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I think it was last Monday when I realized I’d be posting a blog on the last day of the CRC’s Synod. Which meant, by the time I posted it, that the discussions re: The Human Sexuality Report would likely be concluded, and we’d know which way the winds had blown.
For a hot second I thought about just ignoring it and writing something random, something lighthearted and whimsical, to take our minds off it.
But then the discussions re: The Human Sexuality Report happened, and confessional status was given, and I’m not feeling particularly whimsical.
I’m mostly just feeling sad today.
I don’t have anything clever or witty to say. I can’t wrap any of this up into a neat little package or find some resolution to it. I hope I get to a place of hopefulness, of continued conversation with my church community, of seeing some way forward.
But today, I’m mostly just feeling sad.
I’m sad for my LGBTQ+ friends who texted me yesterday, “So where do I go now?”
I’m sad because our church and a neighbouring church hosted a four-week speaker series on human sexuality and the HSR, and we heard over and over again how grateful people were for space to have these conversations and wrestle with these things, and now that space has been shrunk.
I’m sad for my fellow pastors who sat in silence as we read the news out loud after our breakfast meeting, all of us wondering what this means going forward.
I’m sad for the parishioner who stood in my office in tears because she loves people so deeply and was so heartbroken by this decision.
I’m sad because there was a lot of pious posturing on the floor of this synod, prayers of grief that really just felt like absolving pats on the back before dropping the hammer, and that – more than anything – made me unable to keep watching the discussion.
I’m sad because pastors who are just trying to honor and celebrate the gifts God has given to members of their congregations are now being told to deny those gifts.
I’m sad because it feels like this denomination is moving further and further away from the denomination I grew up in and love, a denomination that asked big, hard questions, and didn’t shy away from tension and paradox, and recognized that the world is big, and complex, and mysterious.
I’m sad because so many are questioning whether they have a home in this denomination anymore, and the CRC is going to lose some beautiful, thoughtful, nuanced, imaginative people.
I’m sad because we chose clarity over people.
I’m sad because we chose what was easy over what was right.
I don’t know what comes next. I trust that the Spirit continues to lead his church, and I know I will continue to have conversations with people, and hold space for people, and do my best to hold space for tension and paradox and mystery, and will keep telling people that in their baptisms, God made a home for them in himself.
All that will come.
But I’m mostly just sad today.
Thank you Laura.
I am more than sad. I’m angry at the hypocritical piety that absorbed the atmosphere of the synod floor. “We love our LGBTQ community “ is so false a statement. When in the past our church had to vote for elder and deacon an prayed that God would choose the right person,we accepted His choice. Evidently synod has decided that God made the wrong choice at Neland. Shame!
Love does not mean acceptance of a sinful lifestyle. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with alcoholism, drug abuse and other sins. What we as Christian’s condemn is the identification of these sins to oneself.
We should be calling all our brothers and sisters in Christ to repent of their sins! That is the love of Christ that God calls His church to profess.
Much love to you and all here who are wrestling with this.
I agree with you. It was so much better in 1973, when homosexuals were all considered to be mentally ill like alcoholics and drug addicts, and we were placed in custody of their care. It’s a shame today that we can’t convince them just how sick, and twisted these ‘sexual inverts’ are. Truly, as synod 73 stresses, we must tell them that they are ‘obliged’ to seek all manner of therapy to reorient them to the health of being a heterosexual, which of course was God’s intent.
Don, I would guess this is sarcasm but maybe not. It’s hard to tell. Do you actually believe this? Or are you doing the most to make a point?
I do not consider it sinful for a same sex couple married or in a committed relationship to enjoy the full blessings of marriage including sex. There lies the pain of Synod’s decision.
Sometimes, when I think I judge what is right for others based on my own beliefs, I hear God’s voice saying over and over, “ what makes you so presumptuous?” …and then, “ when did I give you the right to judge others and decide for them what you think is right?” I am hearing those words again after reading your comment. Perhaps you will hear them, too. “ What makes you so presumptuous.”
Being gay is not like being an alcoholic or a drug addic. It’s like being left handed. Insisting that gay people may only express their sexuality heterosexually is like insisting that left handers write with their right hand. Remember, God created the rainbow.
God created the rainbow so people will remember his promise that he will never again destroy humankind. The rainbow God created had NOTHING to do with LGBTQ+
Thankyou Laura. Beautifully stating all that is true about a very sad day and future of the crc indeed. God help us all. Show us the way Lord and forgive my anger with the seemingly pious, self-righteous, and silent ones. Sad indeed. Peace be with us. Somehow, someway.
Sad and angry! Thank you for you vulnerability!
Thank you. I can imagine. Six years ago, at the RCA General Synod at Trinity College in Illinois, some of us spent the last morning session sobbing at our tables. I couldn’t even get myself to go to the closing worship service. You will find a way to keep that space open.
As your sisters and brothers in the RCA met this past week also, we were mindful of our dear siblings in the CRC and the decisions you were making at your Synod. Thank you for allowing us to sit in your sadness as you shared your heart with us, Laura. May the Lord comfort you this day. And may the Lord guide the CRC as it seeks a way forward.
I am overwhelmingly sad, too, Laura. My only consolation is that my CRC preacher-father did not live to witness the carnage wrought by Synod this week.
While I grew up in the denomination and am grateful for much of what it provided over those years, I chose to move on toward what feels like more openness and a larger sense of grace. So while I’m now an outsider, I still feel a deep sadness. This will undoubtedly cause a tremendous amount of pain.
Me, too, Laura. Sitting in the sadness with you.
Sad, too, and also couldn’t watch the pious slamming of the door on walking with the Christ who loved and welcomed all. Again, loved and welcomed all.
Thanks for putting the thoughts of so many into words. Imposed orthodoxy only creates unity if it also eliminates all opposing voices. That is most certainly not the outcome today as voices of faith and voices in pain continue to advocate for all our brothers and sisters who believe.
“Imposed orthodoxy only creates unity if it also eliminates all opposing voices.” That sentence is full of impact. Wow. Yes.
This is well written. I am more than sad today. I am hurt. I am angry. I wish I was surprised or shocked. I am not.
Today I revoked my membership. I am broken to have done so. I shall continue to long for the day that my queer brothers and sisters will be loved and accepted.
I can have fellowship with someone whose views on same marriage differ from mine. I cannot have fellowship with someone who endorses the Human Sexuality Report because if “confessional status” means anything, it means they do not regard me as a Christian.
Some centuries ago, too many United States’ churches found pious, specious ways to condone — yes, promote — slavery by selectively plucking and narrowly interpreting texts from the Bible. Millions were denied their humanity for generations before those churches acknowledged their errors. I pray it won’t take generations for the CRC to walk back the decisions Synod has made that deny our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters full place among us.
Indeed Ruth. Let that be our prayer going forward.
Thank you for articulating what so many of us feel.
Like Dan Meeter, I felt the same thing six years ago at the RCA General Synod. Now, after six years, I find new hope. Yes, grieve. Remember also that nothing, not even grief, lasts forever. God is already working things out.
Grieving. And praying.
Thank-you, Laura, for these words.
Also appreciated the speaker series/conversation in Kitchener. It was balanced and grace-filled. Should have been a prerequisite for Synod delegates.
Thanks, Laura. You conclude by saying you don’t know what’s next. If there is one thing I took away from Synod it is that neither does Synod know what’s next. There was great urgency to do this. This HAD TO BE DONE. But when Michael LeRoy on at least 2 occasions asked what the “confessional” business would mean, no one had an answer. “We’ll figure it out later” was the best wimpy answer anyone put forth. But maybe we did get a preview of what’s next after all. Because when the motion to intervene at Neland CRC and in Classis GR East was being debated, Synod’s own Church Order expert and parliamentarian told the body that she had advised the Advisory Committee and now the floor of Synod that this motion was not following normal CRC procedure, that it was leapfrogging some parts of due process. No matter. It passed. To riff on Barry Goldwater, extremism in the pursuit of virtue is no vice. When it comes to going after gay people, we don’t need due process. And as one delegate said a mere 2-3 hours after the morning session Wednesday, we have to go after Neland due process or no because “we did just say this was confessional after all.” Maybe that is what is next.
My husband and I kept asking this question about what comes next throughout our “challenging conversations” meetings. Each time, the person in our group who is part of the Abide Project would say that question was getting too far ahead. First we all have to agree, then we can decide what to do next. But we kept saying that we can’t agree to something that may result in people being excluded from our church, and from Baptism, and from the communion table.
I have witnessed this over and over again for the past thirty years. When you go after gay people or their sympathizer, you don’t HAVE to follow rules.
Right on, Scott! Thank you!
The process to be followed is found in Church Order Article 5 and its supplements. Additionally, it’s well within the rights of Synod to initiate disciplinary process if that process has not been pursued by a Council or Classis.
Wow! I too am sad and wonder where God is leading us now. Thank you, Laura, for your thoughts and leadership in these matters.
I grieve with you.
I am thankful to live in a church for whom people are more valuable then scholarly arguing.
The Sanhedrin lives on, while Jesus meets struggling folks outside the doors.
That was good.
Thanks for your beautifully crafted words. Overwhelmingly sad as well. While there were pious calls for continued dialogue, my fear is that those who have been put outside will not be part of that conversation any longer. They will move to denominations that are more inclusive.
So sad; so angry; so not surprised.
Seems to me, if “black people” substitutes for “gay people” and then one creates the proposing phrase “When it comes to going after black people”, the same concluding words would follow: we don’t need [no stinkin] due process. “Holier than thou” comes to mind as familiar, growing up Calvinist as I did, and, wow, look at that, easily translates to “forsaking all [O]thers” at times like this. Heavy and angry sigh is what was “next” for this reader after contemplating this space.
Mary, thank you for trying to reframe this conversation to help those who may not understand the gravity.
Gentle reminder to all:
black and queer struggles can share something in intersectionality and opposition, but that it can be inappropriate to use “black people” as a benchmark or metric, since it can tokenize those real experiences for the way the reference is useful to outside groups but does not benefit black communities.
I too am deeply saddened. It seems to me like Synod just said, “It is our way or the highway.” May those of us who have broken hearts today find a way to stand against this decision and help Synod realize the full implications of what it has done.
As one who follows the complexities of Jesus and not the Bible and not Christianity and therefore learned from Christians that of course I am not a Christian, I can’t imagine the pain, the wound that cannot be healed, ever. Even though this heretic for Jesus expected this outcome I too ache for my rejected brothers and sisters. Today they may well feel more than ever what Jesus felt.
Thank you, Laura. I’m there with you–sadness all around. One bit of hope, for me at least, was that the numbers were something of a surprise. The voting on the first motion–to table the majority report and take up the minority–told the story. Perhaps my surprise is based on where I live, but the fact that all the way through the discussions, a good third of the delegates voted the way they did was encouraging–sad too, but for me, hopeful.
Thank you Laura for clarifying our grief. What grieves me most is that the HSR goes too far, and not far enough. Will Synod now “go after” those who are divorced with as much gusto as for pastors who love and want to minister to our LBGTQ+ Friends and family members? Will our young people who find themselves pregnant before marriage once again have to stand humiliated before congregations and councils and publicly confess their sins? Merciful God, I hope not! Will those pastors and elders who frequent pornography sites be kicked out of office? I think not. They’ve often been given grace. How many of those delegates who voted for this resolution could stand and say they have not committed (and are no longer committing) those sins. As I understand it, pastors and elders who engage in extramarital affair should now be immediately defrocked and removed from their churches. Based on past personal experiences, most will get a wink wink as our denomination goes after the “real criminals”: pastors who want to reach out with Jesus’ love.
And can anyone explain to me why child sexual abuse doesn’t even warrant a mention in these list of sins? As a child victim of molestation by an elder, which has left me with lifelong scars, am I to assume that’s not such a grievous sin?
I call for CRC pastors and church members to stand up as conscientious objectors to this horrific ruling. Choose justice and love over man-made rules.
And what about spousal abuse, either physical or mental?
Nan, Thanks for challenging all CRC pastors and church members to stand up as conscientious objectors to this horrific ruling. It surely is NOT JUST nor LOVING.
Yes James. And when those of us standing quietly outside the FA building in silent lament were joined by delegates from both sides of Canada, the Pacific Northwest, Holland, Rocky Mountain, the Plains, and others I felt hope through my sadness and pain.
Thank you so much for these words. It helps to share in our lament and grief together.
Thank you, Laura, for sharing your reflections. They echo my sentiments exactly. It seemed that it was a very well planned, determined effort that produced this result.
Thanks for saying this. I was particularly turned off by the sanctimonious comments and the misuse of prayer. We are human and live on planet earth. Thank God!
Thank you Laura for wrapping our pain in wise and thoughtful words as we each seek to find our way through another exercise of rejection and labeling of loving Christian friends and dear ones.
My three sons were baptized into the CRC. At that time, they were accepted into the covenant. When they stood to make profession of faith, they were “accepted into the full life of the church with its joys and responsibilities.” I never saw an asterisk beside any of these that said “Unless they turn out gay–then all bets are off.”
Even though my husband and I left the CRC 10 years ago over this matter, I still feel sick and angry.
I should have left 10 years ago as well. I don’t think I can justify staying any longer in this denomination.
Thank you for posting, Laura. It helps me to know that not everyone at Synod was against people who are homosexual. People who are drawn to the same sex are not horrible people. There are people in my family who are homosexual and I love them dearly. The people who voted against homosexuality most likely do not have loved ones in their family who are drawn to the same sex. Not all people who are homosexual are having sexual relationships just as all those who aren’t are having sex outside of marriage. That is another whole issue. Also, those who are abusing others sexually no matter what their sexuality, are what we should be talking about.
Many years ago I was a delegate to a Synod where many delegates arrived from the church of Ephesus found in Revelation 2. They came with their proof texts and a mandate to once and for all declare that women are not to be pastors, elders, or deacons. Somehow the final overture before the body declared that to believe other than that was heresy against the clear teaching of Scripture. The “Ephesians” had a mandate, they needed to vote in a certain way even though it was irrational to say this was “the clear teaching of Scripture” after fifteen years of debating the issue. The next year clearer heads prevailed as there were fewer “Ephesian elders” sent with a mandate. I see that happening again.
One more point, as long as the CRC reads Scripture in soundbites used a proof texts we will continue to struggle. The “Ephesians Elders” came with their proof texts, the problem is they have not read 1 John, or passages like it. When you look for proof texts you can validate any point, when you seek to be faithful to Scripture that becomes more difficult.
Decades ago I did the entire Calvin thing. I was grateful for the temporary shelter and the diploma that got me to a variety of places and adventures. I am So very thankful that I am now free to live as a wish, as my fathers family and those who did not survive. I am a Traditional Jew. In most Shuls and for. numerous reasons you won’t experience such pain and unrelenting judgment. Not that Judaism is without its daily struggles, it is simply different.
Thank you Laura for your words at this very sad time. In 1984 I witnessed 160 men determining the role of women in the church. The decisions they made at that time, then they sang, “We love Thy Church or God” was galling! I knew that although some think me a warrior, I’m not one, I needed to leave the only CRC congregation I had ever known for the 31 years I had been in Canada. The pain expressed by many is palpable among my friends. Valerie, Daniel, Nan and Don’s comments are so important. God loves each one of us regardless of whom we love. God’s love and acceptance of each one of us is boundless, and certainly not determined by any synod. Too often we confuse faith and culture. After two plus years of an extraordinary pandemic, and other cultural phenomena, it may have been wiser to give more time for synod to consider all aspects of its agenda in a different manner and over a different time frame.
What if Synod is right?
What if those saying homosexual sex is blessed by God are wrong?
What if Jesus wants his church to welcome same-sex attracted people to experience his grace by receiving his forgiveness and submitting to Jesus’ call to put to death their disordered sexual desires?
What if affirming same-sex activity is NOT showing love but a grave failure to speak the truth in love?
What if there are same-sex attracted believers who celebrate Synod’s decision and the call to holiness in community it articulates?
What if the (until very recently) unanimous consensus of the Church throughout the ages, with which Synod’s decision accords, should not be ignored or dismissed as a hateful, cynical power play?
Steve, the same question could be asked if you. What if those saying a committed same sex marriage is blessed by God and not what Scripture is addressing in the passages often quoted to support the traditional position? The fact is we all must be humble that we are unable to have perfect knowledge on how to apply these texts to our present understanding of sexuality. Maybe then we should consider living with some gray and allowing different interpretations until it is made clear or till Christ comes again. The God I was taught to believe in knows my knowledge is imperfect and my salvation does not depend on perfect knowledge or theology.
Sheryl, do you acknowledge that the brothers and sisters in the Synod majority are reasonable, sincere Christians who, without guile and in good faith, hold the biblical conviction that your view is a serious error that cannot be tolerated as a “gray area”? If so, you might also acknowledge that the honorable response by those who disagree is to (in accordance with membership and officer covenants) submit willingly to Synod’s decision for the peace and purity of the church or, if that is not possible, to depart for a community where their view is affirmed.
No, I for one do not acknowledge that they are reasonable and without guile. They are the same ones who supported slavery, are against women in office, are against divorce in all cases and use the Bible as a weapon. One option is inclusive and accepting. One option is exclusive and abusive.
Mark, the CRC has declared that affirmation of and opposition to women in office are based in good faith, reasonable interpretations of Scripture. Why do you cast aspersions on those who hold oppose women in office when the CRC honors that viewpoint as valid? Moreover, if what you say is true, then seventy-five percent of the CRC are not your beloved brothers and sisters, but irrational, abusive, dangerous hypocrites. That is quite a judgment to pronounce. Are you certain of this? And if you are convinced in your heart that seventy-five percent of the denomination maliciously and cynically support and practice hate and abuse, why on earth would you not flee–and call your friends to flee–such a toxic community as fast as you can?
Agreed. While I accept synodical government as the “least worst form” of decision-making, we easily forget that Jesus was condemned by a majority. There’s a tension here which I think must always resolve in the direction of love rather than law.
The majority was most certainly within their “rights” to do this. I can’t honestly speak to the mindset and intention of delegates though. It certainly seems that some delegates lacked empathy.
It hard to see much compassion or empathy when Synod did not admonish the delegate who claimed LGBTQ+ members were “the tail wagging the dog.”
If all that were (or is) true, then Synod could have handled the entire business with more love and humility and less judgmentalism and arrogance.
Wonderful writing. Thank you! Sixty years ago my late brother Jack, was shunned, cancelled by the community that nurtured him. After Synod 2022, that will continue to happen to children born same-sex attracted within the CRC. My heart goes out to them, particularly.
This saddens me so much. How are we here still here?
Thank you, Laura…Judy and I needed to grieve…and find a way to deal with a long story of anger. I find a great deal of myself in the comments as well. My journey in ministry goes back to 1968…I’m “emeritus”. In my nearly 27 years pastoring in South Central Los Angeles, I also trained and interned and spent 13 years as a community organizer. One thing that did was teach me that neither I nor our church are the center of the world where God is at work. Adding to my bitter disappointment for the sake of the crc is the reality that to achieve/preserve white supremacy, and the wealth and power that creates and controls a militaristic consumerist colonizing culture, a major strategy is creating destabilization and distracting those who individually and collectively still think in moral terms. Intentional or not the HSR and the actions of this synod played right into that mode. The major issue being used to destabilize and politically capture our culture is LGBTQ+ (after 4 decades of playing the “abortion-vote” card). I don’t recall Jesus saying much about sexuality…he did talk a lot about $$$…at one point implying it was God’s major competitor…something about the impossibility of serving God or money. I’ve dreamed of the day when the crc with its “discipline as a mark of the true church” would call people before the congregation to answer for what they did in market rather than the bedroom. I’m quite sure I won’t live long enough to see it, but perhaps a new study committee—just for fun.
Thank you- thought and reason
Well said Stan!
Well said Laura; I too am immensely sad.
I knew many of the delegates for this Synod (on both sides of the issue)
It was truly a disheartening synod- from the moment it began with an objection to seating women all the way to an unsatisfying end (I could watch the final worship)
It felt like a downward spiral – like a weird “clarity” that was never clear and I felt like it couldn’t go any worse but it just kept getting more and more horrible the longer it went.
– people talking past each other- an overfilled agenda with no time to listen – and a large number of people out for their pound of flesh. And we prayed and we prayed and we read and we talked and we poured out our souls to each other and now we feel trampled and are left with nothing to show for it but a huge group of hurt. And I think the hurt is much larger than we can even imagine. If at least 7.2% of the population is LGBTQ+ there are 7200 people in our denomination who are same sex attracted and that is not counting the families that love them. We have effectively alienated most probably at least 20-25% of our congregants and placed them in a highly confusing and tenable spot. I heard so many times the world is “watching “ – God forgive a witness that did not bring honor to His name but led with a series of decisions that ended in a witch hunt, a burning at the stake, a marginalized and a half hearted attempt at racial justice. My heart goes out to the delegates who consistently tried to slow down a freight train embedded in positions of fear and orthodoxy
with no balance for Grace.
– Jesus was crucified for my sin- why then do I have to crucify others to be “clear”. Someone said – you don’t get clarity til you get to heaven. In heaven we find out we were all wrong
I can’t hate any of my brothers and sisters on this – but I’m feeling that this was filled with lots of platitudes for “love” undelivered.
I am very unclear — God help us all who remain carnage and will become “collateral damage”
I am not in a safe space for this-
Thank you, Laura. That is so beautifully said and so sad to think of the arrogance that allows people to think they have all the answers and God has stopped revealing. In the church I grew up in we realized that “Reformed” didn’t mean “We have reformed and we now know all there is to know about Love and Grace.” I feel churchless.
Thank you Laura for all of your words and the echoes of my tone.
Thank you to all of the posters. I am encouraged to read most of your pieces. and to the ‘dissenters’, I can also relate you…., because it was not so long ago that I would have had stronger words.
I have been saddened about what I’ve been afraid of for quite awhile. Felt powerless. Indeed felt the freight train chugging up the tracks full steam ahead not stopping for border control all the way up to Canada.
And then , pulling weeds in my garden this past week, in the stinking heat, I had to listen to that still small voice. Reminding me that God is so much bigger than this. He’s got this. His Kingdom will prevail. I can only do what I can do in my corner. And that is love all like Jesus did.
Blessings to all
A footnote: I was able to attend the sessions at Laura’s church. It was amazing! And I couldn’t believe that all 4 speakers crossed the border to come and share. What a gift those Monday nights were!
I feel sad for all this too, Laura. And I’m sure I could think of more reasons too. Not hopeless, because our unity and our diversity are rooted in the Trinity, and forever on the throne of God – in Christ. But sad. Yes, very sad.
Thank you for this Pastor Laura. There is so much hurt around this issue. Synod’s obsession with “clarity” will cause and continue perpetuating so much pain.
We are all so, so broken. God’s response is reckless grace. I sensed nothing of that reckless grace in Synod last week.
Thank you Laura
A couple quotes from people wiser than I:
“My interpretation [of Scripture] can only be as inerrant as I am, and that’s good to keep in mind.”
― Rachel Held Evans
“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security . . . More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “Give them something to eat.”
Fear seems to be a significant motivator in our current culture. Maybe it always has been. I guess the Pharisees were also fearfully clinging to their beliefs and their rules. I don’t want to be a Pharisee. I’d love to be a table flipper, like Jesus. I’m praying for the courage to be just that.
Thanks for your post, Laura. You’re a courageous table flipper!
Do all CRC office bearers need to subscribe/adhere to this confessional/ all-encompassing standard of “chastity” …if so, does this also apply to the office of president of the United States…just asking.?.
Being gay is not like being an alcoholic or a drug addic. It’s like being left handed. Insisting that gay people may only express their sexuality heterosexually is like insisting that left handers write with their right hand. Remember, God created the rainbow.
There are many opinions here. That’s what they are-human opinions. What does The Bible say? We need to search the scriptures. God’s word should guide.
I share your sadness. I fell overwhelmed and a little lost. Jesus says to love Him first and also to love all our neighbors. I am also hopeful for God’s grace and guidance as we move forward, whatever that may look like.