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A few hours after this blog post goes live, I will be a part of leading worship for the first time for a congregation under limited suspension. I’ve been torn between speaking words of lament and grief to people who love the denomination that put us under this suspension, and speaking words of hope about the future to a congregation which will continue to be a part of God’s mission in the world, even if we cannot see a path to stay in our denomination.

The Synod of the Christian Reformed Church met this past week. Among other things, Synod 2024 approved a disciplinary process for congregations that have written “public statements that conflict with the confessions of the CRCNA.” Because Synod 2022 declared that the word “unchastity” in Heidelberg Catechism Answer 108 includes homosexual sex, my congregation has indeed written a public statement that conflicts with the confessions.

Ours is not what you would call a “fully affirming” statement in one sense. We are diverse in our viewpoints, and we have not reached one conclusion as a congregation about what scripture teaches about same-sex marriage today. But our statement is clear that all parts of the life of the church, including ordination as office-bearers and weddings in the church building, will be open to persons in same-sex relationships. That puts us out of step with the teachings of the CRC, and as of this week, on limited suspension. Unless we change our position, which we are unlikely to do, Synod requires us to complete the process of disaffiliation within a year.

This is a deeply painful situation for us. As I sat in the gallery throughout this Synod, I heard conservative church leaders speak of the grief and sadness that they, too, felt in this moment. I take them at their word: I understand them to be truly grieved by division in the church, even as we have different ideas about what might have prevented this division. I take them at their word that we all grieve, but here, I speak only to my own grief in this time.

I’m sure that at some level, my grief is just for an ethnic community that used to feel like home to me, a kind of nostalgia for the bonds that used to hold us together as a Dutch immigrant denomination. That is a grief that I ought quickly to move on from, as the increased diversity of the CRC is a gift, and we ought to move beyond our roots as a narrow immigrant community.

But my grief is also for the felt loss of the role that the CRC played in the broader church. We were evangelical and robustly intellectual. We encompassed rural and urban congregations. We were unapologetically certain about doctrinal matters like the physical resurrection of Jesus and our salvation in Christ alone, even as we asked a lot of questions about other issues like how to harmonize science and faith, or the best ways for the church to interact with culture.

I see the unity of the church as a beautiful gift, and the breaking of that unity as a sin. I grieve the ways in which our denomination has broken unity.

Like rain on your wedding day.” It rained during my cousin’s outdoor wedding a couple weeks ago. But during the reception, this beautiful view was the result.


Even in this time of grief, I will speak hope to my congregation this morning. Being torn in this way between lament and hope is not a strange thing for a Christian. The church is always proclaiming the resurrection in a world of death. We give lament the space it needs, and at the very same time we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus.

For our congregation, this calls for hopeful actions:

  • giving thanks for the scriptural engagement, listening, and mutual forbearance over the past two years that resulted in our “Loving and Learning Together” document (the one that conflicts with the confessions of the CRC).
  • learning from the LGBTQ+ community about the ways we can become a more welcoming church.
  • seeking future connections with congregations and denominations that can resource us even better for our mission, both those we agree with and those that are different from us.
  • clinging to the best parts of our denominational heritage, even as we separate from the institution itself.
  • continuing to focus on local ministry: the care we provide each other, the love we show to our neighbors, our actions for justice and mercy in our city, all done in the name of Jesus for the purpose of drawing everyone to know his love and grace.

When the church was in schism and her own body was deathly ill, Julian of Norwich told of the revelation that she received that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

May such be our assurance in our grief today.

Rebecca Jordan Heys

Rebecca Jordan Heys is the Minister of Worship and Pastoral Care at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

31 Comments

  • Kris Swieringa says:

    I loved this paragraph because that too is the CRC I used to know:
    “But my grief is also for the felt loss of the role that the CRC played in the broader church. We were evangelical and robustly intellectual. We encompassed rural and urban congregations. We were unapologetically certain about doctrinal matters like the physical resurrection of Jesus and our salvation in Christ alone, even as we asked a lot of questions about other issues like how to harmonize science and faith, or the best ways for the church to interact with culture.”

    Thank you for this. I basically left the CRC after synod last year but my husband is still a part time pastor in the CRC. This is such a sad time for so many. I grieve the decisions made at Synod this year.

  • RZ says:

    “We were evangelical and robustly intellectual.”
    And now we have purged a high percentage of the deep thinkers and reformers, while silencing the rest. We do appreciate your hopeful perspective. It is difficult to perceive the future, but then again, “Unless a seed dies and goes into the ground…” Perhaps it is absurd to think that one reformation would be enough.

    • GB says:

      “And now we have purged a high percentage of the deep thinkers and reformers, while silencing the rest.” The very hubris that brought us to this point–how can the deplorables possibly survive?

  • Heidi De Jonge says:

    Thank you, dear Rebecca. Your congregation holds a special place in my heart and I am comforted and energized by your words and your leadership.

  • Gerrit Van Dyke says:

    I was not at synod but from the outside it appears that they spent far more time on rules and regulations (the equivalent of legalism) than on how to minister to persons of various sexual orientation and now to invite them to share heaven with us. There are many families and relatives that will be torn up by the decisions made. A minister friend of mine says “You cannot force people into the Kingdom of God but you should try to love them into it”. We need much more time discussing that.

  • Adria says:

    I’m very sad but encouraged by your thoughtful words. Thank you. May God bless you, your family and your congregation family.

  • Leanne Van Dyk says:

    Thank you, Rebecca. I join you in mourning the loss of our “evangelical and robustly intellectual” denomination that has now been co-opted by a suffocating narrowness. I wish you wisdom as you lead your congregation in this hard time.

  • Diane Dykgraaf says:

    Yes, such grief and confusion this Sunday morning. It feels a little like Mary Magdalene going to the tomb on Easter morning looking for Jesus. And the good news is, he will meet us there. Thank you for the hope.

    • Jane P Pauw says:

      This is an exceedingly hopeful insight, Diane. We are stunned and in mourning, but the risen Christ is already out there ahead of us, brimming with possibilities for the work of love through the gifts and passions of those disenfranchised. That’s quite typical of him, anyway!

  • Ron Rozema says:

    Thank you, Rebecca, for speaking honestly and directly to this broader audience. As one who is part of the congregation with you and under limited suspension with you I look forward to joining you in worship again this morning and to hearing again what the Spirit has to say to the church through you.

  • Karl Westerhof says:

    Thank you, Rebecca! Good words for the first Sunday after synod. I need to hear this – again and again. We lament and we hope. This morning a thousand CRC’s will gather to worship, to pray, to lament and to hope. Calvin and Grace too. So much to grieve; so much to be grateful for. May the Holy Spirit guide us through this year.

  • Chris Rea says:

    You speak for many of us, Rebecca. Thank you for putting the feelings into words.

  • Peter Tig says:

    Thank you, Rebecca, for your well-written and timely essay. You and others like you are creating a “safe space” where people of all orientations can worship and be accepted and loved.

  • Kathy Smith says:

    Thank you, Rebecca.
    Reading your good words this morning , Romans 5 comes to mind:
    “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
    And hope does not disappoint us.
    Thanks be to God!

  • Al Mulder says:

    Thank you, dear Rebecca, for your candid and lovingly paatoral words. Al

  • Jerry Kramer says:

    All CRC churches now under suspension need to grieve together and hope together. We will find much about our past for which to give thanks, but the future where everyone belongs and where inclusion is the love song is the path forward. It embraces all who trust the Trinity of a God who creates diversity, holds us in the arms of the universal Christ, and energizes with his Spirit, who blows where she wills. We feel her love, joy, and peace.

  • Jane Zwart says:

    Wise and honest and generous. Thank you, Rebecca.

  • Lynne swets says:

    It is a sad time for all of us. Crc or not. As past member of Lagrave, I’ve followed synod and rejoiced when women were finally given the right to serve god in roles traditionally held for men.
    Now so very many of my friends are feeling rejection, pain in their existence, and struggling with being true to themselves or a group of men. God is surly shaking his head!
    May we who support all of gods children, find ways to be supportive and loving.

  • Bob Crow says:

    Thank you, Rebecca. Lament and hope, that seems a suitable posture for life and for today.

  • Henry Hess says:

    Thank you, Rebecca! You express so well what I have been feeling. I’ve been remembering what Peter Borgdorff used to say in moments like this: “God is still on the throne.” I take comfort in that.

  • Bob and Jan DeVries says:

    Thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful statement, dear Pastor Rebecca. We, too, share your reasons for lament, but also calls for “hopeful actions.” For us, this is encouraging, energizing and liberating.

  • Sue Edema says:

    Such sadness for all of you who are loving like Jesus loved……welcoming and affirming of all people.

  • Duane Kelderman says:

    Thank you Rebecca.

  • Willemiena C Dykhouse McCarron says:

    Thank you, Rebecca.

  • Thomas Draayer says:

    I do not believe we have ever met, but your heart comes through in wonderful ways. “You have to love the church, because she will give you plenty of reasons not to like her.” Those words were drilled into my core by a wise preacher. Your words of lament and hope set a tone of love in a beautiful way.. Thank ,you!

  • Karel Boersma says:

    Rebecca
    I was baptized, may profession of, faith, and was nurtured at Calvin Christian reformed church. In fact when I was in elementary school parentheses (Oakdale), The church was under construction and we have the joy of playing amongst the construction materials until finally walls were put out print entrances were secured. It was, so I would learn later, a primary social group that gave us spiritual direction education and a whole Lotta good times. It’s been at least 40 years since I left the CRC, and 15 years since I left the RCA. The last time I was in the sanctuary at Calvin CRC once for my mother‘s funeral. I live far away, I looked to Calvin and the CRC has my home far away, but one that in someway would be there if only in my mind. Thanks for the church. I am sure it will find it’s its mission to bring Grace to all in its community. But the denomination, however, seems to have been swallowed up by a culture of fear and kind of harshness that does not bode well. for those who try to follow in the footsteps of our savior.
    It was our family who introduced rev Boomsma to this issue when my brother came out early 60s. He also officiated at my brothers funeral. at that time, there was no place for him in church or really in grand Rapids and since that time I’ve been an ally for full inclusion of the LGBTQIA Community in the life and ministry of the church. what God includes, who are we to exclude?

  • John and Ruth Engbers says:

    Thank you, Rebecca. We also lament and needed your hopeful words today.

  • EV says:

    Thank you, Rebecca.

    As a past member whose right to communion was taken away after I finally left my abusive husband, I found acceptance, embrace, and care from a different denomination – one I’d been raised to see as evil due to its doctrine. The fact was, they treated me as Jesus would have, and the specific CRC congregation I grew up and married in did not treat me He would have.

    It is only by the grace of God that this experience didn’t harden my heart to Him based on the actions of the church. Many do turn their back on their faith based on the judgement and legalistic nature of the CRC.

    I’m saddened at the loss of the community, to this day. It’s too bad so many choose not to love in the way Jesus would.

  • Larry Louters says:

    Thank you, Rebecca, for stating so well what many of us are feeling.

  • Torrey Edwards says:

    Appreciated reading as I wrestle with this issue and its impact on my family.

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