On Thursday evening, November 8, I attended an event at Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The event was hosted by All One Body (A1B). A1B is an organized, highly-motivated group of CRC members, pastors, and office-bearers whose stated goal is to transform the CRC into a denomination that fully accepts and celebrates the values of the LGBTQ+ movement. A1B wants the CRC to normalize and celebrate homosexual activity, bisexual activity, and transgender identity in a fully-inclusive environment.
A Full Parking Lot
I had never been to Sherman Street CRC before. When I arrived at the church, night had fully arrived and even though it was only 7:45 in the evening, the parking lot was full. I drove around the building, but there were so many vehicles that many people had already invented parking spots where no legitimate space existed. This was a popular event! Just then, by luck or Providence (probably the latter) another vehicle pulled away, leaving an open parking spot in the first row. I took it.
The sanctuary of the church was packed with 200 or more people. As the event had already begun, I quietly took a seat about half-way up, on the left side of the sanctuary. As the evening went on, it became clear that everyone in attendance, save me and one other, were enthusiastic supporters of the agenda.
The main speaker for this event was Jim Lucas, a former CRC minister who currently works with the United Church of Christ (UCC), a denomination that already affirms the beliefs & ideas of the LGBTQ+ movement. After Jim Lucas spoke, 5 other people with connections to the CRC (a board member of A1B, a CRC pastor's wife, a CRC pastor who is not currently serving in a pastor’s role, a retired Christian school teacher, and a former CRC member who is now a UCC chaplain) were brought up on stage to join in a discussion that focused mainly on the best strategy for turning the CRC into a denomination that celebrates the values of the homosexual and transgender ideology.
What was that strategy?
The Inevitable Future, Personal Stories, and Hitting Close To Home
One of the speakers made an assertion that, I’m disappointed to say, I agree with. He stated that the current crop of young people in society at large and in the CRC in general, are completely on board with the idea that homosexual behavior is something to celebrate. He stated that it is merely a matter of time until the defenses of the CRC and other denominations like her crumble against the persistent battery of the LGBTQ+ movement. But where I am saddened by such a thought, the speaker was delighted. The problem for the speaker is that he, and most everyone who believes as he does, is not patient enough to wait for a new generation of leaders to rise up, friendly to the demands for inclusion, acceptance, and celebration. They want things to move much more quickly.
To this end, one of the board members of A1B gave the audience a piece of advice: Do not use Scripture to convince your fellow CRC members of the beauty of full inclusion. Instead, rely on personal stories. “Everyone has a story,” she said. “We can argue back and forth all day about Scripture, but we’re never going to win that way. Nobody can argue with your story.”
Another member of the panel shared the focal point of this “personal story” strategy. He said it is all about convincing people, through stories about real people who have embraced the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender lifestyle, that such people bear healthier fruit than those who are non-inclusive. Whereas the panel referred to “the old teachings of the church” as “toxic," A1B wants the CRC as a whole to accept the new teachings of full-inclusion, yielding good fruit.
The panel members made it clear that the relative health and goodness of the fruit is completely dependent on how a person feels about himself, herself, zheself (or whatever gender pronoun the person identifies with). When the church tells people that their preferred lifestyle is sinful and destructive, people will feel very bad about it. But if the church will affirm everyone’s lifestyle choice, those people will feel wonderful. That is good fruit!
According to the panel members, the power of personal stories is magnified immensely when the LGBTQ+ lifestyle hits close to home. A son, daughter, grandchild, niece, nephew, or child of a close friend who personally claims one of the letters in the LGBTQ+ movement is enough to break down even the strongest defenses. The people on stage at Sherman Street CRC were emphatic about the need to use real-life, personal examples to win people over.
And that brings us to the final strategy presented by A1B for bringing the CRC into the fold of full inclusion. The one that weaves together all the other chords, making one final, unbreakable strand.
The “Judicial” Strategy
The panel members recognized that the “legislative” approach of sending an overture to Synod was not likely to turn the CRC into an all-inclusive ally of the LGBTQ+ promoters. They also exhibited pessimism that the 2021 Synodical report on human sexuality will move the CRC closer to their desired outcome. Because of this, the panel revealed their preference for a strategy of using “judicial” rulings similar to the way the secular activists won their case at the United States Supreme Court with Obergefell.
A1B’s plan to transform the CRC will proceed as follows. They will identify a current CRC pastor who is sympathetic to their cause, who is willing to perform a homosexual “wedding” ceremony. Or taking another route, they will find a CRC congregation that is willing to elect an elder or deacon who is openly and proudly living in a homosexual partnership. Inevitably, this will cause a firestorm of protest in the CRC. Complaints will be filed. Debate will ensue. The Banner will publish articles both for and against. The great brouhaha will eventually make its way to Synod.
And the hope on the part of A1B is that Synodical delegates will embrace the path of least resistance and rule in favor of the pastor, or the church, or the office bearer. Synod might decide, as it has done with other controversial topics, that the LGBTQ+ question is a matter for each local church council to decide. Or, if the personal story of the individual involved is especially powerful, Synod may embrace empathy as the path toward inclusion. Perhaps a desire to prove the CRC’s relevancy credentials will convince Synod to “get with the times."
Whatever reasoning Synod uses, the panel members representing A1B were in agreement (and the audience was too) that the “judicial” plan presented their best path to victory. And I would say the mood in the room was cautiously optimistic that such a plan will eventually succeed in turning the CRC into the UCC.
Will it succeed? I suppose that is up to you…