but certainly not in keeping with the way we do church.

  • Brian Engel says:

    I believe I’d fit the definition of someone you would like to reach out to. I have been to GS roughly 5 times in 12 years and consider myself to be fairly conservative. As followers of Christ with the Word as our only rule for life and faith – I believe scripture is clear in that we are called to celibacy or heterosexual marriage. Of course, no one should be hated and be made to feel unwelcome.

    I do have LGBT folks in the congregation I serve… I do have children and grand-children or members who are in SSR (Same Sex Relationships). They are always welcome. Yet, we are all on a journey and ultimately are called to strive for holiness. On Sunday evenings we have a meeting of Sexaholics Anonymous. They are welcome and are striving to be “sexually sober.” I occasionally stop by the meetings and thank the group for reaching out to me/us as a host, and encourage them in their efforts.

    Those who want to be open and affirming SEEM to want to push that all aside and say our striving doesn’t matter. Or at least striving in this one particular area doesn’t matter. What do I say to the serial adulterer? Or folks who feel an “open marriage” is acceptable? Or consumers of pornography?

    I for one am simply tired of the fighting and the relentless pressing of the RFA agenda. I think the 2016 proposed BCO changes are a result of years of frustration by the majority with the minority. I could be mistaken, but I have a sense the classes in the Synod of Albany will be voting 3 & 3. I can get along and respect my colleagues with different views, but there comes a time when we have to move on.

    Each classis or church could amend its by-laws to either accept or reject SSM, but is that really the answer? I would be hard pressed to believe that our clergy or our churches can live in that tension in a healthy way. Like Paul and Barnabas, if we can’t be civil and respectful – then just perhaps, it would be better to have an amicable separation. I can be at peace with a split.

    Years ago a young man who had recently left high school came to worship… He had many hard issues with his life and family. He came back a second week. Unfortunately, he was intoxicated. Sadly, a church member escorted the young man out of the sanctuary and told him to come back when he was sober and could respect God’s house. [I was and still am infuriated at what happened.] Rather than escorting the troubled man out the door, I wish someone had chosen to sit with him, invite him to coffee hour, and listened to his story… In passing I sometimes see the man (now in his mid 20’s) walking down the street with a case of beer on his shoulder. We missed an opportunity to show compassion and perhaps open the door for Christ. [Awhile back I made up my mind that when I see him again, I’m going to apologize and extend a Sunday invitation.]

    Those on the far left would seem to want to change coffee hour to happy hour and deny any scriptural reference against being a drunkard. And those on the extreme right would prefer a sobriety check at the front door forgetting the wedding at Cana and how much time Jesus spent with “sinners.” Neither is being necessarily faithful. And neither seems willing to do the hard, hard work that is needed to show the Way.

  • Ben Lin says:

    Steve MVW. If there is a way forward, what are your immovables? Can you identify the immovables on the other side? What do you see as a third way forward that allows each to continue to do ministry with integrity?

    • Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell says:

      Ben, thanks for a good question. First, I’d want more than me to weigh in on this. And over the past few years, the RCA has had some good and very diverse groups try to do that. One thing these groups always report is that there are genuine and faithful Christians on both sides of the debate, and that they like and respect each other more than they expected. General Synod never seems to want to accept these irenic and conciliatory messages, even though they’ve received them year after year.
      But my own idea is that the local board of elders understands its missional context most appropriately. We’ve said this since debates over Dutch control or colonial/New Amsterdam control, American control or indigenous control with foreign missions, or the debate about Masonic membership and deciding, unlike our CRC friends, on no General Synod policy about that. Currently, different boards of Elders have different guidelines about required pre-marital counseling, membership in the church, living together, etc. Let there be local control where each board of Elders has its own marriage policies. Those congregations and ministers who don’t want to perform same gender weddings shouldn’t.

  • James Hart Brumm says:

    We move forward by honoring the central principles of our Constitution–the central principles of the tangible expression of our covenant with God and one another as the RCA: government and discipline should be kept as local as possible. We trust the Holy Spirit, and we believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through assemblies, and so we trust our consistories and classes to do their jobs, rather than bastardizing our Constitution by finding a way to use the Liturgy as a club with which to beat people.We keep coming back to each other, again and again and again, talking and sharing and living together, until we can reach consensus. And we trust God, whom we claim to believe is omnipotent, to take care of the rest while we lovingly try to figure things out.

    For those who say God will not be so patient with us: God was exactly this patient with us about slavery. For those who say they cannot accept same-sex weddings: don’t officiate them and don’t go to a church where you would be expected to do so. And for those who say that taking such a path might keep churches from growing numerically, maybe we should follow the example of Jesus, who, by being true to God’s Word, worked his congregation from some 5,000 at one meeting to a pastor all by himself on a cross . . . and yet it all worked out, didn’t it?

    • Meine Veldman says:

      The Spirit and the Word are one, so beautifully clear in this verse . . .1 Cor 6: 9 ”Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,(The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts) 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” ESV.

      • Eric Moreno says:

        Meine, I agree, but I am also experienced enough to know that while 1Cor 6:9-11 is rightly understood to mean what it plainly says, the progressive will say it’s not saying what it plainly says. And Genesis 2:18-25 is not normative or formative. The problem is the hermeneutics are different and so we are speaking different languages past each other. If homosexual practice is not something to repent of but instead it should be celebrated because we are fully living out our design by advocating a man doing with a man what should only be done with a woman, then I’m not sure there is even a starting point. We will continue to press forward with humility, charity and grace but without compromising the Gospel that brings life.

    • Ben Lin says:

      James, a consensus, as I understand it, means that when two or more parties have different positions, at least one of them move from their positions and come to a point where they will all agree. I asked what the immovables were for each of these positions from which we would begin building consensus. What is the starting point? What are immovables where if one moves from that position, the whole conversation would have been for naught? Can you identify those positions?

  • Eric Moreno says:

    The author misses the point; the “anti-gay” “side” is not creating disunity, there hasn’t been unity for quite some time. What we have been experiencing is an awkward and increasingly frustrating standoff. It seems that the traditional, liturgical and historical position is being slowly forced out (cf: if you don’t support SSM or Actively Homosexual Pastors/Elders then don’t go to churches that do) or the progressive side will continue to violate our constitution and liturgy as well as our historical positions and statements until you give up or die away and the church looks exactly like the culture. And God is indeed sovereign and this might be His way of “working things out”. I pray it is. And should this be decided this year, next up will be the gender identity battle. And who has the stomach to fight that for another 20 years? This blog is a sad commentary on the state of the RCA union.

  • Eric Moreno says:

    JHB, I do appreciate your respect for the constitution and liturgy. I really do. You made that clear on the floor or GS many times. Respectfully, progressives have managed to bastardize our governence by advocating that an open and affirming position which is in direct opposition and in practice is in direct violation or the RCA’s historical, liturgical, and traditional position as well as its many statements of past GS be forced down to the lowest levels of adjudication because you know they will find safe haven there. You know that there is almost zero possibility that a church or classis or RS will bring charges. Meanwhile work continues by the “cutting edge” folks to propose nuanced changes that would further entrench this system to protect it from the provisions found in the BCO that allow for discipline to occur through various other means. These clever and strategic maneuvers, if successful, will create a defacto split in the church and all hope of Biblical unity will disappear. That I feel is the true source of disunity. We need to be able to agree that some things are worth separating for to maintain the purity and the peace when the unity has been broken. It’s in our ordination vows.

  • Mike Van Kampen says:

    As we continue to contend over the issues of human sexuality and other contentious matters, the primary question in my mind is “What do churches have to hold in common to make for a healthy denomination?” Pastoring a church in a multi-racial urban/suburban area with much theological and ecclesiological diversity, I’ve come to realize that my church and I have more in common with a few other denominations than with this ‘progressive’ movement in the RCA. I don’t believe that the primary issue dividing us is our theology of human sexuality or same-gender marriage. Rather, we are divided by our lack of a unified biblical hermeneutic, and in the absence of that hermeneutic we will continue to experience division over numerous issues in the future. I too believe that perhaps the time has come for us to part as Brothers and Sisters in Christ so that we can all focus on fulfilling our mission as the Church of Jesus Christ in a lost and broken world.

  • UnitedPastor says:

    A comment that intends to reply to several of the comments above: There has arisen a kind of “who started it” tone in several of the comments. And, a “well, what are your immovables?” Allow this perspective. It is, “a” perspective, with which anyone is, of course, free to agree or disagree. I do not consider it binding on anyone. So – OK with that? In terms of the immovables- this is an immoveable for me: living and working within a denomination that has, from the very beginning, considered that the Spirit works through assemblies that gather to discern how the Word is speaking to them, and through them, to the church. I believe this is, and has been enshrined (albeit in differing ways) in our constitution from the very beginning of the RCA. That, for me, is an immoveable aspect of our ethos. The way we ARE together. The way we “do church” together. Change that, and you change the whole ball game. Now. Let’s walk back, lo, all those years, to the time when Jon Gerstner began agitating the RCA to proclaim status confessionis regarding “homosexuality” (I’m using the term very broadly). Early 80’s, I think. And the church – listening to the Spirit, discerning what the Word was saying, decided to say, “no, this is not status confessionis.” Over time, many forces in “society” (as though one could draw a bright line between the two, but that is a separate theological argument) pushed harder and harder for full inclusion of LGBTQ people. The General Synod made statement after statement, discerning that the Spirit was saying *to those synods* that local assemblies ought to consider homosexual behavior, at the very least, to be sinful. Or a perversion. Or – well, you read the statements for yourself. But the GS has never considered “homosexuality” to be a matter of status confessionis. Not once. Society kept pushing. Thus, the ‘purist’ side (to use L Japinga’s terminology) kept pushing. And pushing. Any time any matter came to General Synod that *might* bear even the whiff of homosexual whatever, their feelers were up, agitating, pushing, reacting to society’s trends. Where has the pushing come from? Where has the great impetus come for the division of the church? On the one side you have the mouse of a very few persons and congregations. On the other side, the elephant of a significant majority – but now the terms have changed. The elephant has looked over its shoulder at other denominations to accomplish its desire to have an ‘authoritative interpretation’ of Scripture from on high, and handed down to Consistories, demanding compliance. THAT is foreign to the immoveable of how the RCA works. Like it or not, there is no independent body, no matter how broad (i.e., the GS), that usurps the authority of Christ to speak to the church. And the church has said, over and over again, that it does not desire to split over this issue. Now, ironically, we hear the hew and cry of those who say, “we are not leaving the church; the church has left us.” Let us be clear, and not self-serving, about our read of what has, and is happening, in the RCA. I recognize that this reading is one read of history, and aspects may be debatable. However, it may offer to some an alternative perspective and give you some idea of where “those liberals” are coming from. We (at least many of us) believe that we’re coming from a place where the RCA has stood for nearly 400 years now; it’s those who want us to look and act like the PCA who are advocating the most significant changes in our life together.

  • Elizabeth Estes says:

    Ben Lin asks for unmovables, and no matter what happens at GS2017, I hope we in the RCA can respond. In a real dialog, people with conflicting points of view would be invited to list their unmovables. Years of these discussions testify to the existence of an evangelical profession of faith about certain unassailable biblical truths that cannot be found in any creed or confession. Brian Engel is correct: these truths, this doctrine, is not taught in RCA Standards. I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps people fear there is no valid theology of heterosexism. What if no one can prove that God has a preferential option for male-female couples? The 1978 COT paper truthfully and humbly concedes that, unlike divorce, “It should be acknowledged that neither the Old Testament prophets nor Jesus himself ever mentioned the subject [of homosexuality].” In the end, this paper finds that no biblical condemnation of same-sex acts is normative for people today. Not one. Instead, its authors are swayed by what they call a “sense of scripture” that celebrates male-female sex. The authors speak lustily about male-female sex. I love this! But I am an inveterate, dyed-in-the-wool, heterosexual. The big problem with the paper is logic: because the Bible celebrates male-female sex, we cannot deduce that God hates same-sex sex: “The Reformed tradition has never been content to make theological judgments based on isolated biblical texts. Rather, it seeks to determine God’s will for human life in the light of Scripture as the unified witness to God’s saving acts culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christian ethical reflection is informed by those key doctrines which present the “sense” of Scripture as a coherent whole. A biblical perspective on homosexuality involves the broader understanding of human sexuality as a vital component of the self. Full treatment of the broader subject is far beyond our scope. However, it can be said 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. Further, when God’s will for human sexuality becomes the focus, we approach the subject in a way that implicates all of us.” This paper leaves open the question: who decides the components of self? Perhaps God has not given us a blueprint but relies on our Christian discernment. Let’s stop arguing and discern.

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