Overtures 13 and 14 will be considered by Synod this year. Both overtures aim to limit the amount of political activism carried out by CRC employees using CRC resources, and refocus denominational activities on ecclesiastical issues.
One criticism of these overtures is that approving them would limit the institutional church's ability to weigh in on matters of social justice that it should weigh in on. Indeed there are times when the CRC ought not be silent, and sometimes it involves issues that spill over into politics. Because, let's be honest, the political world is steadily creeping into every area of our lives.
So, is it possible for Synod to adopt these overtures AND still leave room for denominational staff to speak truth to power on important justice issues of our day?
Yes! It is!
CRC staff should be permitted to use denominational resources to advocate for (or against) specific public policies and political actions if at least one of the following 3 criteria is met:
1) The policy or action is specifically addressed by Scripture.
An example of this would be policy concerning abortion and euthanasia, because Scripture specifically states that all murder is wrong. This is a command that has been objectively clear in both Scripture and church teaching for thousands of years. Therefore, any action aimed at stopping murder and protecting life would be something the institutional church could support. The word "specifically" is critically-important in this criterion, as it prevents subjective interpretations of general Scriptural principles, whereby true believers may in good conscience disagree on preferred public policy ideas. Only if the course of action is specifically dealt with by Scripture should CRC employees take up the issue.
2) The policy or action is specifically addressed in our Three Reformed Standards (Confessions).
Take, for example, political activism dealing with pornography. Scripture itself does not specifically address the issue, but the Heidelberg Catechism does (see Lord's Day 41). Again, requiring a specific mandate from our confessions as a prerequisite to political activism will promote unity among believers. Once again, CRC employees should be prohibited from applying subjective interpretations of broad principles. Only when action is clearly and objectively supported by our confessions should they take action.
3) The policy or action deals directly with the church as an entity or institution.
If the state attempts to impose an income tax on churches, or is considering legislation requiring churches to provide "equal access" for gay ceremonies or other activities that contradict Scripture, the institutional church must be free to participate in the political process, even if the action is not specifically commanded by Scripture or our confessions. This is a common-sense protection of the institutional church's sphere of sovereignty, against government encroachment. It's an area of growing and critical importance as governments usurp more and more power.
If we want to maintain & promote the unity of believers, if we want to avoid binding the consciences of our bothers & sisters on debatable matters, if we want to project a powerful voice of Scriptural justice into our communities, we must let our denomination’s political involvement be informed by these 3 criteria. The best way to do justice is to follow Scripture (rather than societal fads) and pursue actual justice (not subjective political preferences).