The results were landslide decisions in favor of the historic church view of sexuality. Synod voted 131-45 to recommend the Human Sexuality Report to the churches. Synod then voted 123-53 to affirm that the traditional stance on sexuality is “confessional” and therefore binding on all officebearers.
The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) held its denomination-wide synod meeting in June and the result was a strong stand for biblical marriage and sexuality.
Much was building up to this meeting. The long-awaited Human Sexuality Report (HSR) was on the agenda. This 175-page report presented the historical church’s position on sexuality and called for synod to officially recognize that position to already have “confessional status.” In other words, all pastors, elders and deacons would be expected to uphold and abide by the historical stance on sexuality.
Reinforcing the need for this clarity was the Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan that in 2020 ordained a deacon living in a same-sex marriage.
Less prominent was an overture asking for synod to declare heretical any denials of penal substitutionary atonement. This was in response to a minister who was ordained despite his objections to the atonement language most prominent in the CRC confessions.
Synod 2022 might go down as the most monumental meeting for the CRC of this generation.
During debate on the synod floor, one delegate said the CRC theology of sexuality “has caused there to be blood on our hands.” The chair ruled this comment out of order. The delegate was told he needed to apologize or lose speaking privileges. He refused to apologize and lost his right to speak.
As delegates were deliberating the report on sexuality, around 200 protesters filled the parking lot waving rainbow flags and singing hymns. The next day a smaller crowd gathered wearing black clothing. Spelling out “lament” on cardboard, they wore masks and remained silent.
The results were landslide decisions in favor of the historic church view of sexuality. Synod voted 131-45 to recommend the Human Sexuality Report to the churches. Synod then voted 123-53 to affirm that the traditional stance on sexuality is “confessional” and therefore binding on all officebearers. An instruction to Neland Avenue to “immediately rescind its decision to ordain a deacon in a same-sex marriage” passed 134 to 44. The same number of votes approved the formation of an in loco committee for Neland Avenue to “oversee its compliance” to synod rulings. The in loco committee was also tasked to “admonish” Classis Grand Rapids East (the regional body of congregations where Neland Avenue is a member) for their failure to hold Neland Avenue accountable to CRC positions.
During the debates on sexuality and Neland Avenue, delegates who spoke in favor of the HSR and biblical marriage were noticeably younger, from the generations rising at a time when Christian faith increasingly means standing out from the greater society. Orthodox voices were also more diverse. The CRC’s Korean Council and the Hispanic Consejo Latino both released statements ahead of synod strongly supporting the orthodox Human Sexuality Report.
On atonement, synod passed statements by overwhelming voice votes saying “to in any way deny that Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection provide a substitutionary work of bearing God’s wrath on our behalf because of the just punishment we deserve for our sin” is a “serious deviation from the teachings of the confessions” of the CRC.