Sorting by

Skip to main content

Born in 1936 and having grown up in a Christian Reformed Church, I do not recall ever deciding that same sex attraction was wrong. It was just assumed! As uncritically as we may have been reading the Bible, the message was simply that God condemns homosexuality. As for the concept of same-sex marriage, it was not even imagined.

My first serious encounter with the subject was in 1973 when CRC Synod decided that same-sex attraction was not sinful but that sexual activity was. Mostly, I filed it away and preferred not to think about it. Homosexuality came up again in the endless conversations about ordaining women to church office. Conservative voices warned: If we ordain women, next thing we’ll be ordaining homosexual persons. I was supportive of the former but could not imagine the latter. 

My next major encounter was in 2006. I had turned 70, my kid sister 50, and we spent a week together on the west coast. That week, she confided to me that she was gay and in a same-sex relationship (“I fell in love, and it just happened to be a woman”). After an awkward pause, I told her I loved her, and God loved her, but that I wasn’t sure what to think. I did pledge to give it further thought and prayer, which I did sporadically. 

In 2013, I dived in with James Brownson’s Bible, Gender, Sexualty (Eerdmans, 2013). And other affirming authors. I found their arguments plausible but still had many questions. 

Two years later, as clerk of Classis Grand Rapids East, it was my task to do a final edit of its 2016 study report on “The Biblical and Theological Support Currently Offered by Christian Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage.” I was relieved I didn’t have to sign it, but I was moved to begin valuing love over knowledge (1 Corinthians 13). All the while, God also began bringing more LGBTQ+ Christians into my life, to the second and third generation. 

Fifteen years after my kid sister came out to me, I had my own “coming out” in support of same sex marriage. Below I summarize what I have come to believe is a faithful interpretation of what the Bible does and does not say about same sex attraction and marriage.


Reformed and Always Reforming. The Christian life is a life of learning and growing; in prayer, in faith, in fruitfulness, and in better understanding what the Bible says and the context in which it says it. Peter challenges us to grow in our faith and knowledge in Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and this has been my consistent Christian experience—in my education and active ministry as well as in my retirement years. I pray that God will continue to reform us all in our posture toward same sex attraction and marriage. 

Sexual Prohibitions in Scripture. The Bible’s prohibition of same sex behavior refers primarily if not exclusively to prostitution, promiscuity, and other exploitative sexual abuses such as men molesting boys. Of course, the Bible condemns such sexual behavior. At the same time, the Bible gives no indication of condemning or even recognizing same sex attraction as an orientation, or of having any awareness of mutually committed and exclusive same sex relationships. 

Creational Diversity. The Belgic Confession teaches that God makes himself known in two ways: by his holy and divine Word and through the beautiful book of the universe (cf. Article 2). A common interpretation of the Genesis story is that God’s good creation is limited to male and female. A contrasting interpretation, also informed by scientific study of that beautiful book of the universe, is that same sex orientations are not birth defects or disorders resulting from the Fall but are normal creational differences. God’s creating of male and female has developed over time into a range of diversity on the human gender and sexual orientation spectrum.

The Image of God in Everyone. Whatever our sexual orientation, all human beings are created in God’s image. God forgive us if we regard same sex attracted persons as inferior image bearers and think of them as problems or projects undeserving of human intimacy. It is only natural for LGBTQ+ persons, as true image bearers of God, to desire physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational intimacy with another human being, and to flourish within the gifts and responsibilities of marriage as a loving, exclusive, life-long relationship. 

Love Supersedes Knowledge. When Christians interpret scripture differently on disputable matters, we are cautioned by Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous chapter on love and knowledge. As important as knowledge may be, knowledge without love is a big zero (vs. 2). What’s more, knowledge is temporary (vs. 8), knowledge is partial and incomplete (vss. 9-10). What we know now is only a dull reflection of what is to come (vs.12). By contrast, love is the one ingredient that adds value to everything else (vss. 1-3). Love is patient and kind, love rejoices in truth. Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (vss. 4, 6-7). Paul concludes: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (vs. 13). Bottom line: “Love never fails” (vs. 8). 

What Christian Love Looks Like

Toward Same Sex Attracted People. Whether same sex attracted people choose singleness or marriage, as siblings and kindred in Christ we believe their testimony, celebrate them as God created them, and we desire and encourage their flourishing, which includes making full use of their gifts in God’s church and kingdom, including ordained leadership and service. 

Toward All in Christ. In Christian love we pray for, bear with, and bless one another, whether in agreement or in disagreement over disputable matters, in the conviction that unity in Christ is foundational to our spiritual vitality and Christian witness. 


Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”                                —John 13:34-35

Al Mulder

Al Mulder is a retired minister in the Christian Reformed Church. He pastored churches in Kansas, Utah, and New Mexico, and served with denominational missions. He and his wife Jo Meyer attend Madison Church: Square Campus and Brookside CRC, both in Grand Rapids. Their combined families include 8 children, 19 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren.


  • Travis West says:

    It is inspiring to hear your story, Al, and to learn of your willingness to change your mind and open your heart to deeper ways of loving even after your retirement on in your 80s! This is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. I am with you that there is not more powerful force for good or for healing in the universe than love.

  • Nancy VandenBerg says:

    Thank you, Al, for sharing your journey regarding this subject. I, too, “have preferred not to think on it” but in the last few years I have felt the Holy Spirit pushing me to look at it from His perspective, not my understanding based on hundreds of years of opinions.
    So in obedience I began earnestly searching the scriptures.
    I wish I could say the subject has been completely resolved and settled. I can’t say that, however, I am discovering anew the astonishing theme of His grace, mercy, and love. Those six or seven passages that refer to homosexuality in His Word is just a drop in the bucket in comparison to the love and grace He has for us and His repeated command to love our neighbors.
    I now choose to follow His leading… even if my beloved denomination won’t accept me.

  • Jeanne Engelhard says:

    Thank you Al for sharing your journey on this subject.

  • Don Huizinga says:

    Thank you, Al, for sharing your story. You’ve captured the gospel and speak truth with love.

  • Duane Kelderman says:

    Thank you, Al, for sharing your story of change. It is beautiful, powerful, and wise. Thanks for being my friend on our mutual journey of change.

  • RZ says:

    Thanks Al,
    I have always appreciated your gentle, thoughtful, harm-reducing, gentle-nudging approach to life. Some will question your interpretations, but your genuineness and intellectual rigor show through. You have a pastor’s heart. A few affirmations to add to your well articulated journey:
    1. If “Reformed” is to have any validity, it must always be “Reforming,” painful and threatening as that feels. A One-reformation sense of contentment is oxymoronic and insultingly shallow. Idolatrous?
    2. Similarly, “Reforming” must be accompanied by much interpretive humility- past, present, and future. And yes, culture does strongly influence exegesis. It always has and always will! This is an inevitable reality, no more and no less of a threat today than 50 or 500 years ago.
    3. James Brownson’s book has been out for 10 years already! IMHO it is WAY underutilized. His persistent insistence on following the “moral logic” trajectory of scripture is extremely
    compelling. He also has a pastor’s heart.
    Well done. Thanks.

  • Rodger R Rice says:

    Al, thanks for sharing your journey. Similar experiences here. I agree completely with your present perspectives on same-sex attraction and marriage. Most important to me is your concluding emphasis on love. Indeed, love supersedes knowledge. Amen!

  • Daniel Bos says:

    Al, thank you for telling us your story. I went through a similar process of transition beginning in 1970 when I ministered to gay and lesbian Christian students in my ministry at Purdue University.

    The astonishing thing in your story is this sentence:
    “Conservative voices warned: If we ordain women, next thing we’ll be ordaining homosexual persons.”
    That was in the 1990’s!

    It is astonishing because the CRC had already decided that in 1973. The reason why the 1973 Synod even took up the issue of homosexuality at all was that it had to decide what to do with a CRC minister of the Word and Sacraments ordained as a Professor at Calvin Seminary who had been discovered to be same-sex attracted. The 1973 Report affirmed his ordained status, and he continued his ministry of teaching at the Seminary. Since then homosexual followers of Jesus have been accepted as members in good standing in Christian Reformed Churches and as deacons, elders, and ordained Ministers of the Word and Sacraments.

    Have those who affirm the 1973 Report as the final authority on homosexuality never read it?

  • Mary Buitendorp says:

    Thanks Al, for saying what needs to be said.

  • Don Klop says:

    So you Al, kind, gracious, loving. Your words are a gift, simple, thoughtful, honest genuine. The real gift is you yourself. Your example shows us the way. Thank you.

  • Thank you for sharing this. Perhaps we will be more accepting of people who are Gay when we realize that they are our family members and one must not reject family.

  • Don Tamminga says:

    Thanks Al! Nicely summarized and clear and could not agree more. Having close family and or friends who have different sexual persuasion makes all the difference. T

  • Rowland Van Es, Jr says:

    I believe your 2016 Report for Grand Rapids East Classis of the CRC was used by the New Brunswick Classis of the RCA in its 2019 Report: Affirmed & Celebrated: A Reformed Theology of Inclusion. I hope you and others like you who have evolved on this issue have found a church that is welcoming & affirming (or try the RCA).

  • John W. Jeninga says:

    I’m grateful for your path from hate to grace. You have an opportunity to fulfill that grace now in your actions. This essay is a beginning. Like the the 12 step program there is an admission of guilt and an expression of the wrong done to those in their communities. For example have you asked of your sister forgiveness for being a part of institution that hated her and that you promoted those hates in your work as a pastor? I can read your in essay a continuing commitment the institution of the church and that saddens me. I do not believe that the crc will join you on your path. I believe your effectiveness will be beyond the church and it’s god

  • Thanks AL. Christ showed us how to embrace the marginalized people in our society. They were shunned because they did not fit the social expectations of those who were in power and used their position of privilege to make the rules. That is not the message of the gospel.
    We need to embrace every person who chooses to follow Christ. Each one of us do that imperfectly. As we accept God’s grace my we not stand in the way of others experiencing God’s grace within a body of believers.

Leave a Reply