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Less than 72 hours after I came out, an office bearer in the Christian Reformed Church, standing in the church lobby after worship, compared me to a child rapist.

A friend compared a recent date to murder and hasn’t spoken to me again. Days before my 30th birthday, a family member reached out unsolicited to tell me to end my relationship. A former teacher abruptly messaged me years after graduation to accuse me of attacking the church because I’m gay. A church member messaged me on Facebook out of the blue to urge me to pursue conversion therapy. I’ve experienced depression on and off for the last decade, and as recently as this year.

After two decades of Christian education, I still spend some days trying to convince myself of the refrain, “Jesus loves me.” And I am still working to reverse the shame and self-hate that stems from the ultimate message from the institutions that raised me: “You don’t belong.”

I know this is uncomfortable to read. It’s uncomfortable to share. But I tell you this because I want you to hear a real, candid view—not sanitized—of my experience over the last decade as a gay son of the denomination into which I was baptized and raised.

The Christian Reformed Church is my home. My dad is a CRCNA pastor. Several of my closest friends and mentors are ordained in this denomination. I launched my journalism career at The Banner. I earned my bachelor’s degree from Calvin University, the denomination-owned college, and I won the school’s young alumni award in 2021. Now, I wouldn’t be allowed to teach there, and I might never sit on its board.

Last summer, the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church elevated its opposition to same-sex marriage to confessional status—meaning all pastors, elders, deacons and even members must agree with it. This week, Synod 2023 will consider whether to reverse course or tighten the screws.

I never would have chosen to be attracted to men when I came out a decade ago. It took me a long time to accept it. But that deep desire for an intimate physical and emotional relationship with a man has always been part of who I am.

And I’m not alone: A recent Gallup poll finds that a remarkable 20 percent of Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ. That’s one in five. Put another way, in a group of just three Gen Z individuals—in your classroom, in your church, in your own immediate family—it’s more likely than not that at least one of them is LGBTQ.

Almost 40,000 Sunday school-aged children sit in our pews. That means there are thousands of children in our denomination who will one day come out. This is not a question “out there.” It’s us. In our churches. And in our families. It is only a matter of time before every congregation has a pastor or member with an LGBTQ child.

A friend recently told me that remaining in non-affirming places is like picking at a scab. We keep trying and trying to heal, but the wound stays open.

When I listen to the debate across our denomination, I’m angry that virtually all, if not all, of the voices I hear are straight. The actual, real lives of LGBTQ individuals in our denomination are often not even mentioned in conservative calls for clarity or moderate demands for good manners. Do you realize we have chased away most of the people who are actually affected by our church’s position? You have nearly chased me away, too. When is the last time you heard an LGBTQ voice in the CRCNA conversation on same-sex marriage?

Are you listening to what we are saying?

Four in 10 LGBTQ young people want to kill themselves. I have been there. When their lives hang in the balance—when my life hangs in the balance—what are you going to tell them? What will you tell me?

No questions. That’s confessional status.

A young person in your congregation might someday come to you, tears in their eyes, to reveal that they are LGBTQ—perhaps your own child. Are we really prepared to tell them that they aren’t allowed to go back to Scripture and wonder whether God might allow them the loving, monogamous relationship into which they feel so deeply called?

No questions. That’s confessional status.

What would you do if you personally were LGBTQ? I know it’s hard to imagine. If you found yourself attracted only to the same sex at 16 years old, would you read our synodical reports and make a once-and-for-all decision to stay single for the next six decades? Or would you consider leaving the church you love?

No questions. That’s confessional status.

We are so much better than this embarrassment that has unleashed procedural chaos in our denomination, forced hundreds of office bearers underground, sparked witch hunts among pastors and denominational employees, and, most importantly, driven LGBTQ individuals like me away from Christ’s love and toward despair and isolation.

We cannot let our LGBTQ children in CRCNA congregations become casualties in a culture war fought by church leaders for whom our same-sex relationship debate is little more than a fun hobby or a way to get subscribers on YouTube. It’s a disgrace that some ordained ministers in our denomination treat my belonging in my church like a football game that demands their color commentary. Our LGBTQ children will not have the luxury of traveling home from synodical summits and resuming day-to-day life with virtually no meaningful change.

That’s why it’s not enough to share empty platitudes about dialogue when the denomination has shown more interest in excommunicating me than listening to anything I have to say. It’s not enough to pat each other on the back for playing nice during conversations about whether to kick me out of the church. And it’s not enough to lament the spirit of our disagreement when LGBTQ people like me aren’t even allowed a seat at the table to try to make it better.

For decades, Synod has repeatedly passed resolutions repenting for its treatment of LGBTQ people. When I think about my own experience and our denomination today, I find it hard to believe they were anything but perfunctory. We can do better.

This year will mark 50 years since the Christian Reformed Church last opened itself to the possibility of any new biblical interpretations on same-sex marriage. But the legacy of our denomination is courageous, thoughtful engagement with culture—not dropping the ecclesial hammer on anyone who disagrees.

Our denomination has some of the most brilliant academic Christian minds in the world. Why are we so afraid to take another real look at this?

Martin Luther and John Calvin emphatically opposed forced celibacy for priests, not only on theological grounds, but because it realistically just doesn’t work. Luther called it “simply impossible” and said it “inevitably” results in “secret sin.” Calvin wrote that it “plunged many souls into the gulf of despair.” Is our position doing the same thing now?

I believe we can love God, love Scripture, and support same-sex marriage. Marriage is an overarching theme of Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation. I find it entirely insufficient to quote any of the seven so-called “clobber passages” and assert a “clear” traditional position. But I also find it insufficient to play whack-a-mole with those same passages and claim victory if we are able to find a way to sidestep all of them. We need a more robust hermeneutic.

In the old covenant, God’s family grew through procreation. Now, in the new covenant, God’s family grows through the Great Commission. So what significance does procreation have now in a world that has been redeemed through the incarnate birth of Jesus Christ? What is the importance of sexual difference when Christ’s death and resurrection have revealed to us the mystery of the relationship between Christ and the church? Can we wonder whether the work of Jesus Christ turns the page from the “fall” section of Romans 1 into the “redemption” section of Romans 3—and God’s promise of free justification through grace?

Our eschatological direction does not point us toward creation, but new creation. We are not headed back to Genesis. Can we take Christ’s creation-fall-redemption rubric from Matthew 19 and Paul’s inclusive, unitive vision in Galatians 3:28, and wonder whether sexual difference might no longer play an essential role in the already-but-not-yet of Christ’s redemptive work in the world? Could the power of Christ’s resurrection be enough to redeem all of creation—even loving, covenantal relationships that look different than Adam and Eve did?

On January 12, 1992, a CRCNA congregation made a promise to me: “Do you promise to love, encourage, and support Ryan by teaching the gospel of God’s love, by being an example of Christian faith and character, and by giving the strong support of God’s family in fellowship, prayer, and service?” “We do, God helping us.”

Even more importantly, with omniscient knowledge of my sexual orientation and the events of my life from birth to death, God sealed that promise to adopt me into God’s family, too. Nineteen years ago today, I accepted those promises in my own profession of faith.

Was there an asterisk?

The thousands of baptized LGBTQ children now in our pews will one day grow up and come out—and no denominational gag order or synodical intimidation is going to stop them.

I believe my partner makes me more like Jesus. The companionship, love and self-sacrifice I find in that covenantal relationship makes my life better. And I believe that God and Scripture bless that relationship. I know some CRCNA members who believe the same thing. I know some who don’t. And I know some CRCNA members whose own children or grandchildren are prompting them to begin to wonder about it.

The denomination must be willing to wonder with them.

Synod 2023 must reverse confessional status. And then, we must finally look again at Scripture and ask ourselves whether we can find room in our denomination for me and the LGBTQ children in our churches who are not far behind.

Ryan Struyk

Ryan Struyk is a member of the Christian Reformed Church of Washington, D.C. He graduated from Calvin University in 2014, and he won the school’s young alumni award in 2021. He is a former Banner news correspondent, and he was member of a CRCNA synodical study committee to provide pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage. He was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He works as a television news producer.

108 Comments

  • Ryan,
    I can’t imagine your pain. If you ever need a place to take communion and be accepted during worship please come to North Jersey and visit us at Clinton Avenue Reformed Church.

    May God bless you and heal you, my brother.

    Mark William Ennis

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    Ryan,
    There is room in the church for you and your partner and all LGBTQ+ folk, even if not quite yet in the CRCNA.
    I am so sorry for the way you were treated, and still are treated. That is not the way of Christ, but I think you know that.
    Thank you for your vulnerability and courage. I hope the CRCNA finds the same in its upcoming Synod, and as sad as it makes me to say it, the church is larger than the CRCNA. And you belong in the Church. God bless you in your walk of faith.
    “Jesus loves you. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

  • Daniel Alberts says:

    Kudos to you Ryan for having the tenacity to stand your ground while remaining within the CRC. And thanks for saying what is somehow still so hard for people to accept: that sexual orientation is not something we chose, and that the real crime is the effect the CRC’s closed-minded theology will have on children, their mental health, and spiritual well-being. Happy pride month, anyway.

  • Julia Smith says:

    THANK YOU, Ryan, for this powerful plea. Much love to you, and strength for the coming weeks. 🏳️‍🌈❤️

  • Scott Hoezee says:

    It stuns me–no matter what a person’s views or convictions may be–that friends, teachers, and family members have just ended their relationship and ties with you. One person has not and that is Jesus who has placed his Spirit in you as evidenced by your sizeable spiritual gifts and by the consistent growth of the Fruit of the Spirit in your life. I know people who find those clear marks of the Spirit in you to be inexplicable and thus many bracket it out for convenience. I hope your courageous testimony here might give more than a little pause to such bracketing.

  • Claudia Beversluis says:

    Thank you Ryan for adding your precious voice here – may it contribute to changed hearts and minds. I so admire you and your heart. Your deep concern for the young people growing up should be shared by us all. My prayers and advocacy are with you, especially in these next weeks.

  • Janna Boes says:

    Your courage and eloquence are heart-warming. I hope that you know that there are at least a few CRC churches that believe as you do, and would welcome you and your partner with open arms into membership and full participation. You are a treasure.

  • Ruth Boven says:

    I echo Julia’s words, Ryan. Thank you!! Strength and peace to you in the coming weeks and so much joy to you along your future path. The CRC needs your voice but I’m afraid will continue to shut it out.

  • Ann Mary Dykstra says:

    Yours is a voice that needs to be heard. Thanks for speaking out. Best wishes to you and your partners.
    “Nothing for us without us.”

  • Jen Holmes Curran says:

    Thank you so much for writing and for sharing your experience. This is beautiful and compelling.

  • Joyce Looman Kiel says:

    Thank you Ryan for your honesty.and vulnerability in speaking out with a voice that needs to be heard. I especially appreciated your reminding us (me) of the promises made by the congregation (me) at your and all baptisms. There is no *.
    My 50+ year old daughter was baptized in the Reformed Church. She is gay. She has turned to Buddhism partly in response to the churches shame and condemnation. And partly because I did the same. I have since listened to her story — very similar to your pain with God’s eyes and grace and now believe there is no * to God’s love. She has forgiven me. May Synod 2023 listen to your story with God’s grace as well.

  • Henry Hess says:

    Hi Ryan – It’s been a long time, and I’m profoundly saddened to learn of your painful journey, but I am proud to call you friend and happy that you remain a part of this church. We need you.

  • Louanne Winkle says:

    Ryan, my heart aches for you and all other LGBTQ people who have been so hurt by the church and beyond. I stand behind you and I want to thank you for speaking, writing, and living as God calls you to. I continue to see people dig into scripture, study, and rethink what they were taught “as truth” and arrive at a different understanding. That gives me hope as a member of the CRC.

  • RZ says:

    Thank you Ryan. Your story is more helpful than years of debate! And thanks for bringing up Luther and Calvin, two supreme biblicists and two individuals I apparently do not appreciate enough for humility. Somehow though, even 500 years ago, they seemed to recognize that some things are neither defined nor regulated by exegesis of scripture. Sola what?

  • Duane Kelderman says:

    Thank you Ryan. It used to be that a cry of the heart like this one was met with respect and silence. God help us.

  • Janice Zuidema says:

    Thank you for speaking with painfilled honesty about your personal journey. There are no words that make up for a lifetime of feeling judged instead of affirmed. My prayer is that Synod does exactly what you have suggested: reverse the confessional status and go back to the Bible to find a sustainable way for all to thrive in our denomination.

  • Dale Hulst says:

    Thank you Ryan for your thoughtful, direct challenge.
    That Gallop poll stat you quoted is striking! https://news.gallup.com/poll/389792/lgbt-identification-ticks-up.aspx
    So yeah, will the CRC excommunicate 20% of the folks who grow up in the church?
    How much pain will be caused? (and how many lives will be lost?! ugh!!!)

    Your call to listen to Christian LGBTQ voices is spot on. My own journey included the writings of Justin Lee, Karen Keen, Gregory Coles, Matthew Vines, Wesley Hill, Bridget Rivera, and two of my daughters who have graciously walked with my wife and I in the four years since they came out. They have a YouTube channel where they share their journey and insights quite compellingly (at least for me at their dad!). https://www.youtube.com/@joeyanddana7579/videos

    Thanks again for your challenge for all of to listen, and to synod to reverse confessional status and make room for our LGBTQ members.

  • Jen Settergren says:

    I shed tears thinking about all of the pain that has been unnecessarily inflicted on you by the church and others. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for holding us accountable. I pray that you will never again wonder if Jesus loves you. Without question, we know he does because the Bible tells us so.

  • Aron Reppmann says:

    Ryan, thank you. I hope that the Synod 2023 delegates and advisors who read this and listen to your voice are moved to take it with them to the floor of Synod.

  • Ellen Van’t Hof says:

    Ryan,
    My heart is broken. Thank you for your eloquent and powerful statement.

  • EMILY JANE STYLE says:

    Thank you, Ryan, for speaking from the heart of your life experience and for inviting the CRC as an institution to navigate this moment with loving awareness. I am among the GLBTQ folks – of all ages & across the ages – who have learned about the complex realities of home & belonging via a CRC & Calvin College upbringing. What a time in history we are navigating – for deepening our listening to each other. And connecting our CRC dots with the work of historian Heather Cox Richardson (among others). I – for one – am reading these Reformed Journal words of yours – alongside her June 4, 2023 epistle about Patriarch Kirill, Putin, Orban, Poland, Tiananmen Square, Israelis, Sudan, DeSantis, and Churchill. May the (always re-forming) CRC of today be-come a place where hope & history rhyme. Thank you again, Ryan, for speaking from both your heart & your head about matters that matter.

  • Molly McHenry says:

    Thank you Ryan for your words! The othering I have felt as a queer Christian has brought me closer to Jesus. While the church may want to abandon me/us Jesus never will. Being pushed to the margins due to homophobia has given me insight on what it means to love your enemy and to see the face of Jesus in “the least of these”. Jesus initially brought his message of love to those on the margins, he chose the outcast time and time again to amplify this message of radical love. He spoke truth to the dominant and oppressive power structure of his day. It saddens me that today in the US the dominant and oppressive power structure is often the Christian church itself. Sending love and prayers your way friend!

  • Jim Loomis says:

    I was once an Elder in the RCA, so I hope that gives some credence to what I have to say. If we believe that the Bible is the word of God, then isn’t it a bit presumptuous for us to interpret parts of the Bible as “covenantal?“ Surely God’s vision and infinite power is greater than our little minds’ Interpretation of it. Turning something into “covenantal” is a bit like me praying that God will shower “blessings” upon Putin and then having the audacity to tell God what kind of “blessings” Putin needs, which I am all too prone to do.

    • Susie Dutch girl says:

      You are misguided and totally wrong. I feel sorry for anyone(perhaps your own child) who dares to tell you who they really are. The CRC continues to lose members because of people like you who apparently do not understand Jesus’ teachings and how unchristian your actions are. You should be the one repenting.

  • Christy Berghoef says:

    Ryan, your ache is palpable, and I’m so sorry for the hurt you and so many have experienced. I speak as one who used to be part of the condemning chorus. It’s absolutely gutting to read your words. I appreciate you sharing bits of your personal story. We need to hear the stories! Stories have always been the thing to change me. Spirit moves in story.

    I’m certain you know this deep inside yourself, but it can’t be said enough: God’s expansive love and wide open arms encompass you even when the institution that bears God’s name fails to do so. There is always room for you at God’s table even when the table of the institution is blocked and barricaded to you.

    The world has witnessed the institution fail to live up to the great commission throughout history again and again, participating in and even promoting the condemnation and oppression of various people groups- so certain it was being pure and righteous in doing so, regardless of how clearly absurd and awful this behavior is retrospectively.

    May God have mercy on the church when it so carelessly and recklessly brings harm to God’s beloved. May God fill all our bones with conviction to stand in solidarity rather than slink into a desire to stay comfortable and cater to a false peace. May you feel the Lord shine his face upon you even as you bear the blows of a hateful and unloving response.

    I stand with you. You are loved. You are celebrated.

  • Sharon says:

    Thank you for speaking out Ryan. I care deeply for the young people we have sent away from the church.
    Blessings to you and your partner.

  • Henry Baron says:

    Thank you, Ryan, for voicing your painful journey and your steadfast faith.
    May it encourage many other voices from the LGBTQ faith community to share their story and touch our hearts and deepen our understanding of the all-inclusive love of Jesus.

    • EMILY JANE STYLE says:

      Dear Professor Baron (of my time at Calvin College), I’m going to accept your encouragement to share some of my GLBTQ story via a poem – which I have invited the Reformed Journal to publish – but so far – the time has not yet ripened for that to happen. So I will paste it in here. With respect for how “Spirit moves in story,” as Christy Berghoef so succinctly phrased it.

      Heavenly Conversation

      Six months after my mother died,
      I sat across from my [CRC] father
      in their living room

      To say out loud
      that I was amiably
      divorcing my long-time husband
      to live with my long-time
      lesbian friend

      My father said
      Your mother would never
      have approved—
      and you’re going to hell

      I said—this is how I think about it, Dad

      If you get to heaven
      before I do—
      and I never show up—
      it will be okay
      it will be heaven

      And if I get to heaven
      before you do—
      I promise you
      when you show up
      I will not say
      I told you so

      And I wouldn’t anyway
      it will be heaven

      © Emily Jane VandenBos Style, 2000/2020
      —previously published in Paterson Literary Review

      • Julia Smith says:

        Thank you for sharing this poignant and moving poem, Emily. Your gracious response speaks volumes. You are loved.

      • Lynn says:

        This poem is raw and stunning. Thank you for sharing.
        Lynn Mudde

      • Hilda says:

        Thanks for sharing your poem. It was gut wrenching. I hope your father has come to accept you and live you for who you are.

        • EMILY JANE STYLE says:

          Hilda, thank you for reading and responding. My Dad died in 2019; lord only knows all the learning he has come to understand in the land of love that heaven is. What a goodness to know that he and we too are held in God’s wide hands from birth to death and beyond. And so it behooves us to hold each other. In abundant cross-generational love. May Synod 2023 work to further align with love, which is ongoingly the heart of the matter.

          • Henry Baron says:

            Thanks for “telling” the painful story of your father’s rejection.
            You reflect the Father’s unconditional love in your own.
            Through you may many more feel encouraged to share the story the Church Family needs to hear.

  • “I’m so sorry” seems paltry indeed. But I truly am! How have we so pitifully lost our way with the gospel of grace?

  • Ken Baker says:

    Thank you for your courage and your faithfulness, Ryan. I lament deeply that I cannot thank my denomination for the same.

  • Lynn Mudde says:

    Ryan,
    I do not know how to adequately express my deep respect and gratitude for your articulate and deeply vulnerable words. Your voice matters to so many of us.

    You are a GIFT. You are without a doubt God’s Idea, created for Their purposes. You, as you are, bring delight and hope and understanding to those of us who know nothing personally of the harm the church has inflicted. I am humbled to read your words.

    Two of my three children identify as members of the LGBTQ community, and I have learned so much more about God and Their creativity, Their Love for Their children through my queer children and their spouses than I have ever learned from the church.

    Thank you. Grace and peace to you and your partner. My prayer for you both is that you continue to flourish in your relationship and in your faith, and in a congregation that no longer makes it a “sport” to deliberate over your validity and worthiness.

    Much love and respect,
    Lynn Mudde

  • Suki says:

    Dear Ryan,
    Thank you for being so straightforward and brave with your statements. To say I am sorry for the way you have been treated isn’t enough. But, I pray, with you, that synod will reverse the decision of last year and fully accept all its children–those we promised to love, accept and pray for. May God continue to bless and keep you.

  • Phyllis Mulder Roelofs says:

    Ryan, thank you immensely for your much needed contribution to the Reformed Journal today. I am grateful that many Christ followers are accepting of same sex marriage. The secrecy, isolation, and negativity toward LBGTQ+ persons takes its toll emotionally and spiritually on them and we who love them. My youngest sister died unexpectedly nearly a year ago. She and her female partner were together for twenty-two years before marrying nearly a decade ago. As her sibling I lament that some family members are not accepting of same sex relationships and certainly not same sex marriage. I do not believe that when my sister died, her infant baptism and teen profession of faith in the CRC were negated due to her sexual orientation and marital status. Yes, we can and must do better at bearing witness that all persons are created in God’s image, are worthy of Christ’s love and acceptance, and therefore ours.

  • Dawn Fennema says:

    Dear Ryan,
    Thank you for writing your story so wrought with pain and honesty. Our denomination has failed you and I only hope and pray that your voice is heard, welcomed, and responded to.

  • Dawn Fennema says:

    Dear Ryan,
    Thank you for writing your story so wrought with pain and honesty. Our denomination has failed you and I only hope and pray that your voice is heard, welcomed, and validated. You poignantly write what needs to be said.

  • Jill Fenske says:

    I am reminded of the Old Testament prophets, speaking truth to power and then having to bear the weight of their anger ( fear) as they turned away from them. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
    Certainly it is hard for you to rejoice and be glad, but know that there are those who hear your words as a call for God’s church to repent and turn around.

  • Joanie Rosema says:

    Ryan, you are a child of God and a GIFT to the CRC, and to the church universal, from God. I thank God for you and I thank you for your voice and your faith. I first heard of you while reading Jonathan Karl’s book written when he was the Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News and where he described you in over-the-top glowing terms. I have kept up with you ever since and pray that you somehow sense and know that you will always be a child of the covenant and loved by so many.

  • David Hoekema says:

    Ryan, your testimony is simply beautiful, told with grace and love for the church despite its blindness. I can’t imagine how you can be so patient!

  • Sheryl L Mulder says:

    Thank you, Ryan. You are a much needed voice and I only hope and pray it will be voices like yours that can change the hearts and minds of those claiming “it’s confessional status”.

  • William Jensen says:

    Ryan, thank you for sharing your story and challenging the church. These are words we need to hear.

  • Joel Slenk says:

    Thank you for this article. It stirred empathy for everyone you mentioned –

    I have empathy for you and the well meaning yet misguided people referenced in your second paragraph.

    Empathy for myself – a straight men who treats this issue exactly like a football color commentator.

    I empathize with that congregation in 1992, that made a perfunctory promise to you, not realizing that that promise came with underlying suppositions and expectations.

    Empathy for the LGBQ community who suffers cruel rejection and then after suffering enough wounds and injustices fights back with fury and insists on unyielding acceptance and assimilation.

    Empathy for the future generation, who will be left to do the repair and reconstruction with the insufficient methods and tools we will leave to them.

    • Scott Hoezee says:

      Joel, well-meaning people say dumb things at funeral homes after a child dies like “God needed another angel in heaven.” Well-meaning people do not tell someone they are turning their backs on them for life because of who they are. That’s not well meaning. It’s just mean. And if any congregation makes baptismal vows or vows at a Profession of Faith in a “perfunctory” way without realizing what is being promised, then shame on them especially in the face of one of the holy sacraments of the Church. But to be honest, I don’t find anything particularly well-meaning or perfunctory about your comments here.

    • Susan Weikert says:

      Maybe a second look into the definition of empathy is in order as each of these empathy statements is filled with judgment. If we can leave the judgment to God and do as Jesus asked us, to love our neighbors as ourselves (no asterisks) the world would see what God wants them to in His people.

  • Jim VanderMolen says:

    Ryan – I really can’t say anything better than what’s already been said in the comments. Not because I lack eloquence, but because the mixture of empathy, pain, anger, grief, admiration, respect, joy, love, and pride I feel after reading your words leaves me…well, stirred beyond words. Please simply accept my deep appreciation and the silent outpourings of my heart.

  • Don Huizinga says:

    Thank you, Ryan, for your bold and vulnerable testimony! I pray God’s blessing upon you!
    Please, Lord, may we see justice and peace embrace?

  • Thank you Ryan, your forthright plea and the courage to put it in written word are so welcome at this time.

  • Tea-Lynn Van Dyk says:

    I admire you, Ryan.

    I admire you because I couldn’t hold out.

    I am a trans woman and a lesbian, and for all the good I’ve felt and experienced growing up in the CRC, the vitriol and reactions that I and my wife have received, as well as what I have witnessed my fellow LGBT community members go through – These things have driven me from my faith altogether.

    I was a deacon, an elder, I taught catechism, I worked in ministry and my wife taught in a Christian school. None of that made a difference. I’ve had well meaning, affirming Christians try to win me back, but in all honesty: The hurt has outweighed the joy, and I will not step foot in a church to worship again.

    I’m glad you’re able to withstand the storms of this bigotry and ignorance, and I hope your endeavor to turn the church toward acceptance sees fruit. I hope others reading this understand that these decisions and actions may not just drive people from the CRC, but from God altogether.

  • Thomas Goodhart says:

    Thank you. It was your statement, “Four in 10” followed by “I have been there.” Choked me up immediately. Terrible. And fostered by communities of faith… I hope the church is listening. Thank you for your vulnerability and authenticity. Much appreciated.

  • Marilyn Van Driesen says:

    Ryan, the Lord bless you and keep you.
    The Lord make His face to shine upon you
    And be gracious, and be gracious,
    The Lord be gracious unto you.
    Amen

  • Justin says:

    Grateful for your courage, integrity, and grace. I’m praying that we will listen well to each other’s experiences. And that you will experience appreciation and belonging in all of the spaces you inhabit. Grace and peace in the weeks ahead.

  • Jerry Postema says:

    Ryan,
    Thank you. I grieve with you for the pain of rejection. I grieve for the church when people have to step out of the church to meet Jesus on the street with his community of grace.
    My family lived through this pain in the 1940’s when the issue was divorce. It took our family ten years to safely return a church.
    My parents carried the message of grace throughout their life. I was saved by their gracious faith.
    God will use your testimony to reach those who need to meet Jesus even when many get lost in their opinions.
    Blessings through your journey,
    Jerry Postema

  • Mike Hoogeboom says:

    Dear Ryan,
    I remember the first time I heard you tell your story. You wrote your story for the materials for the delegates of Synod 2022. Thank you for once again writing about your pain. Every time you share your story you demonstrate faith, hope, and love.
    We need to do better.

  • David S. Koetje says:

    Thank you, Ryan. I pray that the Holy Spirit will use your eloquent and heartfelt words to inspire the church to commit to walking humbly together in a way that reflects Christ’s lavish love.

  • Char says:

    So proud to know you, Ryan. I am so sorry and shocked at the way you were treated in what should have been a safe and loving space. You are an inspiration to me and I am praying so hard that this synod decision will be reversed. I hope that you feel an overwhelming outpouring of love and support and an acknowledgement of what I have always known. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, a beloved child of God.

  • Dave Apol says:

    Thanks for your courage and eloquence,Ryan. I will carry this with me through Synod.

  • Joel DeMoor says:

    Amen, Ryan! I absolutely love how you shout the truth in love here. I also love your eschatological insights. You call the church back to love by pointing us forward!

  • Gil VandenHeuvel says:

    As a life long member of the CRC, multiple times an elder and deacon along with council chair I’ve recently realized im transgender at the age of 60. While technically a member in good standing im being shunned by the current leadership at my church. I’m blessed by many members as I become my authentic self and a much better person but why do so many not understand im a child of God just like them?

    Thank you for being our voice.

    • Geneva Langeland says:

      Congratulations, Gil! I’m so glad to hear that members of your community are encircling you with the love and support you deserve. Living into your truth can be a daunting thing, especially in today’s climate, but the more of us who can be our authentic selves in the world, the better. Stay strong and thrive!

  • Sara Bos says:

    Ryan, I’ve told you before— you inspire me to be a better person. A better Christian. Thank you for the hard, hard work you do just existing in this denomination. I support you if you want to stay. I support you if you need to go.
    I love you. Jesus loves you. *

    *Nothing to see here.

  • Ralph and Ann Fluit says:

    Thank you Ryan for sharing your story so beautifully and courageously, you speak for so many who do not have a voice!
    We pray for change to come quickly!
    God bless you!

    • EMILY JANE STYLE says:

      Ralph and Ann Fluit, echoing your response. Ryan, thank you again for your leadership voice on the page. The personal is political; the political is personal. In the CRC and plenty of other places as well.

      May there be “knowing ears” as Synod 2023 convenes. Here’s to the poetry of it all! With gratitude for Naomi Shihab Nye’s wisdom.

      “You Have to Be Careful” -Naomi Shihab Nye
      You have to be careful telling things
      Some ears are tunnels.
      Your words will go in and get lost in the dark.
      Some ears are flat pans like the miners used
      looking for gold.
      What you say will be washed out like the stones.
      You look a long time till you find the right ears.
      Till then, there are birds and lamps to be spoken to,
      a patient cloth rubbing shine in circles,
      and the slow, gradually growing possibility
      that when you find such ears,
      they already know.

  • Paul says:

    This post broke me.

    And it makes me furious that there is a militant wing of the CRC that would read this, feel nothing, and continue in their descent to radical fundamentalism, dragging the rest of the CRC down with them.

  • Mark S. Hiskes says:

    Ryan,
    Let the fact that almost every response here is encouraging give you comfort. Your essay and the responses give me hope. Your words were honest, true, inspiring, and eloquent. Thank you!

  • Elsa Fennema says:

    Thank you, Ryan, for your willingness to be vulnerable to us all. Your pain is palpable. May those going to Synod 2023 take this with them and hear your words. I take comfort in knowing there are voices like yours for all the many children who want to share their story and pain but cannot. May this give them strength and courage. May it also give the CRCNA a reason to rethink, review and restore grace to the many who no longer feel welcome by revoking the decision of 2022. It is up to us, the many, to stand and speak strongly even when our voice shakes.
    If you come to Chicago, you are welcome in our home and our church. Hope CRC of Oak Forest, IL.

  • Sandra Siegfried says:

    Thank you!

  • jess andrews says:

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Valerie Van Kooten says:

    About ten years ago, Room for All (the RCA’s organization working for full inclusion in the church) put out a series of videos called “Body and Soul: We Belong.” They’re all excellent, but the one that brought me to my knees was the second one on baptism.

    https://roomforall.com/body-and-soul-we-belong/

  • Robert Otte says:

    Thank you, Ryan. We share your pain. I now have difficulty saying I am CRC. I am praying the current Synod will correct the awful error of the last.

  • Judy Otte says:

    I am so proud to have had you as a student.

  • Glenda Buteyn says:

    God to Ryan: Well done, good and faithful servant!
    God to the CRC: What were you thinking?

  • Susie Dutch girl says:

    To Ryan and others who wrote here: I too find it very sad to read your stories and to read how people in the church/denomination have hurt you.
    However, I want to give you the most important guidance anyone can give you – LEAVE THE CRC! Immediately! The church we grew up with is full of nasty mean people who will continue to say terrible things to you and to hurt your feelings. There are many churches/denominations with similar Christian beliefs who accept everyone and will welcome you with open arms! Go where you are wanted. Go where you can celebrate diversity. Go where you feel appreciated. Go where you are accepted no matter who you are.
    It’s important for your self esteem that you leave such a negative place of worship. There are some really good churches out there. The CRC is losing members and this is part of why that’s happening. I’m not gay, but I wanted a diverse, accepting, positive church home and leaving the negative CRC was the best decision I could ever make.
    Take good care of yourself!

  • Jan Bakker says:

    I’m simply amazed at how many people think they can change what scripture says. Do they think they know better or can reconstruct the bible. We all are sinners and all of us are called to repent be reborn and renew our lives not make excuses. The apostle Paul clearly identifies what the underlying problem is and the consequences thereof when men refuse to listen to the creator .Paul further strongly warns of what happens to unrepentant sinners in Corinthians 6:9. The church is in dire straits when they stray from the word and want changes to suite their “itching ears” .High time to reform our wayward paths and reestablish the true course set out for believers !

  • anonymous - it doesn't matter says:

    There is a reason only one even remotely dissenting comment was made… And the reply to that comment makes it pretty obvious why nobody dare present the slightest hint of questioning the statements made in the article.

    While the treatment of individuals and communities within the church is often very poor, that doesn’t necessarily mean the theology is wrong – it might be just badly, or lazily applied.

    There are quite a number of logical fallacies and straw man assumptions made by the writer. And there is a consitant and glaring error that all Christians tend to make in applying scripture to their lives that runs all the way through. That error is made in answering this question: Do we read the Bible through the lens of culture, or do we read culture through the lens of the Bible? Answer that question is incorrectly, and there will never be clarity when interpreting scripture.

    • Bee says:

      It’s not possible for us to read scripture without a lens of culture. There is no such thing as a totally neutral reading of any scripture.

  • Thank you for writing and sharing this. I hope many more people (continue to) read this.

  • Bonnie says:

    Yes, the delegates to the CRCNA synod will need much prayer to come to a decision that honors and glorifies all of God’s attributes according to the context of His divine revelation in the entire Bible. There is no middle ground or compromise to be had. The only winner will be Satan who once again will succeed by dividing a denomination and instigating an exodus of those from one side or the other who cannot go against their convictions.

    I believe in a Father God who created everything and declared it to be good. Then he set a boundary with a command for Adam and Eve because of His love for them. When they stepped out of that boundary and disobeyed they were profoundly affected by the consequences. They stepped away from the life God had designed for them. When we step away from what He has told us would be the most excellent way to live, we suffer for it. We all do it and that is called sin. We all have a myriad of reasons to fall on our face before Him in repentance. From personal experience I know when He commands me to forgive and I don’t, I step away from His plan for me and deal with the consequences. When He tells me to be a servant and I choose to put myself first, I step away from what He knows is best for me and I deal with the consequences.

    The Holy Spirit is convicting me of my choice to be apathetic or even condone others as they step out of the boundaries God has made. By not pointing them towards what He has designed as best for us in all areas of our lives and by not encouraging them to walk in it, I am failing to love them as God tells me to. I believe the Bible tells us of the beauty of a sexual relationship in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. I’m not a militant hater of people and I don’t have this insatiable desire to stomp all over others because of my convictions. This does involve people who have chosen a homosexual lifestyle that I know and love, and my heart aches for all those who continue to struggle even in their choices that they thought would bring happiness and peace. I have heard that the suicide rate for those who deal with sexual issues/identities has not decreased as society has become ever more accepting, but is actually on the rise. I know of my own struggle when I choose to step out of God’s boundaries and let the devil steal the abundant life that Jesus so desires for me. (John 10) Could that be what is happening?

    I am sorry for how some have treated you. They, too, were stepping out of God’s more excellent way. Jesus called us to love one another as He loves us. It appears to me that for people–on both sides of this–it is not nearly as difficult to follow God’s directive to act justly for a cause they are passionate about as it is to love mercy and walk humbly with those they don’t agree with.

    To any who have read through to the end of my comment I thank you for that and for listening to my heart.

    • Susan Weikert says:

      We call ourselves Christians for a reason. We follow Christ. The first and great commandment is to Love the the Lord our God with all our heart and the second is like unto it. Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus did not say our command was to judge each other, to enforce the scriptures. If we place our focus where Jesus directed, on love, then it seems that both sides could live their truth.

  • Sarah Pantinga says:

    Thank you, Ryan, for sharing your heart with us. And for sticking around, because without a doubt the CRC is stronger with you as a member.

  • EMILY JANE STYLE says:

    Professor Henry Baron, thanks for listening! As Christy Lubbers Berghoef has reminded us—via this thread: Spirit lives in Story. Indeed, may our capacity to listen – deepen evermore. Such a learning channel, listening can be.

  • Anonymous the second says:

    You pick one side or the other. Nobody will listen to the other. There is no middle ground anymore. The Church is DEAD. We have collectively been able to crucify Christ again. May he somehow, someway, forgive all of us for what we have done to his bride. Meanwhile, I think it is easier to just be an Atheist.

  • Dennis H says:

    I have never met Ryan Struyk, but I‘ve respected and admired his work from afar for many years. This essay breaks my heart; sadly, I also found it all-too-relatable.

    I was born and raised in the CRC but left in 2002, so I will not comment on this or any year‘s CRC Synod. But I will say that I have benefitted greatly from examining my institutional loyalties over time, and my decision to “move on” from hereditary church membership and support of denominational educational institutions has served me well.

  • Rebecca Arens Alford says:

    The CRC has no idea how traumatizing it is to relive decades of trauma and abuse inflicted in the name of the church. Queer people don’t owe you their story, their trauma, or an education. It’s utterly exhausting to hear our humanity debated year after year.

    Now that you’ve read Ryan’s heartbreaking story, what are you going to do for the LGBTQIA+ community? Your thoughts and prayers are not enough.

  • P.L. VanTil says:

    Hmmm. The condescending, pro-LGBT and anti-biblical platitudes regarding sexuality as followers of our Lord, sadly, eliminates and disregards the many biblical texts forbidding the activities of the LGBT crowd. It appears that the word of God through his prophets and disciples has become a cafeteria in which to dangerously pass over God’s commands and our savior’s teaching of those laws in favor of secular disobedience to our creator. What is next in the CRC? Acceptance of ongoing adulterous affairs? Somewhere along the road of obedience to our God and recognizing sexual sins outlined in both the old and new testaments a growing group has all but forgotten what Jesus said to the woman at the well upon forgiving her for her acts of adultery and her acceptance of God’s grace and love through our Messiah, “Go and sin no more.” Christ wasn’t expecting her, or us, to live a sinless, perfect life. However, he was, undoubtedly, speaking of immoral sexual sins. The word of God and his commands to and expectations from us is the same today as then when our Lord was among us in the flesh. Pray for Christ’s church rather than traveling the sinful , easy road of secularism.

  • Ashley says:

    As I left Synod sobbing yesterday, my 4 year old son was concerned, especially if people were being mean. We talked, but hear what he said and take comfort.
    “It’s gonna be okay because Jesus has a big, big heart and it’s big enough for everybody”
    Hearing that, I feel like as a parent, my work here is done.

  • Dave Buter says:

    Ryan, thank you for your beautifully expressed testimony. Thoughtful, theologically gifted leaders of the CRC have expressed conflicting positions on this question based on their interpretation of scripture. Reasonable minds differ, and it is indeed arrogant for some to suggest that one side has honored scripture while the other has succumbed to culture. It is for this reason that granting confessional status to the conclusions of the HSR is so tragic, and will lead to many more painful stories described by Ryan.

    • Tom says:

      It would seem the opinion expressed here is that
      – the best minds/leaders in the CRC are all right, in their own way
      – the only reasonable thing for Synod to do is declare a stalemate; it is arrogant to side with one set of leaders (and truth claims) over the other set
      – that, alongside rejecting a number of worldviews, a far more damaging by-product of this arrogance is that real people (for example, Ryan) will settle on narratives of pain, rightly blaming Synod for that pain.
      My three-point summary of this argument (which I hope accurately reflects the argument itself) strikes me as one less informed by (i.e., less honoring of) Scripture, and more the outcome of wishing to remain in-step with culture. I haven’t got an opinion as to whether everyone who opposes the HSR has succumbed to culture. But there is nothing counter-cultural in the summary I’ve given here of one person’s argument.

  • Susan Weikert says:

    Ryan,
    Beautiful! My heritage is in the Reformed church and I agonize over the diminishing numbers of our denominations and others nationwide. The CRC has a gem in you; young, brilliant, educated, committed to the denomination, eloquent as well as the background of experience you have already acquired. They are ready to throw how many committed Christians out of their diminishing numbers because they are unable to allow God to be in charge. Even if they cannot ever come to an understanding that accepts Gods love for the LGBTQ community, why can’t they leave it to Him to be the judge? Why do they feel the need to do that job for Him? My prayer is that Synod will agree to leave it to God to make the judgements; whether it be extramarital affairs in heterosexual marriages or whatever else Synod determines sexual sin and make it their job to show the world God’s love!

  • Donald Kooy says:

    It is obvious you do not believe the Bible is authoritative and innerant. If you did you would know you are a sinner and in need of a savior. Jesus spoke with grace and truth. His truth is found in the Bible. I ask you to repent and believe. You need help and not from those who do not believe scripture to be true. There are many who call evil good and good evil. The devil is working hard to corrupt the church because he has the world. Let’s stand and be faithful to our God and his word.

  • Tom says:

    I’m not sure I understand the meaning of “spirit lives in story,” mentioned in a post above. Here is a guess:

    It is common in our youth to start out believing the Bible passages at face value: sexual activity with members of one’s own sex runs counter to God’s will and purpose. Speaking from the heterosexual perspective, we encounter people–often it is dear loved ones–who describe it as a horrible struggle to live without sexual intimacy, that is unfair that one group can have the intimacy they seek, while another group cannot. They simply don’t believe a loving God, as embodied in Jesus, intends for them to struggle this way, and they do not intend to. Some listeners become convinced by force of such stories, along with some doctrinal work-arounds that, whatever else, leave one with a sense one can critique other sections of the Bible, as well. Some others–and this second group does include some same-sex-attracted people–think they’ve just witnessed a reworking of the Bible by the Spirit of the Age. It’s two groups, followers of two religions at this point. God help us!

    Yes, story is powerful. But how do any of us know which spirit of power lives in any particular story?

  • Tom says:

    Ryan’s appeal, in so far as it moves past his personal agony, amounts to disbelieving the relevance of Scriptural passages as applied to monogamous same-sex relationships, and believing that the New Covenant somehow has altered the goals of being fruitful and multiplying. It provides a “bone”, a bit of rationality to undergird the feminine urge to be empathic, to be willing to drop whatever theological burdens we carry so as to embrace this hurting (yes, albeit successful and acclaimed) young man.

    He is clear, however, what embracing him must entail. He will have a same-sex partner of his choosing, and he will participate fully in the life of the church. Period. The treatment of active same-sex-attracted people in monogamous relationships must allow this, and must be backed up with true appreciation of such individuals not in spite of their sexual behavior, but embracing it as normative. The episodes Ryan relates of reactions since his coming out sound harsh though, of course, the parties involved haven’t been given an opportunity to describe, from their points of view, what occurred. Yet, I suspect better examples of the practice of church discipline–one of the things Ryan’s church pledged to provide at his baptism–would be equally offensive to him.

  • Tom says:

    Bonnie and Susan have both expressed a gospel. Whether you agree with Bonnie or not, hers is a gospel that neither seems ignorant of the two great commandments (Matt. 22: 37-40), nor limited, as if everything else is irrelevant. Susan’s good news sounds a whole lot like the rest of the Bible was unnecessary. Let’s just be kind to everyone, and that will honor God.

  • Calvin Davey says:

    The comments expressed here supporting and condoning homosexuality reflects the sad and pathetic state the church is in. Thank you all for reminding me how glad I am that I dud not get heavily involved in a CRC church that my wife and I attended a few months.I make no apologies for this

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