A Brief Recap
Last year, I reported on a strategy session held at Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, the goal of which was to determine a way to transform the Christian Reformed Church into a denomination that fully affirms the goals of the LGBTQ+ movement. The event was organized and hosted by All One Body (A1B), an LGBTQ activist group within the CRC. If you haven't read it yet, I encourage you to read the full original report here. But in a nutshell, A1B concluded that a full-scale overture (they referred to this as the "legislative approach") asking the synod of the CRC to change our official church position would not succeed. They concluded that they simply do not have the votes for success using the direct approach.
However, All One Body was much more optimistic about the prospects of the "judicial approach." Mimicking the Obergefell Supreme Court case, A1B suggested that if they could find a CRC minister or elder who was willing to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, they might be able to use appeals to emotion and personal stories to sway synodical delegates into voting in favor of that particular minister, in that particular case. That would open the door for either a full affirmation of the LGBTQ agenda, or at least synod would declare it a matter of choice for each individual congregation, the same way women in office is. But either way, LGBTQ activists hoped to convince synod to actively vote in their favor.
But what if there is a way for A1B and its LGBTQ allies to let synodical delegates "off the hook," so they didn't have to vote in favor of the LGBTQ position, while still accomplishing A1B's goals?
In the months since I wrote the original article, another possibility has been raised: The Procedural Approach.
The Procedural Approach
It is no secret that the CRC is extremely fond of rules, procedures, committees, and technical guidelines. We value our church order. We respect those who are considered to be experts in church polity and synodical proceedings. We favor a deliberative approach in which we appoint committees and seek advisors. And more often than not, the Council of Delegates and synod itself defer to the judgment and advice of the committees and the experts. If the experts say something is a certain way, it must be that way.
Recently, Pastor Lloyd Hemstreet (Coopersville CRC, Classis Zeeland) wrote an article titled The Sin of Process? in which he warns about elevating technical process above Scripture. He points out that our beloved church order is designed to submit to the principles of Scripture, not the other way around.
What if LGBTQ activists such as All One Body could maneuver the CRC, using our own church order and procedural mechanisms, into affirming the LGBTQ agenda. . . without any synodical delegates actually having to vote in favor of it? Before you dismiss this possibility as preposterous, let's examine how this could be done.
7 Steps to Transforming the CRC
Rather than taking an active judicial approach, supporters of the LGBTQ perspective could take a procedural judicial approach.
Step 1: A CRC minister or elder who is sympathetic to the goals of the LGBTQ movement participates in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Or perhaps a church council that is in favor of transforming the CRC into a fully-inclusive denomination installs an elder or deacon who is openly active in a gay relationship, or is transgendered.
Step 2: Other CRC assemblies (or members) call for the local church council that is involved to be faithful to Scripture and uphold the CRC's stance on marriage and sexuality. The local church assembly refuses, and proudly supports the office-bearer in question.
Step 3: Likewise, the local classis that is involved refuses to exercise discipline, and voices support for the LGBTQ agenda. Or perhaps instead of full support, the local classis instead claims to be "investigating the matter" and "considering all options," but in reality the local classis has no intention of ever taking any meaningful action. They are simply stalling, knowing they will never implement church discipline as required by Scripture and CRC church order. It is the perpetual "dealing with it" tactic.
Step 4: Eventually another assembly (either another church council or another classis) calls for the CRC as a denomination to exercise discipline and uphold Scripture, sending the matter to synod.
Step 5: Those in favor of transforming the CRC into a denomination that fully affirms and celebrates the LGBTQ lifestyle find an expert in church order and synodical proceedings who is willing to say one or both of the following: (a) That sexual identity, gender identity, and marriage are not CONFESSIONAL matters, and therefore are outside the jurisdiction of synod, or (b) That if a matter is being "dealt with" by a local council or classis, then synod may not take up the matter.
Step 6: The Advisory Committee assigned to deal with the matter defers to the judgment of the experts, and says so in its majority report to synod.
Step 7: Synodical officers and/or anyone in favor of the majority report encourage delegates to follow the advice of the experts. If needed, they may employ procedural maneuvers to silence dissent and achieve their objective. However it is done, synod is convinced to side with the advisory committee and the church experts, resulting in an affirmation of the LGBTQ agenda, without delegates actually having to vote on the crux of the matter. Basically, synodical delegates are pressured into agreeing with the experts, committees, and officers NOT to take up the matter.
Pause and let this sink in for a moment...
Whether it be a denial of the Scriptural truth about marriage and sexuality, or a denial of the sufficiency of Christ's atonement (or any other idea that contradicts Scripture), false teachers who want to transform the CRC could manipulate our church order and our respect for procedure in order to achieve their objectives!
Which Is Greater?
Going back to Pastor Lloyd Hemstreet's warning about falling temptation to the sin of process, Hemstreet points out that Article 29 of the Belgic Confession identifies the exercise of church discipline as one of the three critical marks distinguishing the true church from a false church. If a church fails to discipline teachers of false doctrine, it is not a true church. Scripture does not give us a pass simply because we are claiming to be following the rules of church order. Hemstreet writes:
"No one can teach against what we've agreed to, and not be held accountable, due to getting off on a technicality. No one can act in a manner contrary to Scripture, and we just let it slide."
Which is greater, Scripture or synodical procedure? Which do we hold fast to, our Confessions or church order? Ideally our synodical procedure and our church order will always submit to Scripture and our Confessions. But faced with the choice of upholding Scripture, or following the opinion of so-called experts of man-made rules, our path should be abundantly clear! Did the apostle Paul consult advisors on church order before confronting Peter and the leaders in Jerusalem regarding works-based salvation? No. Paul simply demanded faithfulness to the true Gospel.
May we be as bold and unapologetic as Paul was, if and when we are confronted with a similar choice.