Synod decisions discussed across 250 Canadian congregations
The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in North America on June 15 voted to elevate traditional teaching on sex to confessional status. The CRC, whose catechism asserts "God condemns all unchastity," now officially says unchastity includes homosexual sex, pornography and any sexual relations except between a husband and wife.
The vote, 123 to 53, echoed a similar vote taken the day before to recommend the traditional theological content of a new CRC human sexuality report.
All clergy, elders, deacons and professors at denominational schools are required to uphold confessional teachings. A vocal minority in the denomination have spoken publicly against the sexuality teachings in the report, arguing they are harmful and will alienate legally married lesbian and gay couples, other LGBTQ+ people and church members who interpret the Bible differently.
It’s unclear how future dissent might be accommodated, or if the church might lose members. The CRC currently has about 1,000 congregations and 138,000 average Sunday attendees, with Canadians comprising about 24 per cent of both figures and the rest in the United States.
Founded in Michigan in 1857, the CRC and its Calvinist antecedents in the Netherlands have generally taught sex is reserved for one man and one woman in marriage. In 1973 it asserted that same-sex attraction itself is not sinful.
Since then some members have sought more progressive stances. First CRC in Toronto allowed those in same-sex relationships to serve in formal roles from 2002 to 2005. In 2020 Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., elected a deacon in a same-sex relationship, but this June’s synod ordered the church to remove her. Neland is currently appealing the order.
The CRC did not originally ordain women, but opened to that in 1995, which led to a loss of some conservative members. – MATTHEW NEUGEBAUER AND BILL FLEDDERUS. Read a longer version of this article at our website.