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The Christian Reformed Church Synod voted last week to expel more than two dozen LGBTQ-affirming churches and depose all LGBTQ-affirming ministers, elders, and deacons across its congregations. Tens of thousands of Sunday school-aged children sit in Christian Reformed pews, which means that thousands of LGBTQ teens and young adults are likely to come out across the denomination over the next several years.

To the LGBTQ Children of the Christian Reformed Church:

I know how it feels to be stuck in the middle.

Someday, I imagine you’ll feel the same way—caught between a church you love, a home, a family that baptized you and raised you and a place where you belong—and the tug of your heart to love another person, to ask hard questions, to be yourself, to discover God’s will for your life, and search for who God truly is.

Coming out is scary. It’s even scarier when you think your entire world might reject you. Some people won’t understand, and that’s okay. Family members might compare you to biblical villains. Church members who you have known for years might say hurtful things. Childhood friends might block you on social media. Be brave. 

You’re a hero simply for the courage to come out to yourself. 

Find the safe people. You can start with me. Be gentle with yourself. You might face depression and anxiety and wonder if the world is really better with you in it. Please know that it is—even, especially, in the dark seasons when you don’t understand why.

I’m sorry that your church leaders won’t even blink at their harsh rhetoric or the weight of the celibacy demand they want to impose on your life. It won’t seem fair, and it won’t be fair, either. The truth is that no straight pastor or youth group leader or elder understands what it’s like to come out as gay in the Christian Reformed Church—and most of them aren’t really trying, either.

It will often seem like some pastors care more about the church order than your heart. Maybe they do. Ultimately, they’re just afraid. Acknowledging the gray has a tendency to topple the black-and-white.

Keep your chin up when “hate-the-sin and love-the-sinner” feel like the same thing. Don’t be discouraged when your pastor goes to Synod to pass another apology to LGBTQ people and nothing changes when they get back home. And hang in there when you’re searching for compassion and just keep getting Romans 1 back instead.

After the votes at Synod last week, my deepest grief was for you—the thousands of LGBTQ children who will now grow up in a denomination with no voices who will wonder with them about what Scripture says and instead wield only the heavy-handed threat of excommunication over your desire to love another person.

But now, a week later, my deep hope is that maybe it’s all spectacularly backfired. Over the last seven days, I’ve watched the new creation of a hodgepodge group of unlikely exiles—wise, kind, thoughtful people who want to follow Jesus Christ, who share a robust, orthodox Reformed faith and who also believe Scripture embraces same-sex marriage.

I know it might be hard to see from where you are right now, but there are many, many Christians in the world who love Scripture with all their hearts and still hold the capacity to wonder what it says. There are many Christians who think unity does not require uniformity. And there are many Christians who are humble enough to read Jesus’ repeated rebukes of religious leaders and wonder, is Jesus talking about us?

There are many Christians out there who will say “welcome” even when you disagree with them. They don’t need years of study to determine whether they will allow you to profess your faith. They don’t react to heartfelt expressions of protest with the swift hammer of discipline. They believe Jesus Christ is the real “salvation issue.” Indeed, it’s okay to wonder about how to live your life—even if it takes longer than the arbitrary three-year limit that your church leaders will give you.

There are Christians who are ready to geek out over all your favorite parts of the Heidelberg Catechism. They’ll sing all the songs that your heart has grown to love—in fact, they probably wrote your hymnal. And your heart will be so encouraged, like mine, when you see them brilliantly playing their own small part in the grand drama of Christ’s redemptive work.

I know that you love your church. We loved it too. Many of us fought for you at synods and council meetings and Bible studies. We stayed until they kicked us out. I know I had, probably naively, hoped I’d be there when the Christian Reformed Church reversed its position on same-sex marriage. I deeply hope that moment will come for you instead. But if it doesn’t, please know this:

The ocean of God’s love does not stop at the denomination’s edge.

Go search for a God who is bigger than an organization that demands control of your conscience. Do not be afraid. Hold Scripture in one hand and creation in the other and start trying to figure out how they fit together. Find the square inch (or two) out there for which God created you and bring God’s shalom into it.

In the end, God’s Kingdom is not Christian Reformed.

And when times get hard, remember, we may no longer be in your denomination, but we will always, always be in your corner.

Yours,
Ryan Struyk

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.

53 Comments

  • Alicia Mannes says:

    Through tears, thank you!

  • Duane Kelderman says:

    “The ocean of God’s love does not stop at the denomination’s edge.” Praise be to God. And the CRC does not have a monopoly on being Reformed. It’s time to move forward. Thanks, Ryan.

  • RZ says:

    Thank You, Ryan! You have always tried to be gentle and constructive. Let us remember that our ancestors also expelled/persecuted the “detestable” Anabaptists and Armininians, not to mention ordained women. It takes a very long time! Gray is scary.

    • Jane Meulink says:

      Shades of Gray are very scary. They might lead to that slippery slope where the church is Freefallin’ onto that Highway to Hell. Or maybe the Stairway to Heaven?
      Credits to The Monkees, Tom Petty, AC/D/C, and Led Zeppelin

  • Diane Dykgraaf says:

    Thank you, Ryan. You are correct in saying that there are many Christians who will say welcome (genuinely), even when you disagree with them. Maybe this is a defining moment for so many (former) CRC folks.

  • Doug says:

    I don’t usually cry my way through RJ blog posts, but I did today. Thank you, Ryan.

  • Tim Van Deelen says:

    Hard to read this without thinking of students I’ve known who would have found this comforting and affirming. Thank you for this and the impulse to write it. So good.

  • James C Dekker says:

    Thank you, Ryan. I was hoping I’d see something like this by you soon. Today is cloudy in more ways than one, but already better day because I read this.

  • Mark S. Hiskes says:

    Thank you, Ryan. I wish that every leader of young people, especially, would pass this beautiful, hopeful letter on to share with their LGBTQ friends and that your words of genuine love and empathy ring far truer and far longer than any Christian decree to the contrary.

  • Carol Van Klompenburg says:

    Beautiful.

  • Dennis H says:

    Thank you.
    In memory of my friends from the CRC and elsewhere who didn’t make it; who ended their lives, rejected by church and/or family.

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Thank you for this sunbeam of compassion on a gloomy morning. Someday I hope that many will look back on this moment the same way I try and imagine how I grew up thinking Catholics wouldn’t be in heaven. “God’s kingdom is not Christian Reformed”. Indeed.

  • Jack Reiffer says:

    “There are Christians who are ready to geek out over all your favorite parts of the Heidelberg Catechism. They’ll sing all the songs that your heart has grown to love—in fact, they probably wrote your hymnal. And your heart will be so encouraged, like mine, when you see them brilliantly playing their own small part in the grand drama of Christ’s redemptive work.”
    I wish more Christians knew how much of our worship materials; church-year artistry; hymn texts, tunes, and settings; choirs. organists, & other musicians; even the architecture of our holy spaces — how much of these treasures in our lives were the contributions of LGBTQIA+ persons. How poor we would be if all of those were removed!

    • Rebecca Broom says:

      Amen to that. And thank you, Ryan. Beautifully said. Thank you.

    • John Chapin says:

      So very true, Jack. If we could make all of that disappear some Sunday morning, the church would be shocked at how little would be left!

  • David Warners says:

    Such beautiful thoughts and rich insights. I will be sending this link around to students and former students who have been directly hurt by the developments in the CRC over the past 3 years, and to those who have been standing with them. Your words are heartbreaking but also soothing and even hopeful . . . there is a time to plant and a time to uproot. Sincere thanks to you, Ryan.

  • Louanne Winkle says:

    Ryan, this is such a piece of hope after hearing words that have felt hopeless. You are an inspiration to me and so many others.

  • Michael Borgert says:

    Ryan, I wouldn’t have much to add to what’s already been said, so I will simply say, “thank you.”

  • David Hoekema says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Woven through this essay are the compassion, humility, and gracious spirit that those who have taken control of Synod could not muster. In their Bible Jesus commands us not to love but to judge one another.

  • Henry Baron says:

    You’re a Balm in Gilead for so many, Ryan. Thank you!

  • Justin says:

    Your voice has been a gift through these last years. Blessings to you. May all our children find people in their lives who offer them the same grace and care expressed here.

  • Laura de Jong says:

    You are a gift, dear friend.

  • Ken Bratt says:

    Thank you, Ryan. There’s more common sense and Christian wisdom on this one page than in the whole Agenda for Synod 2024.

  • Dana VanderLugt says:

    Beautiful, brave, needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Twila Finkelstein says:

    “Find the safe people”
    I have left the CRC and am a safe person for all. My deepest grief is for the CRC LGBTQIA+ community first, and the denomination second.

  • John Chapin says:

    Beautifully written Ryan! Thank you for your patient perseverance with the CRC through all of this. The brightly lit exit sign beacons more and more of us. I hope the places we land are not so far away from the CRC that the next generation of queer kids born to Abide parents will have trouble finding us and finding a church home where they are welcome.

  • Deeply moved by your grace-filled, en-couraging letter, Ryan. Thank-you. Processing and grieving all that is happening is very hard work. Please keep on sharing your wise and loving insights with us all, along the road that lies ahead!

  • Susan DeYoung says:

    Thank you Ryan. Well said. I left the CRC 50 years ago over the women’s issue and have not regretted it.

  • Thomas Griffin says:

    I pray that one day the Lord opens the eyes to the bigoted that have been plagued by this hate in the CRC. I hope that the Lord may heal their hateful hearts. 🙁

  • Claudia Beversluis says:

    You are a blessing Ryan, and these heartfelt words will continue to bless as long as they are needed. Much emancipatory joy to you!!

  • Ann Markus says:

    Your resilience and strength in the knowledge of God’s love for you and each one of us is tremendous. You could’ve walked away so many times and been done with Christianity itself. We are deeply grateful to have you lead in our corner. Thank you for your encouragement to us all.

  • Ken Kuipers says:

    After 24 years as a Christian Middle School administrator in West Michigan. My greatest regret is that I did not stand up and advocate for these young people who have had to fight on alone. I know I will have to answer for this cowardice. I hope your article reaches many anguished hearts and gives them supportive encouragement that they so much need.

  • Christy Berghoef says:

    “The ocean of God’s love does not stop at the denomination’s edge.”

    So beautiful, as always. Thank you, Ryan.

  • John Vanderstoep says:

    Wonderful!!!!

  • Sheryl Muldrr says:

    Ryan, this is exactly what we need to hear post Synod and these children are exactly where our focus must be. The way God is using you in this denomination has been simply amazing to watch over the years. One of the most profound things the Bible reveals to us is that God never works the way we expect Him to. And when we think we know who it is whom God loves, He always surprises us.

  • Kenneth Earl Kolk says:

    Ryan, I love your essays. We have family members who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. My wife and I are Calvin grads. We moved from CRC to RCA years ago. The consistory of our church has a number of Calvin grads on it. I loved it when you said “There are Christians who are ready to geek out over all your favorite parts of the Heidelberg Catechism. They’ll sing all the songs that your heart has grown to love—in fact, they probably wrote your hymnal.” Clearly the Heidelberg is one of our “Confessions,” but we have one more creed than the CRC, “The Belhar Confession” so if an LGBTQ+s want to join us we can “geek out” all we want. My church still uses our Pipe Organ every Sunday, does not project the lyrics on the wall but uses “Lift Up Your Voice” ((which was a “Faith Alive” joint publication back a few short years ago when the CRC and RCA were trying to find ways that the two denominations could mend our differences and rejoin.

    Now that the CRC is forcing the “Welcoming and Accepting” churches out of the denomination they should know that the Churches and members of the RCA are waiting with open arms to welcome them in.

  • Jeff Meyer says:

    Ryan — I’m sure your hope-and-grace-filled insights are a life-saver for some and a faith-saver for others. Thank you!

  • Linda Naranjo-Huebl says:

    Oh, Ryan, I’m so proud of you and deeply thankful for your leadership and pastoral heart. I will pray your sacred sentiments over our LGBTQIA siblings in the CRC and trust the Holy Spirit will bring this sweet message to them. Here is love, vast as the ocean…

  • Steve Timmermans says:

    Coretta Scott King once said ““The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members, a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.” Thanks for speaking grace-filled words from your heart and love from your soul–a significant and needed message for this growing hodgepodge group of exiles as we all look to God for the way forward and look to each other for becoing a renewed and compassionate community.

  • James Schaap says:

    Oh my!-so much good sense and so much love!

  • Ralph Huizinga says:

    “ God’s Kingdom is not Christian Reformed.”. Just that.

  • June says:

    These words made my heart sore 🙁 but mostly soar 😊. Your invitation for queer folk to “start with me” is warm and wonderful. Sounds like Jesus.

  • Paul V. says:

    Thanks so much, Ryan. Just the phrase, “The oceans of God’s love” fills me with tears of joy. It’s not only for me, but also something to remind my 2 preschool grandchildren being raised by their two mommies.

  • Frank van Veen says:

    I just read a book that may be helpful: “A Change of Affection” by Becket Cook

    • Joyce Ve says:

      Becket’s book is not relevant to the discussion. His story is about leaving God and Coming back to God. Although I am happy for his journey back to God, his book has no relevance to this discussion.

      The serious problem in the CRC is not about queer people leaving God. It is about the harm that the CRC has, and continues to inflict on its’ own baptized queer members (and those who love them.) We aren’t leaving. We have been pushed out.

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