Comment Stream

Cedric Parsels December 2, 2020

I read through the comments again this morning to see if anyone had touched on this and I was surprised when I saw that no one had. But one data point that none of us seems to have addressed is Synod 2016's adding a supplement to Church Order, 69-c.

According to Church Order, 69-c, "Ministers shall not solemnize marriages which would be in conflict with the Word of God." And Church Order Supplement, 69-c, states that "The pastoral guidance recommended to the churches by Synod 2016, found in the minority report of the Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance re Same-sex Marriage (Agenda for Synod 2016, pp. 436-43), represents one example of how synod has determined that a marriage is considered to be in conflict with the Word of God. (cf. Acts of Synod 2016, p. 918)." 

If someone goes back and reads the "pastoral guidance recommended to the churches," it is obvious that the specific example of "a marriage...considered to be in conflict with the Word of God" is a same-sex marriage. So, according to Synod 2016, one type of marriage that ministers may not solemnize, because it is in conflict with the Word of God, is a same-sex marriage. This seems to go well beyond the broad and permissive construal of "pastoral advice" that Henry has advocated for earlier in this thread.

It is arguable, then, that Synod has already moved its views on the ethics of homosexual sex outside of the realm of "pastoral advice." It now clearly teaches that same-sex marriages are "in conflict with the Word of God" and forbids its ministers from solemnizing said marriages. This seems to signal an important shift in Synod's position re: same-sex relationships. For, if same-sex marriages are in conflict with the Word of God and if all sexual intercourse outside of marriage is in conflict with the Word of God, then homosexual sex is in conflict with the Word of God. That is, according to the straightforward implication of Synod 2016's decisions, the CRCNA officially holds that homosexual sex is an instance of 'unchastity.' And, thus, someone could reasonably argue that the CRCNA regards homosexual sex to be in conflict with what it confesses regarding the seventh commandment (see, HC, Q/A, 108-109).

In any case, as this thread has demonstrated, the situation requires clarification. The Committee's recommendation D provides that clarification. 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Ron VandenBurg December 1, 2020

Hi Keith, no not at all. The Canadian office is doing a zoom Christmas gathering. We'll all be taking a break from our work at home and gathering virtually just like we do for weekly devotions. 

Keith Knight December 1, 2020

Wait a minute, Ron.  Do you mean that the Canadian office is having a face to face, live, Christmas party with, like, people??

Keith Knight December 1, 2020

It's been about 20 years when the Diversity Awareness Coalition (we found Anti Racism Coalition too negative) was formed as a partnership of Christian leaders in a southwestern Ontario town and a neighboring native reserve.

Granted, it helped that the native chief of Walpole Island Indian Reserve was an evangelical Christian. And during a four-year vacancy of the Wallaceburg CRC, Chief Joey Gilbert would regularly lead worship.

Wallaceburg was a redneck town with a preconceived notion that natives were a bunch of drunks. And on Friday nights after folks received their welfare checks, that was the case.

The chief and I saw a strong need to breach the cultural divide and to bring both communities together through an intentional educational process.  We formed the Diversity Awareness Coalition, a group of about 6 people from each community. We spent time together to talk about our perceptions of each other's culture. Talk is cheap.

We decided to create teams of two people -- one from each community -- to go into area high schools, into factories, into various service clubs and churches to dialogue about the differences. Folks in Wallaceburg learned about various economic development initiatives on the Island reserve. Orchids, for instance, grew wild there.

This wasn't about evangelising or planting churches; it was simply about understanding each other's culture. As the name implied, a focus on two very diverse cultures.

So, wherever a CRC is located close to a native reserve, begin the dialogue.

I clearly recall the very first meeting that I attended on the Island. I asked them: "What do I call you? Aboriginal? Indigenous?"  Their response was that white folks have all kinds of fancy words for them ... "but we're Indian."

Ron VandenBurg December 1, 2020

Hi folks, I thought this committee would like to know that the Canadian office's Christmas party is December 15 from 12-1:30. This might impact your presentation's attendance. I thought you should be aware of it. 

Daniel Brown December 1, 2020

One thing that we have done: some of our woodworkers made advent candle wreaths for all of the households of our congregation, we wrote a devotional for each day, and our elders and deacons dropped them off. Each day we light an advent candle, read, and pray as a reminder that we are never alone.

Paul Verhoef December 1, 2020

Good work like this seems to stand the test of time.  Here I am, 4 years later, finding this helpful and good again.  Thanks again, Mark (and any others that helped assemble this piece).  It is good to be a part of this denominational community, to be enveloped in the care and wisdom gathered, and to be a part of the work of sharing the wisdom in helpful ways to my local community.

Staci Devries November 30, 2020

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Hilda Car November 30, 2020

I read this story and as a parent of a child with autism I hope that the writer of this article is someone my son does not meet. The author writes that he is aware of how important schedules are but ignores that to have ‘fun’ with him? If you truly respect someone you don’t cause them anxiety. I can only imagine how long he repeated he didn’t know how long an hour was even after he was dropped off and how many times it continued to come up. If you truly want to have a meal with the man who is blessed somehow with unique warmth than find a time that works for him and don’t tease him.

posted in : Potluck
Staci Devries November 29, 2020

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Henry DeMoor November 28, 2020

Jeff,

No, I don't believe that was the point in 1975.  The point was that whatever authority synod claims on a particular issue, the wording of the decision should speak for itself.  So it's not as if something has to be in any one of the specific categories mentioned and as if it can only be in one.  I think Synod 1975 was just "exemplifying" options that synods have in making sometimes difficult decisions.

In asserting that all decisions in 1973 were framed as "pastoral advice" synod deliberately avoided "principial stance" or "confessional status," call it what you will.  But because we disagree on what that essentially means and because we seem to be drifting in a congregationalist approach again, Synod 2020 should probably discuss the issues now in terms of the "interpretation of the Heidelberg Catechism" to clarify its relevance for the day.  Any such interpretation, of course, then becomes part of the confessional binding for all who sign the Covenant for Officebearers.

I do not know where that will lead, but I have what is typical of those in their mid-seventies: some anxiety about losing each other.

 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Jeff Brower November 28, 2020

Henry,

This issue is in its own way a referendum on the 1975 synodical statement and the categories that it laid out. Though that statement noted that Synod's pronouncements are equally authoritative, though differing in use and function, the term "pastoral advice" seems to have taken on a different meaning as the years have gone on. (Similarly, unfortunately, to how many people interpret our own "pastoral advice"--as something they can take or leave.)

My question is, were these categories meant to be mutually exclusive? Simply because something was originally stated as pastoral advice, can't it occupy more than one category?  And doesn't a Synod have the authority to declare that something that we already hold as authoritative and biding in one category, may function as well in another category? And isn't that essentially what will happen if the study report is adopted by Synod?

posted in : Status Confessionis
Henry DeMoor November 28, 2020

Everyone,

On this Thanksgiving weekend I want to express to all of you my gratitude for your insightful contributions responding to my "challenge."

I believe that what we need from synod now is clarity.  People differ on how we understand "pastoral advice."  Some say it's just a matter of allowing elders to do their own thing, even with a denominational "position" in place.  Others think it means that synod is asking us to minister in a specific way, i.e., we are not to go outside of the bounds that synodical decisions have put in place, and we should be telling those with homosexual orientation to be chaste.  But we also need synod to affirm our church political history.  As a matter of fact, nobody has thus far demonstrated that synod has wanted to raise this issue to a confessional status, i.e., it has never specifically indicated what in today's world and culture the word "chaste" in the Heidelberg Catechism actually condemns.

So what I believe should happen is that Synod 2021 should consider a declaration that with the increasing pressure of our culture we believe that sexual activity among persons of the same gender has now brought us to a "status confessionis."  Synod should then deliberate on that proposal.  If it winds up then, secondly, approving it, synod should make clear what is expected of the churches.  Specific answers to questions like: may we ordain homosexual persons? Only if they are chaste?  Should we then expect chastity in the lives of all persons who experience this orientation?  Should we ask them not to marry since their doing so shows a lack of repentance for sexual activity among persons of the same gender?  If, on the other hand, synod does not approve of such a declaration, it should indicate why it is not a confessional issue and make it clear that officebearers at the local level are free to minister to their members with that in mind.  It should then also make it clear whether persons with a homosexual orientation may be nominated for office in spite of our 1973 decision ("incompatible with the will of God").

So rather than framing everything in the context of "pastoral advice," it is now time to decide one way or the other even though this may well sow division among us and force possible loss of membership or even our denominational makeup.

I wish it didn't have to be this way because I feel like we should be uniting around even this issue.  But I find that no amount of new hermeneutic can convince us that the Scriptures are actually quite tolerant of homosexual acts, and, as opposed to the women in office issue, doesn't speak in favorable terms about it, whatever the cultural expression of this was at the time, different from ours or not.  (I suspect not, but will trust good exegetes.)

In any case, to boil it right down to the basis of my "challenge," I win that one and synod should not declare that this is already a "confessional issue" as the study committee proposes.  That's simply not speaking truth.

May God bless our delegates in preparation and, hopefully, Spirit-filled deliberation in June (if we're out of the woods of Covid-19).

Blessings, everyone!  And thanks again.

 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Benjamin Gresik November 28, 2020

The Candidacy Committee keeps a list of eligible candidates with some contact information on their website here https://www2.crcna.org/candidacy/candidates

This includes candidates who haven't found a call in the year after graduating. I hope this helps.

stella andre November 27, 2020

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Hubert Groenenberg November 26, 2020

Hello;

Other than the recent graduates from Calvin Seminary, is there a place (web address) I can find pastors who are looking for a CRC Ministry position?

Bert Groenenberg

Cameron Fraser November 25, 2020

Not only did John Stott predict this would happen. At the height of the women in office controversy, David Feddes wrote in "Calvin Forum" that the hermeneutic being used would lead to this. Neal Plantinga responded that this was "unlovely" and Feddes might as well have suggested women in office would lead to an approval of stealing (a total non-sequetor). Feddes replied that, unlike other denominations, like Pentecostals that have had women preachers from the start, the hermeneutic being used in the CRC (i.e. cultural accommodation that undermines the authority of Scripture) was following the trajectory of the then mother church, the GKN who had moved past women in office to a reconsideration of homosexuality. Others who made the same point at Synod were booed, like they were making an unfair and unimaginable comparison.                             

Clearly, there are differences between the two issues, not least the Scriptures' positive statements on women's ministry. The point is Feddes was right about the underlying hermeneutic being used. It's time to admit that.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Andrew Beunk November 25, 2020

My how this thread has grown since I last read it!  Thank you Henry, for initiating this important conversation.  You have blessed our denomination with much wise counsel over the years.

Regrettably, I cannot see your way forward on this issue--namely, receive the report as pastoral advice, and make every effort to stay together by leaving local Council's to decide on what's permitted, and what's disciplined with respect to SSM--as being tenable or wise.

This is not an interpretive issue, its a matter of orthodoxy. As John Cooper has stated, the revisionist view employs a new hermeneutic, a way of reading Scripture that opens up all kinds of novel interpretations on any number of issues, including the issue of whether a biological male can decide to become female (I raise that because mostly what we are talking about in this thread is SSM....the culture has moved way past that issue and if the Bible allows us to remove the male/female binary out of marriage, it surely allows us to remove it from personhood as well).  Years ago John Stott predicted this would become the benchmark between orthodoxy and heresy. NT Wright sees this as evidence of the unraveling of culture under idolatry.   

Many people in the CRC, myself included, are deeply convinced that what these esteemed folks have stated is true. That's not too mention the countless others over the millennia of church history and in global church today that hold this view!   In fact, historically, it's hard to think of a teaching / position of the global church that has had more agreement than the definition of marriage as being between and man and a woman.

It is untenable to believe that a denomination can meaningfully stay together in the presence of such strong disagreement.  And I don't think any denomination to date that has tried has shown us it can. They've all experienced a significant exodus.

I agree with Henry, church "splits" have been / are deeply painful.  

Let's think of a way forward that first changes the vocabulary. Avoid the language and spirit of "split" or "schism" and use a more gracious term, like "realignment".  Imagine the powerful witness it would be to the watching world if two denominations like the RCA and CRC amicably negotiated a gracious realignment of churches, classes?, schools?, for the sake of avoiding a schism and working towards a solution that allowed both sides to move forward in their understanding of Biblical faithfulness.  

Admittedly, where this realignment will be most difficult is in Classis GRE; a mostly "big tent" Classis where many of our denominational employees are located (CRCNA, Calvin College).  It will take lots of  prayerful discussion / negotiation to work through all the politics and logistics. 

We have reached an impasse. The CRC needs to take a clear Biblical (traditional) position. Hopefully the RCA will adopt the "big tent" or affirming position (Part of me cringes when I read what I just wrote. How can I hope a denomination adopts heresy? I suppose I've resigned myself to the fact that we are at an impasse and realignment feels more like a cooperative option than a divisive one.)

We'll need lots of clever minds like yours Henry, to help the churches see how this realignment could happen!

BTW, if the RCA maintained the tradition and the CRC went progressive, I'd still be in favour of the realignment. My RCA friends make me think that's a lot less likely.

 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Cameron Fraser November 25, 2020

Further on church unity, it's clear that both the CRC and the former GKN in the Netherlands were far too quick to enforce discipline on secondary issues of conscience and biblical interpretation, resulting in church splits. The solution is not to go to the other extreme and avoid discipline altogether. This is clearly not biblical. Interesting that it's those who seek to promote the purity and orthodoxy of the church (albeit sometimes harshly and unlovingly) who are now accused of being divisive...not those who push for change and reinterpretations of Scripture that amount to accommodating rather than transforming culture.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Cedric Parsels November 25, 2020

Henry, 
    I am not persuaded by your understanding of what "respecting" a Synodical decision means. Instead, I think that your commentary has it exactly right. If Synod makes a decision which (a) is of non-confessional nature and which (b) does not imply that people have a choice in the matter (i.e., it doesn't use terms like may, might, or can), then churches, classes, and individuals are not allowed to act contrary to those decisions. As you rightly state, "If it were otherwise, we would once again be left with ‘autonomous individuals’ or ‘autonomous local churches’” (DeMoor, Commentary, 169). 

Your argument about "negative/protest votes" does not support your (new?) understanding of what "respecting" a decision means. All that "protest votes" indicate is that people in our denomination are allowed to speak and write against a synodical decision. They do not imply that the protestor, their classis, or their local congregation are thereby freed to act contrary to Synod's decision. "If it were otherwise, we would once again be left with ‘autonomous individuals’ or ‘autonomous local churches’” (DeMoor, Commentary, 169). 

Your example from your time teaching at the seminary is a perfect example of how our denomination has understood what it means to "respect" a decision of Synod. In class, you represented the denomination's position fairly, then you represented your own view. And you let the adults in the room decide for themselves what they were going to do with that information (e.g., write overtures to Synod or not). What you did not do is actively participate in a woman's ordination or advise a council to go forward with a woman's ordination. If you had, then you would clearly have been disrespecting Synod's decision. 

If a member, congregation, or classis wants to act contrary to something Synod has taught, then they should either submit a gravamen or submit an overture. If Synod declines to adopt their recommendation, then the respectful thing to do is either to (a) abide by the decision or (b) submit a new overture with different grounds or (c) leave for a denomination that allows them to act according to their conscience.   

posted in : Status Confessionis
Cameron Fraser November 25, 2020

Much as I love the Heidelberg Catechism, and much as I respect the help I've received from Henry over the years, it seems that for years the CRC has been using the confessions as a loophole to avoid following explicit biblical directives (which in theory are our primary authority). The Heidelberg Catechism etc. don't deal with abortion, pornography or a host of other issues that have become lightning rods in our society. It's not that these issues didn't exist back then, but they weren't legally and societally approved, and so were not addressed. To avoid biblical teaching by saying it's not in the confession or catechism is casuistry of the highest order. There's also an implied judgment that those of us who take the "traditional" view on same-sex marriage are not compassionate and would not deal pastorally with specific cases. That may be true for some, but it's an unwarranted assumption to make in general. I agree that church splits are painful and have often been unbiblical. That's why I second the suggestion that, rather than form yet another denomination, the respective parties in the RCA and CRC realign...although I recognize that to be a faint hope. I find it ironic that on issues like baptism that have divided the Christian church for years, we want to make it a primary confessional issue, but on issues relating to homosexuality on which the church has been united until recently (and most evangelicals still are) we want to make them secondary or "pastoral" rather than confessional.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Henry DeMoor November 25, 2020

Josh,

It looks like we will need to agree on what "respecting" a decision means.  It does not mean obeying what a synod has declared.  If it did, our having a negative vote recorded means very little.  Let me give you an example out of my own past.  I was interviewed by Synod 1988 after the Calvin Seminary board nominated me to serve as an assistant professor of church polity.  The delegates already knew, by way of prior overtures and the public press, that I favored the nomination of women to serve as ordained officebearers.  So a number of delegates wondered how I could possibly hold that view and yet respect the synodical decisions not to allow it.  My response was that seminary students were adults and clever enough to be able to distinguish between what the CRC held as its position on the matter and my own views on it.  So in all the years I taught church polity I always presented what the CRC held and why, and I also presented what those who didn't agree with that position held and why so that said students could make up their own minds.  The same is true of synodical delegates who had their negative vote on a decision recorded.  They went back to their classis, reported on what synod decided (respectfully) and why they voted against it.  There's no problem with that in our system.  Of course, no synod allows a negative vote on a matter that is obviously a confessional issue.  Women in office, as Synod 1987 declared, was and is not a confessional issue.

As for Classis Toronto, I have enough awareness of their actions to know that not only did the council of that congregation respectfully differ on a matter that was at that point not a confessional issue, but that the council also held their belief so forcefully that it didn't leave much of a choice for classis to act as it did.  Those actions reflected a response to one council's approach.  There were many other councils that dealt pastorally with those who professed to be homosexual in orientation and sought to help them live with the synodical decisions of 1973.  Elders may even have differed with synod's position, but respecting synod's decisions means that they would be obliged to accurately report what its position was and is.

 

 

 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Kent VanTil November 24, 2020

The fact that the question of homosexual marriage has been addressed negatively in the past is no reason not to address it now.  The same could have been said of slavery and women's equality.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Josh Christoffels November 24, 2020

And yet, even matters of pastoral advice are still considered settled and binding. Synod 2004 urged a church in Classis Toronto to act according to the 1973 report. Wasn’t that decision evidence that synod has interpreted this matter as binding? Classis Toronto passed a statement saying that the church’s actions were breaking with the denominational covenant. Synod 2006 approved the work of the In Loco committee that said the same. From what I understand from your Commentary on this, Henry – p. 167 – a delegate can record their negative vote on a decision, but they “must still respect the decision made by the majority and thus the assembly as a whole.” When you speak about avenues of appeal on p. 169, you say this: “Obviously, the proving must not be done to oneself, or to one’s council, or to one’s classis, but to synod. If it were otherwise, we would once again be left with ‘autonomous individuals’ or ‘autonomous local churches.’” Doesn’t this mean that Neland should have first appealed to synod? It’s one thing for a council or individual to disagree with a decision, but that does not mean they have the right to disregard it. Where is the proof that this decision is not in accordance with Scripture?

posted in : Status Confessionis
Henry DeMoor November 24, 2020

Yes, Dan, but only if a synod of the CRCNA has made this a confessional issue.  Currently it is a position that we have adopted and synod has called that "pastoral advice" to the churches.  So the signing of the Covenant for Officebearers by said deacon did not involve confessional status.  If, however, Synod 2021 were minded to interpret our confession by insisting that "unchastity" includes same gender sexual relations, that deacon might have to send such a confessional difficulty gravamen unless they are both chaste in their marriage.  And if that is sent, I doubt that the broader assemblies would grant the request.  In that case she would likely have to resign.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Esther Korzilius November 24, 2020

This about the motion sickness article.  I, too, have had trouble with motion sickness since a young child.  My father loved to go for Sunday afternoon rides.  I would come back sick.  This is when there were two services that were "required".  He once accused me of getting sick so I couldn't go to church that night.

Well, I discovered something that helps me!  In the medical section of larger grocery chains or your pharmacy, they have packages with two wrist bands.  These strechy bands have a plastic round button inside that you place on your wrist and press!  No kidding! I have no more problem with motion sickness if I wear these.  I have even given them to strangers having trouble and in minutes they are better.  It has no medicine-just pressure points.

Try them - for $ 10 it is worth it!

Esther Korzilius

Hi Karin, It sounds like you are very faithful in prayer - thank you!  It might interest you that we offer weekly prayers on Wednesday here!  You can subscribe and get them straight to your inbox each week!

 

 

(Prayer)
Staci Devries November 24, 2020

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries November 23, 2020

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Warren Piva November 23, 2020

Should 'pastoral advice' be understood as 'prophetic advice' also?

posted in : Status Confessionis
Warren Piva November 23, 2020

Maybe that's a good point of clarification, Paul. Though certainly there is no point in carrying on without at this point deciding whether or not it is confessional. It's been deliberated on, held as a position, and now we're under the cultural weight of incredibly massive sexual confusion on many points. That is to say, culturally, if the denomination is not clear at this point regarding it, the cultural assumptions ('anything goes') will lead the expectations, interpretation, and practice. 

Troy Bierma

posted in : Status Confessionis
Dan Winiarski November 23, 2020

Agreed.

And if a deacon (such as at Neland Ave CRC) promotes the belief that sexual immorality should be affirmed and celebrated within the church, in conflict with our confessions, they would no longer be affirming our Covenant for Officebearers. They would need to file a confessional difficulty gravamen and ask their council and the broader assemblies to allow them to continue to promote sexual immorality.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Warren Piva November 23, 2020

Sorry, one of my email handles is listed. This is Troy Bierma.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Henry DeMoor November 23, 2020

No, Dan, I'm not saying that at all.

If you believe and express the belief that all people are saved, your belief would be in conflict with our confessions, namely, the Canons of Dort (e.g. II, 6) and the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 20) and thus would no longer be affirming our Covenant for Officebearers.  The only exception would be for you to file a "confessional difficulty gravamen" and ask your council and the broader assemblies to allow you not to believe in limited atonement and be granted that privilege.  That request would almost certainly not get a positive response.  So if you persisted in this you would have to be suspended and/or deposed from office.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Warren Piva November 23, 2020

The problem with the 'let's just try to be united' ideal is that it's a contradiction, especially with issues that are understood to be salvation issues. Some issues may be along the lines of adiaphora, such as the 1944 case you mentioned (or the obvious recent example in our denomination that a biblical case can be made for or against women in office, which some may think is stronger one way or the other way, but doesn't compare with the biblical treatment of sexual immorality). Even if the respective churches in the Netherlands may have thought their issue had that weight at the time or were led astray by those that argued it aggressively, that issue is not comparable with sexual immorality in terms of any biblical case for or against it. We may be tempted to think "we should be humble, because in 50 years maybe we'll realize that this issue isn't that important either," but sexual immorality is nothing new. Paul taught not only on unity but also taught and practiced that sexual immorality is an issue requiring separation in the case of unrepentance. Thus, if, as the report highlights, sexual immorality is to be addressed in preaching and discipline--in other words, it cannot be welcomed into the life of the church--to request a bid for unity is the same as saying that all should adopt the progressive perspective. 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Eric Van Dyken November 23, 2020

Hi Paul,

I think the Kinism matter is apples and oranges.  There is are no broad cultural forces pushing for acceptance of Kinism, nor are their swaths of the church pushing for its normalization and pointing to the academy for their support.  

Consider just how many times the CRC (and the broader orthodox church) has affirmed the sinfulness of homosexual sex.  The point isn't that it was never worth studying.  The point is it is absurd to take an understanding so historically entrenched and recently affirmed numerous times and then act as if that understanding is questionable as to its implications for the plain language of the confession.  Homosexual acts have *always* been understood in the CRC to be sexually immoral, to be unchaste.  To now say that office bearers are free to promote, engage in, and accept unchastity, contra the Confessions, in their local context because Synod never explicitly said they would receive discipline for such seems to me to be absurd.  

posted in : Status Confessionis
Dan Winiarski November 23, 2020

I am currently serving as a deacon at my local CRC church. Let's say I start sharing my idea that God is going to save ALL human beings, even those who deny Christ. I bring it up at Council meetings. I promote it during my deacon visits. I post all kinds of things on social media about it.

Are you saying I should not expect or accept any discipline from my fellow office-bearers for that?

posted in : Status Confessionis
Paul Verhoef November 23, 2020

Eric, 

I agree that things can get absurd.  Here is why I would suggest that this is not in the category of absurd.

In 1970, the CRCNA asked a committee "to study the problem of homosexuality and to delineate the church's position on this matter" (Acts 1970, p 121).  So they considered delineating a position worth a study committee; it was an open-enough question to consider.  It was not seen as an absurd question.

If Synod 1970 shared your mind in this matter, it would seem that the Synod would have said something like, "No need to study it; it is both obviously a sin, obviously 'unchaste' sexuality, and thus obviously a matter of confessional-level agreement." I would note that Synod did speak clearly and directly and immediately on the matter of Kinism.  They did not create a study committee on Kinism; they simply declared it heretical.  So clearly Synod is willing to say, "This is obviously sin; no need for further study."

I assume that if Synod was seriously asked, "Is breaking a window on someone else's car and taking it, never to return it, considered stealing?" that Synod would have said, hopefully with compassion, "That's an unnecessary question for a study committee.  That's absurd."

Our CRCNA history has said, "This is not an absurd question."  And what's more, when that report came back, the Advisory Committee considered the report and DID NOT add a recommendation to make their report an interpretation of the confession (which they could have).  

Instead, what Synod 1973 DID DO was appoint a new study committee to ask the question, "What does it mean that something is 'settled and binding' as it comes to decisions Synod makes?"  And that study committee came back to Synod 1975 and said (I think this is an appropriate summary) that, "Decisions of Synod are all settled and binding,... and that decisions differ in their nature of authority and in the measure of agreement expected" (among other differences).  

This is the situation as far as I can tell: 'homosexual sex is a sin' is settled and binding not at the confessional level, but at the level of a position held by the CRCNA at the level of 'pastoral advice and guidance.'  As such, there has historically been room for respectful disagreement, even among office-holders. That may change.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Henry DeMoor November 23, 2020

Dan,

That is not my premise.

My premise is that no synod thus far in CRC history has insisted that officebearers at the local level apply discipline.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Henry DeMoor November 23, 2020

Yes, Paul, thanks.  That is exactly how this thread began.  My challenge on the church political dimension of the much larger issue.  Because, again, synod itself declares how authoritatively it speaks.  In the case of homosexuality, everything has been "pastoral advice."  Deliberately so.

 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Dan Winiarski November 23, 2020

Indeed. The best way to respond directly to Henry's "challenge" is to reject the premise of his challenge. His premise is that the CRC may not discipline anyone for promoting sinfulness, unless Synod has specifically named that particular sub-category of sin as worthy of church discipline. And/or that any sin for which Synod has issued "pastoral advice" is now off the table as one which deserves disciplinary action. As if pastoral advice and confessional status are somehow mutually exclusive, de facto.

Again, Henry admits that Scripture is clear...gay sex is part of the general category of sexual immorality. He even admits that the historical Church has always viewed it that way.

But he says the CRC in 2020 may not claim it as a confessional stance because no Synod has specifically itemized gay sex as part of sexual immorality.

But where is the premise supported that Synod must specifically itemize each sub-category of broader sins in order for confessional status to flow from the broader category to the more specific instances?

posted in : Status Confessionis
Staci Devries November 23, 2020

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries November 23, 2020

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Eric Van Dyken November 23, 2020

Paul, that line of reasoning is valid to a degree, but has limitations on applicability unless we are willing to enter the realm of the absurd.  Does murder include the actual unlawful taking of a human life?  Can we possibly know definitively?  Should local congregations be able to decide if they consider the unlawful taking of a human life in their temporal and geographical context to be included in their understanding of murder?

I grant that DeMoor's challenge has not been met, but I deem it as proving nothing other that showing that Synod did not say something that it needn't have said in order for the language of the Confessions (and more is at stake than just HC 109) to have actual meaning.  If I challenge you to tell me when you quit beating your wife and you fail to meet the challenge, does that make my challenge legitimate?  The simple fact that DeMoor's challenge has not been met does not really prove anything.  I think we understand the point he is making, but we disagree with it.  Also, he has gone on to make other points, some of which we also disagree with.  

Beyond that, if the CRC has agreed (as you stipulate above, and you say that DeMoor stipulates) that homosexual sex is sinful, the only category it can fall into is the category of unchastity.  It is incoherent to claim that we agree homosexual sex is sinful according to the Bible, but that agreement does not mean that we understand according to our Catechism that God forbids such unchastity.  It is by definition a form of unchastity if we agree that it is sexual immorality.  

posted in : Status Confessionis
Wendy Hammond November 23, 2020

I'm curious, Erin, what YOU think the impression of suddenly stopping a giveaway program would give to parents and children.

Through our North American lens, it might seem heartless and cruel. Taking away Christmas.

Through the recipient community lens, it may be a relief. Not having to figure out what to do with or how to pay for random boxes of things that may or may not be appropriate for the children in the community (and that often come in July, not Christmas); father not having to explain why someone in North America gives his kids things while he can’t.

One alternative is a global partnership such as those offered through World Renew. Perhaps they could send Christmas greetings to each other. In one of these church partnerships, the churches send letters to one another. These letters have been kept and read and reread over the years. During COVID, they have also attended each other’s church services online.

Perhaps they could take the money that would be spent at big box stores here and instead send it to the local church to provide a special holiday meal for the families in their community, allowing the local church to be the hero in their own story of transformation. Or, perhaps both the North American church and the church in the developing community could both do a community meal at similar times, sharing ideas and experiences for outreach and how to share the gospel in word and deed.  

The impression? Wow, our brothers and sisters in Christ value us.

Paul Verhoef November 23, 2020

It is my understanding that Dr. DeMoor is saying, "The discernment of how to flesh out these larger category words (like 'unchastity'), considering what they mean in the particular temporal and geographical context, is the very work of the local church.  The confessions were written with these wide words; and the history of the church is that it does the work, usually at the local level, of applying these wide words." 

I would suggest that it is generally unwise to ask Synod to maintain lists of sins that fall under each large-category word: "belittle, hate, insult" (HC 105), "theft and robbery,...scheming and swindling,...greed" (HC 110), "do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor's good name" (HC 112).  There are likely all sorts of ways that we would agree, as a denomination of local churches, on what constitutes some of those pieces.  But we have not gone as far to make those clarifications 'binding.'  For instance, we could deliberate and decide denominationally around the question, "Is charging interest on a loan "greed"?  How much interest is too much?  When does it become 'usury'?"  What if we discovered that Ursinus, in his commentary on the Catechism, had written that 3% interest is the maximum; anything more is greed?  Would Ursinus's perspective be 'confessional' for the CRC today?  Absolutely not.  

I think the point Dr. De Moor is making is that the CRCNA has not, at a denominational/Synodical level ever made the clear decision that 'homosexual sex' is part of the CRCNA's confessional standards as sinful.  He has acknowledged that Ursinus thinks it is sinful.  Also, that Ursinus considers homosexual set to be in the category of 'unchastity'.  Dr. DeMoor has clearly said that the CRCNA has said it is sinful.  What the CRCNA has NOT said is that the belief that 'homosexual sex is sinful' needs to be held at the confessional level of agreement/adherence.  And he is asking us to do the work to disprove him - so look at the history.  Has the CRCNA ever made a statement that we (the CRCNA) decided that 'homosexual sex is sinful' is a statement held to the highest level of denominational agreement (confession/creedal agreement)?  The answer, at least as I read every response in this chain, is "No, we cannot point to that place in CRCNA history."  We have said, "Homosexual sex is a sin", and that is our CRCNA's 'position', but we have not raised that position to the level of 'confessional/creedal agreement.'  Instead, it has been at the agreement level called "pastoral advice."

He has also said that Synod 2021 may change that.  Synod's have the freedom to do so.  But he disagrees with the Human Sexuality reports conclusion that 'it is already confessional.'  That's the conversation as I am reading it.

posted in : Status Confessionis
Eric Van Dyken November 23, 2020

If I am reading Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary by Henry DeMoor, are the thoughts of Henry DeMoor irrelevant to understanding what is written?

"So it is whether the synod of the CRCNA has ever insisted that "unchastity" includes homosexual activity."  This standard, consistently applied, would make our confessions essentially toothless or even meaningless.  If every word is open to fanciful re-definition if Synod has not "insisted" that it be understood to be it's common and historic definition then we are left with documents that have no objective meaning.  The CRC (along with the vast majority of the historic and global church) has never understood unchastity to be anything other than inclusive of homosexual activity, an act of sexual immorality.  That you seek to invert the burden of proof is not compelling.  

 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Jason Ellis November 23, 2020

I will say that it is crystal clear to me Henry. Again, just as we've established that Kinism is outside the bounds of Scripture and our Confessions, I would say that the same is true regarding revisionist views of human sexuality. The Confessions need not explicitly address race or racism etc. for us to discern that an ethical framework opposing interracial marriage is outside the bounds of our Confessions and historic small "c" catholicity of the church. In both cases, members may struggle with temptation to various degrees, but I am reasonably comfortable disciplining teachers who promote either one. 

posted in : Status Confessionis
Dan Winiarski November 23, 2020

What's not clear to me is how the CRC can be "bound by the confessions" as you say, but not bound by the words in the confessions. How do you explain that?

If I hire you to mow my lawn, and I write a contract stating "Henry will mow my lawn every week during the summer," and you sign the contract, would it make sense for you to come back later and try to mow my deck? Or my living room? Or my vegetable garden? Because you say "We don't really know what the word 'lawn' means."

The Heidelberg catechism is clear that lying is a sin (Q & A 112). But it says nothing specifically about cheating on our taxes. So if a local church council decides to cheat on the church's payroll taxes, and also hold seminars at the church about how people can cheat on their taxes...well, Synod hasn't specifically said cheating on our taxes is a violation of our Confessions, so I guess there's nothing anybody could do about that. Right?

Please explain how we can remain faithful to the Confessions and to Scripture, while ignoring the words in the Confessions and Scripture, and pretending the words don't mean what they clearly mean?

posted in : Status Confessionis

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