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When I read here on the RJ blog about “Better Together: A Third Way,” an organized effort to hold together the Christian Reformed Church, my heart said “Bless you.” My head said, “Nope!”

I first encountered third way arguments in the work of Latin American liberation theologians in the 1980s. They contended that a third way — those opting for nonviolence, for not siding with Marxist revolutionaries — was essentially siding with the status quo, with the dictators and death squads. And of course, not siding with the poor, the victims, and the oppressed. 

I doubt there is a single, one-size-fits-all answer about third ways in general. In other words, what you thought about Latin America in the 1980s may not be especially illuminating for the CRC in 2023. And even if you think you have a crystal clear understanding of Jesus and zealots and Romans and collaborators in first century Palestine, I’m not sure that gives you simple directions for today’s debates about human sexuality in American Protestantism. 

I sympathize with those in the Christian Reformed Church, trying to find that tenuous and tiny common ground, a Shangri-La where differences about LGBTQ+ inclusion are not reason for dividing a denomination. Additionally I’m sure there are all sorts of nuances and details about the situation in the CRC of which I am blissfully unaware. While I’m not entirely certain if I wish them success, I’m far more certain that they won’t find it. 

In the time and place we find ourselves, I simply believe that hoping and working for a third way is profoundly tone deaf. Is there, they ask, a better way than arguing, splitting, and recrimination. Of course there is. Can we, at this moment, find that way and go there? No.

If, however, there can be an even somewhat viable third way, I believe it will be in congregations, not denominations. I’ve written before how much I respect and appreciate the folks who are not entirely on board with our congregation’s Welcome Statement, but nonetheless have stayed with us. I am grateful for their commitment to our congregation as more than only a Welcome Statement. I honor their refusal to be pushed into picking a side, seeing it as a win/lose proposition. I admire their valuing of relationships over opinions. I am glad for their efforts to stand against the balkanization of today’s American church.

While we never used the term “third way,” essentially that’s what our congregation was for many years. People knew that the pastors were open and affirming, that there were LGBTQ+ members, even office holders, but they weren’t fully out. It was more of an open secret. 

Why was anything more necessary? No LGBTQ+ person had ever been turned away. Many people thought this was enough. And when we moved to being fully, publicly, gladly open and affirming, nearly all those people departed. 

It turns out, it wasn’t enough. 

If you believe that a moderate tone — no gay-bashing but no open affirmation of LGBTQ+ people — will somehow be received as a friendly gesture by LGBTQ+ people, you are sorely mistaken. You might even be accused of false advertising, acting friendly when in fact you are not. You can wish for a case of “those who are not against me, are for me.” But we live in a time when “those who are not for me, are against me.”

Maybe the third way can be a tepid, temporary, and only mildly inadequate response on a congregational level. It is unrealistic and hopeless on a denominational level. I say that partly because of my experience and understanding of the wider church. I say it even more because of our current cultural context. 

In the church, we may talk admiringly about being counter-cultural and a faithful witness, living the future today, and other beautiful dreams and inspiring mottoes. But in today’s America, there is no appetite, no vision, no group with any size or sway — inside the church or outside — calling for or modeling a realistic third way. 

I use that word “realistic” cautiously, even regretfully. The way of Jesus is often not very realistic. But realism is what wins on Synod floors as much as Senate floors. Advocates of a third way will be outnumbered and outmaneuvered — especially in our polarized and combative condition. 

Third way-ism reminds me of the fatigued and unfair “both-sides-ism” in our political debates — those who try to maintain the moral equivalence of both sides in the culture wars. “No one is righteous” — true enough. But there is clearly a relative better and worse. 

In the run-up to one of the many “crucial” Reformed Church General Synods (so many, I can’t recall which one!) I reached out to colleagues that I called “courageous conservatives.” I knew we disagreed on affirming LGBTQ+ people. I tried to persuade them that this didn’t have to be a denomination-splitting disagreement, nor was it acceptable to bend our rules and trample our structures to achieve their goals. My meager efforts were nowhere as organized or visible as the CRC’s “Better Together.” Still, I can report that mainly I was ignored. I received no positive responses and more than a few scornful replies filled with phrases like “biblical principles” and “unbending integrity.” 

One might have supposed that after watching the Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and others split over issues of sexuality, the RCA would have found a different way. But, no. Will the CRC now break this pattern and augur a new day dawning? No. As Yeats wrote a little over a century ago, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

I don’t like being the bearer of bad news, raining on someone’s noble parade, sticking my nose into another denomination’s business or declaring that there is no hope — at least not at this time and on this topic. Sadly though, all of it is true. 

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell is a recently retired minister of the Reformed Church in America. He has been the convener of the Reformed Journal’s daily blog since its inception in 2011. He and his wife, Sophie, reside in Des Moines, Iowa.


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Wow. Courageous. Jeremiah, Ezekiel.

  • Cheri Scherr says:

    Bravo Steve. Well said!

  • Julia Smith says:

    Well said. Thanks for writing this.

  • Nolan Palsma says:

    The prophet in retirement!
    In the churches I served, I have had new members tell me that they were joining the congregation and not the denomination.

  • Sophie Mathonnet-Vanderwell says:

    Dear Steve,
    You forgot to mention that “Third Way” is how the RCA tried to deal with women’s ordination. And look how that turned out! Ultimately, many parts of the denomination were seen as most unfriendly to women in office and some 30 years later, most of them are no longer in the RCA. A “Third Way” is often just a way to not take a stand on something and the result is an eventual split….which is what the “Third Way” is trying to avoid in the first place.

    • Paul Janssen says:

      and… the most recent zoom update in the RCA regarding restructure, the ordination of women was cited (unofficially) as one of the more commonly stated reasons that 200-some congregations gave for leaving the RCA. “Eventual” has become “event”.

    • Will Libolt says:

      Sophie. Blessings to you and Steve. Both of you get it and are living it in ministry Keep grinding! It will come back to you ten fold.

  • Joyce Looman Kiel says:

    Always hope. How would this apply? Romans 5:1-5 …because we know that suffering produces perseverance; character; and character hope And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
    I’m an eternal optimist but I believe this to be true. May we all persevere.

  • Noreen Vander Wal says:

    All kinds of movements throughout history have appeared to be hopeless. Thank God, people kept trying, even if everyone said, “It will never work.” I’m glad Better Together: A Third Way is at least trying.

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    I’ve always thought of a third way as something between violence and doing nothing (passive acceptance) rather than doing nothing or accepting injustice by making a stand without letting anyone know you’ve made a stand. Turning the other cheek is a “third way.”
    I think if the RCA took a third way it would not accept injustice for LGBTQ+ folk (passivity) and it would not do violence to see that injustice eliminated (and Vice versa on the other side of the issue).
    Of course, having said that, I think Steve is right. In this climate and maybe always, the third way gets you crucified. And that generally leads to splitting up folks.

  • Scott Hoezee says:

    I am not sure what the RCA’s “third way” on women-in-office was and to which Sophie referred in her comment above. But in 1995 the CRC did seem to find a kind of third way that once and for all snapped the 30-year synodical badminton match on the issue. Synod declared a local option on ordaining women to church office. But what undergirded that was the declaration that both sides were arriving at their conclusion through a prudent use of Reformed hermeneutics. Were both correct? Of course not. But were either the pro- or anti- WICO people guilty of gross misuses of or violations of the principles of Reformed biblical interpretation? Synod 1995 said No. Was this a profile in courage in refusing to take a definitive stand on which interpretation of Scripture was correct? Perhaps not. And of course the CRC still lost thousands of members. Some congregations that stayed opted to leave a local classis that ordained women to affiliate with a non-geographic but like-minded classis hundreds or thousands of miles away. And synod let them do that odd move. And one classis to this day insists at the opening of synod every year that their long (and insulting) protest against the seating of female synodical delegates get read aloud on the floor of synod. Fairly disgusting. BUT . . . did the CRC at that time find a way out from under a giant split? I think the answer is yes. Would that work today in this climate in which the culture war mentality has taken firm root in the church? Probably not and hence Steve’s warranted (probably) pessimism on a third way working right now. The rhetoric from the right wing in the CRC on this issue has become so shrill, there is no way we can live together even on some local option. It’s a salvation issue. It’s a heaven or hell issue. It is an issue that all-but denies Christ and throws Scripture over the gunwales of the boat. So long as and wherever that level of rhetorical excess prevails, there is no third way. Might there be a critical mass willing to rid themselves of those extremes and find a way to live together as marriage traditionalists and affirming folks? Stay tuned.

    • Eric Van Dyken says:

      Minnkota’s protest is neither long nor insulting. It is short and respectful, with a longer and equally respectful explanation contained in the agenda. I’ll take the word of the women at synod who personally thanked me for the nature of our protest over your shrill assessment.

      • Scott Hoezee says:

        I will take you at your word that some women thanked you. However, it sets quite the tone at the outset for the 20+ women who will be delegates this year to be told the names of those who across the entire coming week will regard their very presence as a sin and a violation of God’s Word. But I take your point and could have backed off a little on my characterization of the note that gets read.

        • Eric Van Dyken says:

          I wonder also if you are willing to see things from the other side of the aisle. You must be aware that each and every synod in its entirety is egalitarian. Have you thought at all about how egalitarians insist that their view dominate that of conservatives for the entire event every year? Does that also set quite a tone? Minnkota’s protest lasts less than 30 seconds and then we work respectfully with all of our counterparts for hours and days on end. We sit quietly as our convictions are trampled by various celebrations and the whole enterprise.

          I would also ask: Are these women delegates ignorant of our denomination’s position going in to synod? Are they not aware of the history and position of our denomination that recognizes and honors the convictions of complementarians? That would seem odd for office bearers to be unaware of this. If they are aware of this, and they read the agenda for synod (which assumedly is done by delegates) which includes our affirmation of women and their gifts and an explanation of our convictions, then how is it surprising that there are actually in-the-flesh complementarians at synod with them?

          It really is not that difficult for mature Christians to love each other while holding different convictions. I was privileged to eat and speak with many women at synod and there was not a hint of animosity between us.

    • Kevin TenBrink says:

      Thank you Scott I agree – what a terrible beginning to the meeting of Christian leaders in our denomination. The protest may be short and respectful but I would add it is offensive and cruel.

      Kevin TenBrink

  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    The greatest fault of the call for a Third Way is the underselling and underappreciation of peoples’ convictions and the necessary consequence of those beliefs. If progressives (or pick your preferred shorthand) really believe that conservatives (or pick your preferred shorthand) “have blood on their hands” as was alleged at Synod 2022 or are improperly restricting practicing homosexuals from full participation if the life of the church, then tolerating the teaching of conservatives is tantamount to doing the harm themselves. On the other hand, if conservatives truly believe that progressives are promoting false teaching and encouraging people to remain unrepentantly in their sin, then tolerating the teaching of progressives is tantamount to promoting false teaching themselves. Neither of these two conclusions should be acceptable to people of honest conviction.

    • Paul Janssen says:

      While I agree that “underselling and underappreciation of peoples’ convictions and the necessary consequence of those beliefs” is a great fault of those who call for a Third Way, I wonder whether the equivalency you go on to draw out is accurate. The charge that some (conservative, for lack of a better shorthand – and, note, “some”, not “all”) “have blood on their hands” is verifiable and not merely metaphorical. When a pastor or congregation or denomination provides theological cover for those who do physical violence to LGBTQ folks, they are, while not legally liable, complicit in the act of violence. There are too many testimonies of perpetrators of physical violence (that they felt theologically justified) to aver otherwise. And I have only spoken of physical violence, when actual red blood is spilled; there are other kinds of violence done to LGBTQ folks “in the name of God.” On the other hand, I think you’re missing a term when you say that, for conservatives “tolerating the teaching of progressives is tantamount to promoting false teaching”, it ought to read “tolerating the teaching or progressives is tantamount to promoting *what they believe to be* false teaching.” I.e., an assumption has been made that there is only one way to faithfully interpret the Scriptures, and they have it, and it’s beyond question. In other words, “confessional,” in church lingo. (see Hoezee above) What conservatives “truly believe” in their hearts, with little social consequence, is not quite parallel to what LGBTQ folks actually experience – in the most extreme cases, literal blood and literal death. Thus, while both sides bring deep passion to the table, the sources of that passion are not equivalent. “It is unfortunate that your progressive beliefs contradict my understanding of the Scriptures” is not the same as “It is tragic that your beliefs enabled the beating of my friend.”

      • Eric Van Dyken says:

        Hi Paul,

        Thanks for engaging. I disagree with your assessment. Though I hate labels generally, I’ll stick with the original “conservative” and “progressive” for sake of brevity. Conservative doctrine as expressed and followed by the CRC does not enable the beating of your friend. That simply is untrue. Beyond that, progressive theology does not simply contradict my understanding of Scripture, as if it is me who is being sinned against. God speaks harshly of those who lead others astray and into sin, even warning of dire consequences. I think you are mischaracterizing what is at stake, even while you are demonstrating the very incompatibility that I am speaking of.

        • Rodney Haveman says:

          I don’t think that Paul was saying that Conservative doctrine “must” lead to the enabling of literal violence against LGBTQ folk. I think he said people who have perpetuated that violence have named that doctrine as the reason they felt justified in beating LGBTQ folk.
          When our doctrine is being used for cruelty (see manifest destiny or the church’s teaching on the equality of the races or the treatment of the Anabaptists in the Protestant Reformation), it may be worth re-evaluating our doctrines, or at least wrestling with the question of whether our doctrine serves people or if people are meant to serve our doctrine.
          I know, if we don’t tell people what awful sinful they are, then they go to hell and we join them because of our false teaching. I suppose the question might be, “Are we already in a bit of hell?”
          I’m reminded of a silly quote from a silly movie, “Only Sith deal in absolutes” i.e. black and white. Does that include me? Probably. Who knows? I engage in this conversation and all it does is distract me when I really ought to be working on my sermon. Alas, I’m a woeful sinner …

          • Eric Van Dyken says:

            Hi Rodney,

            Thanks to you as well for engaging. That a doctrine is misused for hateful reasons does not impugn or condemn the doctrine, but rather the person guilty of their own hatred. Those so inclined will find their justification.

            I have no idea what a “Sith” is, but presumably it is not something admirable to you. I can imagine that you can see the irony in an absolute statement about absolutes. I personally have no fear of absolutes, to the extent that Scripture contains absolutes of all sorts. I also am unafraid of nuance and mystery, as Scripture also contains of that as well, though I strive never to invert how Scripture presents each to us.

            I can’t be sure what you are meaning exactly, but the point of historic orthodoxy on human sexuality is not at all to “tell people what awful sinful they are”. I glad to (and have – still do, actually) wrestle with the questions and implications that you pose. But such wrestling for me does not necessarily result in discarding of convictions, nor would I expect that to be true for you.

            I am glad that you engaged in this conversation, even if it momentarily distracted you. Be well under the grace of our God, fellow sinner.

        • Paul Janssen says:

          Merely asserting that conservative doctrine “does not enable the beating of” LGBTQ folks doesn’t mean hat conservative doctrine does not enable the beating of LGBTQ folks. That is argument by assertion. I’m sure that the official positions of the CRCNA decry ALL forms of violence against ANYONE. (How could they not?) We may not have the same understanding of what “enabling” means. When a premise is that we are here to serve God, and a secondary premise is that “those” people over there are sinning against God, then it is a natural conclusion (if one is to serve God rightly) to conclude that one’s duty is to stop those folks from sinning. And when that “sin” is an aspect of their identity, then, yes, theology enables violence, inasmuch as the method that some will choose to get “them” to stop “sinning” is to, say, enter a night-club with a gun and shoot them down. As I said – that does not add up to legal culpability, but it does amount to some form of enabling. And, as I averred to in my comment, you seem to be stating that you (and I assume other conservatives?) possess what is the single, and true, and unquestionable, meaning of the Scriptures. (I’m not in a denomination that allows its broadest assemblies to pronounce ‘authoritative interpretations’ of the Scriptures; perhaps that directly affects my willingness to be open to more than one faithful interpretation.) I’ll leave it to others to determine what is at stake in mischaracterization. The impasse we would likely experience would provide a case study in precisely the argument of Steve’s original post. Peace to you; I’ll respond no more.

          • Eric Van Dyken says:

            “That is argument by assertion.” Well, I guess that makes two of us.

            That ““those” people over there are sinning against God” is not a premise of CRC doctrine. It is a warping of biblical doctrine, and the idea that people warp biblical doctrine for their own hateful ends does not negate biblical doctrine. There is simply no doctrine that is not able to be misused.

            We all make truth claims based on Scripture – that is not exclusively my realm. If we did not, we would not have a religion.

            My original point is simple and I stand behind it: The truth claims represented in the conservative and progressive positions are oppositional and cannot coherently exist together amongst people of clear conscience.

            May God grant you grace and peace as well.

        • Dominic palacios says:

          Since my comments at Synod are often mentioned but I am rarely addressed, I will chime in. First of all, I never said “conservatives have blood on their hands.” I said “WE have blood on our hands.” Emphasis on “WE.” I implicated all of us who are a part of a denomination who has harmed LGBTQ people (including myself). If we haven’t done harm, why did we begin our time on that issue with lament? Also, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that non-affirming religious environments are dangerous for LGBTQ people (google is your friend).
          I left the CRC almost immediately after synod. The HSR was not my only. We failed to denounce white supremacy, we rejected the code of conduct, and we used our church order as cudgel against Neland. (Again, notice my use of “we.”) Yet, the final straw for me was actually Women in Office. My wife has earned a PhD in Old Testament and tutored several student in seminary who later said she has no authority to preach. At some point, I had to wake up an realize that I could no longer have my name attached to something like that. Some people can, it was just no longer a home.

          So, long story short: I am obviously not a 3rd Way guy. Their leaders are some of the people I respect most in the CRC. I understand what they are trying to do and why. It’s just not the way for me. My hunch is that the decisions of Synod 2023 will make it clear it’s time for many of them to move on as well. I think we will all be better off for it.

          • Eric Van Dyken says:

            Hi Dominic,

            I used your phrase as the logical conclusion of what you said. Since it is the adherence to the traditional orthodoxy that you believe causes the damage, and it is conservatives that prevailed to affirm traditional orthodoxy, under the formulation of causality it stands to reason that it is the conservative insistence on traditional orthodoxy that will be responsible for blood on their hands going forward. I understand you to have been lobbying for a change of doctrine to avoid such effects. To the extent that you believe progressives remaining in that context also bear responsibility for that blood, I can recognize that, and it just underlines my original point.

            Having sinned against each and having blood on our hands are not synonymous. We can lament our sins against each other without insinuating or stating that we are responsible for the deaths of others. I did not find the laments at synod to be incongruous with the actions that we later took, a conclusion that I suspect you do not share.

            Synod 2022 did not reject the code of conduct, but rather allowed time for churches and classes to provide input on the proposal. Synod also did not refuse to denounce white supremacy, as the CRC is on record, taking decisive action very recently on kinism. Synod did not fully accede to what it considered a flawed overture that included denunciations of white supremacy explicitly include white supremacy as sin in its adopted motions in response to the overture (Acts of Synod 2022, Page 946). Just because a denunciation does not occur in the exact manner or terms that you or others prefer does not mean it did not happen.

            Others would describe Synod’s actions regarding Neland as the loving, gentle correction that we promise to each other when we covenant together. That the descriptions vary so widely is likely another indication of the gulf that exists.

            I will concur with you that the CRC’s WIO position does not have long-term sustainability, and actually is a greater impediment to joint ministry than we sometimes are willing to acknowledge. I respect that you followed your convictions to a place that better fits. I expect that process possibly had both pain and relief associated with it.

          • Kathy DeMey says:

            Dominic, I believe that fear of open conflict is prevalent at places like synod, (true of dominantly white organizations). I know because I’m a white person who has worked in a dominantly white organization (Calvin University) for over 20 years. We whites emphasize being polite at the surface and insist on politeness as terms for conversation. This is especially true in West Michigan. We expect that those who raise difficult issues will do it in “acceptable” ways – acceptable to us whites. This is not helpful. We cannot ask people to check their anger at the door if anger is justified, which I believe it is when it comes to the ways we in the CRC have hurt LGBTQ+ Christians among us. I’m not advocating for incivility and name calling. I am advocating for truth telling and doing it boldly, particularly calling out injustice.

    • Mark Minegar says:

      We’ll articulated Eric. Thank you!

  • Tony Vis says:

    Thanks, Steve. I always appreciate your thoughtful pieces like this one. I think I’ve tried on most days in my ministry to seek a “Third Way.” It was the right thing to do at the time … perhaps … I think … maybe. But, alas, this morning I sigh a big sigh. While I keep hope alive most days, I am compelled this day to join your realistic assessment of things as they are. So what now? Where do we go from here? The prophets have spoken. Has the exile begun? Perhaps those of us whom others walked away from, graciously, of course, need to boldly be who we are and forge a path forward together. I wonder what that might look like.
    One more thought. If we are in exile and there is a return out there, let’s commit to NOT rebuilding the walls. And if the Samaritans want to help us rebuild the “temple,” let’s invite them to join with us.

    • Jess says:

      There is new life beyond. Pockets of life-giving collaborations are emerging. I hope you will find them in your space. Once you start looking for them, you may just find more than you expected. What if God truly wants to rebirth new life from this state of death?

  • Tom Hoeksema Sr. says:

    Ironically, Neland Ave. CRC has for about a decade modeled what a third way can look like, and the denomination has chastised them. Yet I remain hopeful that this Synod will pull back from the fundamentalistic excesses of 2022. Most congregations are unlikely to be able to pull off a “Neland.” They will need to decide whether or not to marry that daughter who wants a wife or to elect that nominated elder who has been in a same-sex marriage for twelve years. Some members will be unable to live with the result. A third way is rarely achievable at the congregational level. Denominationally, however, allowing for a local option to be affirming or not could be a third way. At least for awhile until our lived experience teaches us a better way and enables us to end our peregrinations.

  • Lena says:

    Conservative People in the Christian Reformed church want to uphold the Christian teaching that sexual intimacy belongs in a committed marriage relationship between a man and woman. This teaching is central and consistent throughout the Bible- no other options are promoted in scripture. One of the main responsibilities of the church is to uphold sound teaching. When electing leaders in the church, it is important that they are on board with Biblical teaching.
    Our young people are now confused, influenced by our culture’s push to consider all the many identities that they can lean into, such as non binary, transgender, ect. At least when they come to church and youth group, they should be instructed in what the Bible actually teaches. This is all well covered in the HSR report.
    The tension in the CRC is that the silent majority is standing firm on this. The progressives have the voice in CRC publications so it can seem like many people are in agreement with them. Hopefully, the progressive churches of the CRC will join the RCA churches if they cant abide by the HSR as this would be the least disruptive.

    • Rodney Haveman says:

      This is just not true. The vast majority of Scripture consistently allows for a marriage between a man and many women. Even when Paul speaks of marriage between a man and a woman, he never condemns or teaches that a polyamorous marriage is outside the bounds of what is allowed. In other words, there is no explicit condemnation of the practice. I could say the same thing about gay marriage, at least in the modern way in which we understand it, but I won’t. It’s just something to think about relative to how we read and interpret Scripture.

      • Lens says:

        Rodney, I should have stated New Tesstament instructions and words from Jesus under the New Covenant.

      • Eric Van Dyken says:

        If Paul thought multiple marriages were ok, why does he preclude men with more than one wife from leading in the church? If such a man is morally upright then Paul is simply bigoted, it would seem – which is of course an accusation some progressives make against Paul.

        The Scriptures do *describe* situations of more than one wife, but never *prescribe* that pattern. The only prescriptive pattern in Scripture is one man and one woman becoming one flesh. Beyond that we see that kings such as David and Solomon were not to take many wives, and the taking of many wives was pictured as the downfall of each of them.

        It’s hard to imagine Jesus being any more clear in Matthew 19:4-6. Jesus simply does not leave room for three, four, or five people becoming one flesh.

  • RZ says:

    All of this, IMHO, is not about fidelity in handling the scriptures. It is about POWER…. Who gets to control the narrative and thereby steer the ship. Every organization, including the church, becomes an end unto itself. The fact that women understand this better than men is illuminating. When you live without empowerment, you recognize the blindness of those who assume it. This is not undermining the scriptures! Rather, it is thanking God for corrective lenses. We can (and do) all make the scriptures say what we wish for them to “clearly” say. Refusing to admit this is to doom any solution. The scriptures are only as good as their proper interpretation. I suspect Jesus might say we have too many Pharicees and not enough Publicans.
    As to the third way, I would like us to consider the various responses to revolutions throughout history. If there is no acceptance of ” third way” thinking, the new regime inevitably bwcomes as evil as the one it replaced.

  • Joel Slenk says:

    After reading pieces like this and all the “insightful” comments, I recommend renewing and re-centering one’s self by singing along with the beautiful hymn written 53 years ago by the Kinks. Just substitute the name Jesus for Lola. You’ll feel a little bit clearer and more hopeful afterward.

    I pushed her away, I walked to the door, I fell to the floor, I got down on my knees. Then looked her and she at me. ……
    Girls will be boys and boys and boys will be girls it’s mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world, except for LO/ Jesus, Je Je Je Je Jesus.

  • Jess says:

    Thank you for writing this. Jesus was not crucified for “third way” teaching but for threatening the powerful by claiming a foundational posture of inherent dignity for all, uplifting those being harmed in the “system” of his day.

    I really appreciated Paul Janssen’s post because it highlights a common ethical principle that is often missing in church debates- that not all voices/opinions automatically deserve equal weight in a decision. i.e. The Christian-influenced Declaration of Independence names a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness- but liberty and pursuit of happiness cannot undermine another’s right to life.

    A failure to name that different needs have different weights leaves us with much circular conversation, confuses the “moderates” (or those less invested/well-versed in the details of the conversation), leading to the inaction of good, Christian people even in the face of obvious harm. Lord have mercy on us. I echo Dominic Palacios’s prophetic warning cry, ” WE all have blood on our hands.”

  • For your consideration:
    Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian “Third Way” Changed the World. Gerald L. Sittser

  • Jeff Carpenter says:

    Interesting that both the progressives and the conservatives (or whatever labels you wish for each faction) have become strange bedfellows/partners in an alliance against the Third Way. That is one point they may agree on.

  • Nate says:

    For those who may be interested – Better Together – has published a more detailed explanation of the aim of our effort. If you’d like to hear a bit of a response to Steve’s critique you’re welcome to check it out:

  • Valerie Van Kooten says:

    I have a great deal of respect for those in Better Together who are doing what they can to promote unity, not uniformity. However, we all know what happens to the person in the middle of the road.

    The whole debate in the CRC on this issue was already decided when members of the committee who put together the Human Sexuality Report (HSR) were required to sign on as agreeing with the 1970s conclusions that Synod had come to. That’s kind of like appointing a jury but telling them that they must come to a pre-ordained verdict. I could not understand the fear–the earth-shaking fear–that would put this kind of structure into place.

    So, it was a done deal long ago. No surprises there.

  • Randy Buist says:

    Two decades ago, after half a life in the CRC, including day school, Calvin College, & seminary, I walked out. Zero regrets.

    The CRC theology of Calvin, Bavink, Kuiper, & others is profoundly good when taken as a whole. However, deep financial pockets & less thoughtful hermeneutics combined for the denomination having little good news for our broken world. Wealth & individualism became the theological norm.

    While we may not want to admit such, “Jesus And John Wayne” by Kristin DuMez’s account of the evangelical church mirrors the CRC & has a prophetic voice as well.

    Deep theological thoughtfulness is no longer leads the way. Deep convictions, regardless of their exegetical validity, are our new American norm. Ask the COVID or mask deniers, & you’ll have a deeply convicted person & congregation.

    The views from outside the CRC are glorious, & fully loving all of God’s people is freeing.

  • Joe Roots says:

    Dignity is the language of the soul—a universal understanding that transcends differences and connects us all.

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