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I did not attend or watch the CRC synod of 2023. I anticipated that I could not bear to do so.

I have been a devoted lifelong member of the Christian Reformed Church, nurtured in the faith and educated by it, especially by the Kuyperian neo-Calvinist strand within the CRC. I have spent my career as a philosopher articulating, expanding, and defending the neo-Calvinist vision of what it is to be a Christian in the world.

Nicholas Wolterstorff

Slowly I have come to the conviction that love and justice, in the context of responsible biblical interpretation, requires that the church extend the offer of marriage to couples who find themselves with a same-sex orientation.

The Human Sexuality Report, issued a few years ago and adopted by the CRC synod, implies that I am either a knave or a fool. The report repetitively declares it to be the clear teaching of Scripture that same-sex relationships, no matter in what form, are forbidden by God. Thereby it implies that those who espouse alternative views are either perverse or obtuse. Perverse, if they discern that Scripture teaches what the report claims it clearly teaches but refuse to acknowledge in public that it does so. Obtuse, if they do not discern that that is what Scripture teaches.

I hold that Scripture does not teach what the report says it teaches. The implication is that I am obtuse.

The synods of 2022 and 2023 go further and declare that I am a heretic. They do not use the word “heretic.” But when they declare that same-sex marriage is forbidden by the confessions, they imply that I am not just mistaken but a heretic. I am part of what some call “the rot.”

This hurts.

After being declared a fool and a heretic by the denomination that nurtured me in the faith and of which I have been a devoted lifelong member, what am I now to do? I don’t know. What are I and my fellow congregants to do who share my views? We don’t know.

I had hoped that this past synod would back off from declaring the rejection of same-sex marriage to be a “confessional matter.” Sadly, this did not happen. I anticipate that it will never happen.

Around twenty years ago, the CRC changed dramatically in the character of its decisions, in how it arrives at those decisions, and in how it deals with ongoing disagreements. I remember well the remark of a friend from a mainline denomination who was a visitor at a CRC synod about thirty-five years ago. He was struck by the fact that genuine theological discussions took place on the floor of synod and that those who disagreed listened respectfully to each other and tried to find a way of continuing to live together. He said that nothing of the sort happened in the assemblies of his own denomination. Their discussions, he said, were entirely political, aimed at shutting down the other party and winning the vote.  The CRC has now become as he described his denomination. A treasured culture and tradition of respectful theological and biblical inquiry has been lost.

I will to leave it to others to explain what accounts for this drastic change in the CRC – why it is that, a few decades ago, it became no longer the church in which I was reared and educated. I confine myself to remarking that it is impossible to overlook the similarity of the tactics of the conservatives in the CRC to the tactics of the Trump wing of the Republican party.

Those in the CRC who oppose same-sex marriage claim that they are thereby defending the tradition of the Christian church. Well, yes, they are defending one component of the tradition. But there is another, more fundamental, component of the tradition that they are repudiating: the tradition of reform.

As the Christian church, over the centuries, has slowly recognized more and more clearly the basic thrust of the gospel, and as new understandings of humanity have emerged, the church has repeatedly declared: “You have heard it said, but I/we say to you.”

The pattern was initiated by Jesus. “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies’” (Matt 5:43-44).

Next there is Peter, interpreting his vision. “You have heard it said, ‘You are to avoid unclean animals.’ But I say to you, ‘Nothing God has created is unclean. Spread the gospel to the Gentiles’” (Acts 10-11).

Then there is the church’s rejection of slavery in the nineteenth century. “You have heard it said, ‘Slaves, honor your masters, and masters, treat your slaves justly’” (Colossians 3). But we say to you, ‘There should be no masters and slaves’.”

Move on to the decision of the CRC about women’s ordination. “You have heard it said, ‘Women should be silent in church.’ But we say to you, ‘In Christ, there is neither male nor female’.”

The CRC synods of 2022 and 2023 have resolved that, in the denomination’s treatment of those members who find themselves with a same-sex orientation, it will not carry forward this long Christian tradition of reform. It will not respond to the biblical call for love and justice, and to the emergence of new understandings of human sexuality, by declaring to such members, “You have heard it said, but we say to you.” Instead it tells them that, unlike those who find themselves with a heterosexual orientation, they must live out their lives without ever experiencing the committed intimacy of marriage. Too bad. This, says the CRC, is clearly the command of God. No disagreements allowed.

Editor’s Note: We invited several CRC members to respond to Synod 2023. Other responses may be found at Reformedjournal.com, with additional responses coming next Monday.

Nicholas Wolterstorff

Nick Wolterstorff is retired from teaching philosophy at Calvin College (1959-1989) and Yale University (1989-2001). He is the author of 32 books, and a lot more articles. Currently, he and his wife Claire live in a condo in a retirement complex in Grand Rapids, Michigan, looking out on a small lake with lots of waterfowl. One of the most gratifying parts of his life has been sharing in the founding of Church of the Servant (CRC) fifty years ago and participating in its life over the years. He and Claire are very fond of Amsterdam.

49 Comments

  • Kenneth E Kolk says:

    Dear Nicholas,

    I’m a 1966(4) Calvin Alum. I’m currently a member of the RCA, which had nearly half of it’s congregations leave during the last three years over what is called “Human Sexuality Issue.” This seems strange to me, since due to the RCA’s Constitution, The Book of Church Order, is much harder to change, requiring 66% votes of the Congregations, the Classes, the Regional Synods, and the General Synod before a change can be made. So as our General Secretary, Eddy Aleman recently said “We live in the muddy middle” in which the individual Congregations can decide who to Ordain or Call to serve their Congregation.

    It is clear that the disruptive, “my way or no way” Congregations, which seem to be led by Pastors who are more aligned with the Trumpist Christian Nationalism movement than with our traditional Reformed doctrines and beliefs, have left the RCA.

    If you or CRC congregations or Classis feel that you/they can no longer remain in the CRC and wish to find a Denomination or Church which is “Open and Welcoming” you/they will.find a warm welcome in the RCA.

  • Ken Baker says:

    Thank you! I remember well my personal journey with the CRC’s struggle with the “women in office” issue. What I am most grateful for is the space we gave ourselves to explore, examine, consider, and then do it all over again. For early adopters on the issue it was surely exasperating. For late(r) adopters like myself, it was remarkably helpful. I emerged deeply convicted of the gospel’s affirmation of women’s gifts flourishing without restriction in the church. We could see the current issue as the “next big issue” looming ahead. What I did not see as clearly 25 years ago was that our capacity to examine our understandings and interpretations would become so tragically diminished in the ways you have articulated. I share your grief at what has become of us. And, with you and many others, I wonder what’s next.

  • John Breuker, Jr. says:

    Thank you, Prof. Wolterstorff, for your articulate description of the dilemma confronting many “born and nurtured within the CRC.”

  • Thank you, Nick. Sad yet very well stated.

  • Phyllis Roelofs says:

    Thank you for penning same-sex orientation rather than same-sex attraction, also for the entire post.

  • Joel Slenk says:

    Thank you for this reflection. And take heart. The word heretic is a much maligned word. But in the end, the definition of a heretic is just someone who told the truth too early.

  • Gordon Vreugdenhil says:

    I also very much appreciate the thoughts here. In particular the comment “A treasured culture and tradition of respectful theological and biblical inquiry has been lost.” resonates deeply with me. I have been deeply grieving that loss since the HSR became public; the inherent bias of the process and subsequent actions by Synods ’22 and ’23 have totally fractured my trust and confidence in the denomination. I have taken steps to move away from leadership and membership and though I am still attending our local congregation, that is mostly a result of the local church being in “ostrich mode” on all things HSR and so even my local attendance is likely to change at some point.

    Denominations are human entities — they never have and never will solely define Christ’s body in this world. So while it is with deep sadness that I find myself having to separate from the denomination that has informed my faith for decades, I continue to take confidence that the Spirit will work through our broken, feeble, very human institutions and efforts to bring about God’s kingdom.

  • Henry Hess says:

    Thank you for sharing this. During almost two decades as synod’s news officer, I was continually impressed with the way successive synods took great care in navigating thorny issues, always seeking a way to remain faithful to scripture without breaking fellowship. As an adopted child of the CRC, that is what I understand it means to be “semper reformanda” and I was proud to represent a denomination that takes both theology and unity so seriously.
    I wasn’t at synods 2022 or 2023, but I fully expected them to help us find a way of understanding human sexuality that would allow us to continue living together in fellowship. I’m now struggling to understand what is happening to the Christian Reformed Church I know and love. Your essay helps.

  • Twila Finkelstein says:

    Well said. We need to be well educated to form an informed opinion.
    2 book I recommend to all BANNER readers: Unclobber; Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin. Sex Difference in Christian Theology; Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God by Megan K. DeFranza.

  • jack roeda says:

    Nick, this may not come as a surprise, but you are exactly right.
    Thank you!

  • Jack Nyenhuis says:

    Nick,, dear friend,

    You have so eloquently expressed my thoughts and feelings about the dramatic change in the denomination which also nurtured me and which I have served faithfully as an elder in several congregations, as a delegate to Synod 1978, and as an officer of the Board of CTS. I continue to pray for renewal and unity in this fractured denomination.

    Thank you very much for speaking on behalf of those of us who share your views.

  • Trevor Mouw says:

    As you noted at the beginning of this article, it is you that changed, Dr. Wolterstorff.
    “Slowly I have come to the conviction that…”
    Irrespective of one’s conclusions on human sexuality, the CRCNA has consistently believed the same doctrines for the entirety of its existence. Even if we would accept the false narrative that the CRC “raised” the definition of unchastity to confessional status (rather than merely stating explicitly what the confessions always taught implicitly), the content of the doctrine didn’t change.

    You may mourn that the denomination did not follow you down your path, but at least be truthful about it.
    -signed, a successful “Never Trumper”.

    • Randy Buist says:

      In his letter, Nick mourns that the denomination has forgotten how to continually reform. This was the heart of the CRC, always reformimg, always looking for deeper faithfulness. Anything less is unfaithful to the gospel.

    • Randy Buist says:

      For hours, I have considered your response. If we go down your road, the reformation would have been out of bounds. The reformers significantly changed how they understood the church & the gospel. Your road would have never allowed for the beginning of the CRC… now your world is expecting and desiring the end of the denomination while you claim that the church has always had the same faithfulness since its inception… Apparently, sanctification, the working of the Spirit to continue to renew our hearts & minds, has no place in a world of such clearly seen good & evil.

      • Trevor Mouw says:

        Randy, like quite a few who currently call themselves “Reformed”, you misunderstand what the word actually means. Then you compound the error with the phrase ” always reforming”.

        “Reformed” means to form something back again. Thus at the time of the Reformation, people like John Calvin saw themselves as shaping the church BACK to its original, Biblical intention. The Catholic church has progressed beyond what the Bible intended, so the Reformed were forming the church according to the Biblical standard.

        When you use the phrase “always reforming”, I take it that you really mean “always progressing”, always advancing. But the actual quote you’re referencing doesn’t end there, and, in full, it says, “always reforming according to the Word of God” (for real, look it up).

        You cannot “reform” Biblically by adopting a practice which the Bible forbids.

        For you see, my view of sanctification actually involves getting more holy, putting sins to death! We will always struggle with sin in this life, but that is not an excuse to continue sinning “so that grace may abound”. Rather we put to death the old self, and seek the things that are above!

    • Richard D Boonstra says:

      You’re kidding right?
      Do you refuse to recognize that we have learned more about gender in the last 20 years?
      Do you deny all of that as a going the way of a decadent culture?
      May be open your mind!

  • David Feddes says:

    I’m sad to see one of my former professors change with the spirit of the age (in the name of “reform”) and abandon a biblical truth held by the CRC and the church universal for 2,000 years. I’m also sad to see such a keen mind sink to such weak argument.

    • Pat Cavanaugh says:

      Part of the beauty of our Reformed tradition was that study and debate could lead to differing interpretations of Scripture. What defines these last two Synod’s is the declaration that this group has decided they have determined what is the absolute truth and that there is no possibility for disagreement, no possibility they could be wrong. Salvation is not a matter of grace alone, but grace plus a code of sexuality. So basically, you are urging many people to leave the CRC. That is not self-pity but a cause for deep sadness.And for many of us, we fear the CRC is losing its wisest and most profound thinkers.

    • Pat Vanderkooy says:

      I am sad that your comment is such a personal attack and uses uncompromising and judgemental language.

    • James VanderMolen says:

      David: your response to a thoughtful reflection by the keen mind of an utterly wise and gracious man is indicative of the bitter fruits – devoid of all Grace – resulting from Synod’s recent decisions. “By their fruits you shall know them.”

    • Richard D Boonstra says:

      Dave,
      The limited that I know about you is that you are smart, well-educated and care about the gospel but you seem to have a closed mind.
      Did you miss the point that we come from a tradition that allows for different opinions?
      Is that now dead?

  • RZ says:

    An excellent summary, Pat!

  • Kirk Vanhouten says:

    I am so unclear how so many in this forum view a refusal to change a historic position as some sort of “departure”.

    • James Leunk says:

      Surely it should be obvious that Dr. Wolterstorff is correct when he describes recent CRC history and what the past two synods have done as a dramatic change of direction. The conservative majority disingenuously claims it is only making explicit what has always been implicit in the Heidelberg Catechism, but actually it has both dictated one particular interpretation of the catechism and sought to weaponize that interpretation to silence or expel all who disagree. When the conservative majority at Synod 2024 finally succeeds in repressing absolutely all dissent among church office bearers as it tried to do this year, the majority will have permanently denied all decision-making authority anywhere in the denomination to any person who refuses to accept the majority’s dictates. Let’s not pretend that isn’t a sea change, one likely to bring about schism or precipitous decline in denominational membership and significant damage to CRC agencies and institutions. Let’s also not pretend the conservative majority is behaving with any more grace than we might expect from the scorched-earth Trump wing of the Republican Party. Synod 2023 had a chance to accede to an overture from Classis Holland that would have made the 2022 decision on same-sex marriage settled and binding but without compelling every office bearer everywhere to not only submit to that decision but AGREE with it; the majority simply refused. Such extreme intolerance is indicative of its overwhelming (but piously concealed) homophobia.

      • Kirk Vanhouten says:

        No Christian assembly prior to this century really accepted same sex marriage (or Marriage Equality if you prefer) The CRCNA has never exactly been in the liberal vanguard of Protestant traditions. I have a hard time believing many honestly and sincerely expected a different response to Neland’s actions.

    • Sophie Vandenberg says:

      Kirk, for a very long time the church’s position on slavery was that slavery was just fine. Somehow, the church changed its mind on what many believed the Bible clearly said was ok. If it could change its mind (reform) about slavery, it is conceivable that the church can change its mind about other matters. With hindsight they saw that what they thought was biblical (slavery) was actually exploitation and was not biblical at all. Maybe the church is on a similar journey of reformation with regard to how it views LGBTQ folk?

  • Arthur E Jongsma says:

    Thank you, Dr. Wolterstorff, for an insightful and eloquent analysis of our CRCNA. For thousands of years to church believed the sun revolved around the earth as the center of the universe until Copernicus and Galileo reversed the concept. Didn’t the church condemn (discipline) Galileo for “vehement suspicion of heresy” and sentence him to house arrest for the remainder of his life? So much for “Biblical truth” held by the church for thousands of years.

  • Don Tamminga says:

    I’ll just add my amen. Thanks. Our little church is struggling for what comes next for us and possibly where we will land. Too bad. We have a strong and long history with the CRC both as individuals and as a Church. Kind of boils down to following Christ’s example or a more Pharisaic tradition. I am sure we will choose the former! T

    • Randy Buist says:

      I left the CRC 20 years ago. I also have several strong connections with your little church. As I lay on my couch writing to you, tears run down my face & neck. I want to encourage you to keep on your path; keep choosing righteousness. Grace & peace, brother in Christ.

  • RZ says:

    To add further to your point, Art, are those whose understandings have “changed” now somehow LESS ” Reformed”? Ursinus is certainly worthy of respect ( as is NW)! But is he actually inspired? Infallible? Inerrant? Did he not akso write in a highly reactive and protective cultural environment? The first reformation was overdue at 1500 years! Is it the last one we should anticipate?

  • Jerry Kramer says:

    I applaud Professor Wolterstorff’s point of view on human sexuality. I wish other leaders in our seminary and university would join the conversation to help create a path for more diversity of opinion and acceptance of alternative positions. We need our best thinkers to cut though the morass of forced uniformity. Does not the Scripture give witness to the Gospel of grace and inclusion? Does not the love of God for all supersede all human fabrications of truth? Is not living the Gospel the unity that we seek?

  • Susan Meyerer says:

    Interesting
    I came to.this conclusion 50+,years ago. As did many of my classmates/friends at that time… I think.the issue at that time was Vietnam. Now a professor..although a ” highly respected” one as NW is..comes to the conclusion that the CRC.and its Synod may not always be ” right” and we are..can’t. find word..
    Surprised? Appaled? I was labeled a “heretic” a long time ago.and it has never stopped me from living my life and loving my neighbor..
    unconditionally.

  • Lena says:

    Jerry, for all the talk of inclusion that this blog promotes, where is the inclusion of authors who think differently? This blog, with rare exceptions, only allows the thoughts and writings of progressives. This is what we can expect if the Synod vote had gone the other way. In fact, much of the material presented to CRC members through the denominational channels is already from a progressive slant while the majority of its members are conservative, as the HSR vote indicated.

  • zidane says:

    thank you for the article

  • Scott Koeman says:

    “Slow, I have come to the conviction that love and justice, in the context of responsible biblical interpretation, requires that the church…” is to say that not only the CRC, but the whole of Christian tradition has been wrong since the beginning.
    In essence, it is an indictment against the Bride of Christ and even her Bridegroom (not to mention the Holy Spirit) as to say, “Finally, Lord, after 2,000 years and following our societies processional lead, we have gotten right.”

    • Randy Buist says:

      Respectfully, for centuries the Bible has been used to encourage & allow slavery. It has been used, and continues to be used, to keep women as second class humans.

      If we believe that we are incapable of finding more faithfulness than slave owners who treated fellow humans like animals, I suggest you read the Apostle John’s letter to Laodica in Revelation. Renew our eyes so that we may again see.

      If correction is not possible for the church, we have no good news for our world. Our children & friends are leaving the church in record numbers; our unfaithfulness of not loving all of God’s people is our witness to the gospel.

  • Lynn Japinga says:

    A century ago the CRC took a hard stance against divorce and remarriage in almost all situations. Multiple committees studied the few relevant biblical texts and produced hundreds of pages of exegesis. Finally after much pain and much debate, and after grappling with the reality that even “good Christians” and beloved family members divorced, Synod finally relaxed the rules. A review of that process might prove instructive in the current debate.

    And for those who claim that the true Christian faith hasn’t changed in 2000 years, I’d recommend a good book on church history.

  • Micah Watson says:

    Professor Wolterstorff is one of the most accomplished Christian thinkers of several generations. He is no knave (i.e., “dishonest,” “unscrupulous”).

    But as he writes he also changed his mind, slowly, on this issue. Professor Wolterstorff before he changed, when he held the historic and still global position of the church universal, was no knave. Professor Wolterstorff after having changed his mind, is also no knave. Both “Wolterstorffs” were and are brilliant, kind, accomplished, etc. But they both can’t be correct on this issue. Either he was mistaken then, as he would say now, or he is mistaken now, as the younger Wolterstorff would have said then. Either Wolterstoff is much smarter than anyone reading this or writing comments, present commenter most definitely included. But both Wolterstorffs can’t be correct, one version of the wise and brilliant philosopher is mistaken, but not a knave. So perhaps it’s not a matter of knavery.

  • RZ says:

    I like your appeal to logic Micah. One step further… Had NW died as NW # 1, would he be frozen for all eternity as NW #1 or as NW # 2? Which is the more enlightened version? And would he actually be frozen?
    Another question: Does God care more about the correctness of one’s truth or about the curious, sincere, and diligent search for that trurh? Ortho-attitude or ortho- doxy?

  • Cheryl TenBrink says:

    I’m amazed, though not surprised, by the rebuttals you are receiving in these comments, Dr. Wolterstorff. To argue with someone with your academic and theological expertise is beyond my comprehension. Thank you for so eloquently laying out the process that has been used for centuries to determine the will of God in our present day situations. I grieve with you at the loss of civil discourse and the ability to discuss and disagree on hard issues in the CRC. Words are used as weapons so effectively, are they not? May God bless you, my friend.

  • I am a former RCA minister and founding board member of the Alliance of Reformed Churches, the RCA departed churches you refer to as leaving over human sexuality. It was actually over orthodox, traditional biblical interpretations and the nature of scripture which means what it says and says what it means. Yes it was most illustrated in the human sexuality report. The Alliance foundations are discipleship, church planting, missions and evangelism. There is no smug judgement that we are assuming. We were all grieved to leave and do in no way refer to others with another position as obtuse or perverse. I am in no position to have any wisdom on the CRCNA just offering what I think too often is a projection of what more liberal reformed leaders assume about our Biblical interpretation of traditional marriage and biblical standards of sexual purity for singles or married people. These two interpretations simply cannot co-exist in the same church order in my opinion. I went through this with the PCUSA and the gutting of that denom. when ECO formed and now this one. I hope and pray this is not the case for the CRCNA and stand in solidarity with their position.

  • Conflating the handling of this issue with Trumpism, or the issue itself with previous reforms are both red herrings. One could use the argument “You’ve heard it said” for just about anything. Sure, if the premise is good, go ahead, but the argument itself doesn’t make the proposition correct.

  • Another fallacy, especially appealing to our feelings and false sense of justice, is saying “they must live out their lives without ever experiencing the committed intimacy of marriage.” Are we not in a fallen world? Do we pick and choose the exact nature of our corruption. Does God not give grace to all who ask? Can He not lead someone with homosexual orientation into happy obedience and a successful heterosexual marriage, or give grace for celebacy?
    I have often needed grace to keep from what my flesh innately desires. Granted my circumstances are advantageous, but it’s no different in principle. Similarly, a man born blind is not an injustice but a sad plight that needs a lot of grace.

  • Stan VerHeul says:

    I thank you, Professor Wolterstorff! I don’t know why I never got to be your student in a classroom, but I truly have been in your books and writings. (In fact, those of you to whom I have loaned Nick’s books are free to keep them–I’ve long replaced them with new ones.
    After a 15-month urban internship, I served a brief rural parish, an academic stint in campus ministry, most of my pastorate in an African American urban ministry, and my rather long retirement in justice advocacy.
    While I worked most of my life on the “edge” of the crcna, I am an ordained pastor in, a participant in, and can’t seem to stop being engaged in its denominational life.
    What I have found missing for too long is the personal consequences of the necessary “theological” discussions…not for the collaborators, but for the persons whose lives hang out there in the balance. In our recent “Black Lives Matter” strategy, we have discovered the importance of “saying their names.” That resonates with me because that’s how I have always experienced the church. Names. Persons. I am not free, of course, to name the names of those (family, friends, colleagues, parishioners) born and baptized children of God whose lives have been tormented by rejection and denial. …the college student who can’t come back home because their very being is condemned in the church that raised them–say their name. …the parents who sat through their son’s excommunication for “being” sinful –say their name. …the mother traumatically institutionalized with a “nervous breakdown” after all “the talk” about her offspring–say their n;ame. …the 39-year-old who took their life after years of trying to “be” what their church considered “normal–say their name. …the parents who could see already in early childhood that their precious child was misgendered–say their names. …the mother who listened over and over to her “preacher” talk dogmatically about mothers being especially responsible for gay offspring–say their name. …the wife and mother of 3 children who is not in her being who they think she is—say their name. I can’t say their name here, but I know them all, and more. And so do the rest of us. 1973’s “breakthrough” to the contrary, the denomination’s congregations have failed dramatically at pastoral care–because you cannot pastorally care for someone who is not allowed to “be.”
    I thank you so much, sir. Perhaps unintentionally, your teachings on the gospel and justice have brought me to a certain peace in my crcna conclusions: A denomination is not the Church. Synod is not a congregation (or the Church. Tradition is not The Truth. Confessioins are context/time-constricted. Power (like wealth) is a heinous and wily temptation. Institutions (maybe especially churches) are prone to the complicity of Empire. Kuyperian though we be, there are certain square inches that cannot help yearning to be the Lord of life. Justice is ultimately compelled to be personal. God is still speaking…. Again, thank you.

  • Ann Mary Dykstra says:

    Stan VerHeul,
    Thank you for your eloquent response.
    Say their names! Reading that brought tears, as I thought of individuals and families who have not felt loved, respected and included. Say their names! We must remember and we must include the most vulnerable when we do any planning. Nit planning ‘for’ but planning ‘with’.
    Say their names with love, respect and inclusion.

  • KELLY SIBTHORPE says:

    Thanks Dr. Wolterstorff for this summary of recent CRC history.
    We are experiencing this breakdown in the reformation process full on in our local congregation that has refused to participate in meaningful discussions on LGBTQ+ sexuality at the lay level, even to go as far as refusing to be trained to have meaningful discussions on sensitive theological matters. This behaviour is symptomatic of political machinations rather than a robust reformed world view. Such irony in a church that is meant to be discerning (reforming)! To witness the CRC refuse to acknowledge the constant state of flux in christian human culture (toward its ultimate betterment) within the will of God and until Jesus returns is so disheartening.
    -Kelly
    Commissioned Pastor

  • Craig Hoekema says:

    As a supporter of Synod’s recent decisions, I too lament the lack of theological (biblical) discussion on the floor. Never before have I seen so little attempt (by those dissenting with a study report’s biblical arguments) to address biblical arguments with biblical arguments. Take my Classis for example: we’ve now sent 3 overtures against the HSR over 2 years… not one of which even attempted to explain how or where or why the HSR mishandles the scriptures. Such ‘meeting scripture with non-scripture’ would have been unthinkable to our Synodical forebearers. In other words, if our current debate lacks the robust theological engagement of our forebearers, putting the blame on the HSR and its supporters is unfair to say the least.

    The whole ‘you need to call me a fool or a knave’ approach to the argument is frankly beneath someone of Dr. Woltersdorff’s wisdom and dignity. I get that it comes from a broken heart, but the fact is, he thinks I’m quite profoundly mistaken in my conviction that the scriptures are clear about these matters. I could make the same argument about what he must be assuming about me. That gets us no where. Let’s instead just acknowledge we each think the other is quite seriously mistaken and leave the name-calling out of it. People of great wisdom and character can still be seriously mistaken.

    Lastly, it’s false to say that Synod has always striven to find a way to continue together. Just before the pandemic we condemned Kinism as heresy…not in spite of but because of the fact that there were those in our midst who were teaching and / or sympathetic to such views. There have been many such occasions in our history where we have said, “we’re commiting to a particular understanding of scripture regardless of who gets called to account and how painful such an account might be.” That many of us believe such a stance is once again needed is no deviation from our robust theological and biblical tradition and has nothing at all to do with Donald Trump.

  • Steven Jensen says:

    I voted against the HSR as a delegate to the 2022 synod, and I share many of Dr. Wolterstorff’s concerns about the synod, the report, and the state of our Church. I believe the sexuality report was overconfident in its exegesis, incoherent in its use of Christian tradition, and alternately vague and untenable in its pastoral recommendations.

    That said, I’d like to raise a few different issues for those who, as moderates or as affirmers, are feeling newly marginalized or alienated within our denomination.

    1) Dr. Wolterstorff laments an emerging reality in which “no disagreement is allowed.” But how prepared are moderates and affirmers to persevere as minorities in our denominational community? Are we talking enough about ways we can remain in fellowship while carrying out our local ministries creatively and effectively? Or are we the ones who can brook no disagreement on this issue?
    2) I agree that the tone and political style of the synod I attended were disturbing, and are surely related to wider cultural patterns in our country. But the broader question of who should have cultural authority in our denomination and our country are surely worthy of reflection as well. What exactly should be the role and limits of a brilliant academic voice in our collective decision making? An important question, and not an easy one.
    3) Dr. Wolterstorff’s point about our “reforming” tradition is well-taken. But how do we exercise discernment between genuine reform and mere accommodation?

    There may indeed be logs in the eyes of many of our denominational brothers and sisters these days, but I think we can help them and our community by focusing more on what we do have the power to address, namely the “specks” we might find in our own.

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