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In June 2023, Synod made several key decisions regarding the Human Sexuality Report (HSR) and the various responses to it. Among its actions was the approval of an instruction to the denomination’s forty nine classes to “guide into compliance the officebearers of their constituent churches who publicly reject the biblical guidelines affirmed by Synod 2022 regarding same-sex relationship” (Acts of Synod 2023, p. 1029). Classes around the denomination have been discussing the scope and character of that instruction ever since, equipped by, among other things, an “FAQ” document distributed by the Office of General Secretary. Undoubtedly, there will be further conversation about these and related items at Synod 2024.

In October 2023 church visitors and regional pastors from all of the classes were invited by Thrive ministry consultants to think about the challenges and opportunities of the Synod 2023 mandate. What follows is the material that the Thrive ministry consultants shared with these classis leaders:

  1. Assigning this task to church visitors aligns with a long-standing mandate for church visitors (see Church Order, article 42b), one that should probably inform how we understand synod’s specific mandate to “guide into compliance”:  

The church visitors shall consist of one or more teams of office bearers chosen for their experience and counsel. Team composition shall include a minister of the Word and at least one other officebearer. Their task shall be to ascertain whether the officebearers of the church faithfully perform their duties, adhere to sound doctrine, observe the provisions of the Church Order, and promote the building up of the body of Christ and the extension of God’s kingdom. Churches are free to call on the church visitors whenever serious challenges arise that would benefit from their advice. The church visitors shall provide classis a written report of their work.

  1. The actual practice of church visiting across the CRCNA is inconsistent from classis to classis and even from one church visiting team to another within a classis. In most regions, church visiting has long been underutilized and neglected. Placing Synod 2023’s mandate on such a system quickly overwhelms its diminished capacities. At Thrive we recognize that challenge, and hope that classes will see the value in designing and sustaining church visiting programs that can address not just this particular, narrow mandate from Synod but the full scope of Article 42b’s guidance. 
  1. Some of the principles of Restorative Practice can be helpful in conversations with councils relative to the HSR. A key insight from Restorative Practice is that when all is well in a situation we are usually able to hold grace and truth together, as partners. But when we begin to feel anxious about a conversation, or when we experience some resistance, it is easy to slide out of grace-and-truth and become either too permissive (grace without truth), too authoritarian (truth without grace), or too neglectful (neither grace nor truth). Another way to say it is that instead of doing things with people, we slide into doing things for them, doing things to them, or not doing anything at all. The key to avoiding being authoritarian in these situations is to focus on listening to understand and be curious. The key to avoiding being permissive is to be clear about expectations and process. You want to move “up and to the right,” toward a “with” posture of grace and truth and away from permissiveness, neglect, and authoritarianism.
  1. The synodical mandate doesn’t make church visitors responsible for enforcing compliance, as some might fear, but it does call church visitors to:
    1. Help people know what compliance means both in terms of ecclesiastical and pastoral concerns, and encourage it.
    2. Help people hold grace and truth together, without compromising one or the other. 
  1. Here are some curious questions that church visitors could pose to churches, as they model what it means to do hard conversations with a “with” posture: 
    1. Tell us about your congregation’s discernment process.
    2. How has scripture spoken into your convictions about these issues? What texts/themes have been given prominence? What texts/themes have less prominence?
    3. How have you interacted with larger assemblies, like classis and Synod?
    4. How has your discernment been informed by your interactions with church tradition, the global church, LGBTQ+ community, other congregations, etc.?
    5. What would those who have engaged you from a different perspective on this issue say about their experience with you?
    6. How do you learn about new things, new perspectives, new approaches?
    7. What other issues/challenges have, in the past, required your congregation to learn?
    8. What part of synod’s guidance to the churches are you grateful for?
    9. What part of synod’s guidance to the churches do you grieve?
    10. What would you need to remain with one another? With the denomination? With the people you serve?
    11. How does this conversation relate to your congregation’s mission?
  1. In a conflicted situation, the best way to get someone to listen to you and take your position seriously is to take time– more time than you believe is warranted– to listen to them and take their position seriously. When church visitors do this they are following synod’s own advice to church visitors to do their work in a spirit of love and grace (see Acts of Synod 2023, p. 1030; Article 78.B.2). If the church you are interacting with is anxious or reactive, you can help them to engage the conversation more fruitfully by modeling a posture of non-anxious, curious listening. We wonder how much better these “guiding into compliance” conversations might go if church visitors first proposed a bargain: “We’d like to listen deeply and well to understand you and where you’re coming from. Would you then be willing to listen deeply and well to understand us and where our denomination is coming from?” 

This material is shared here in the hope that it helps church visitors to connect with the churches of their classes on the subject of the HSR in a way that builds and repairs every possible bridge. If you are interested in additional conversation then let us know at



I am neither "affirming" or wanting to "abide."  But Synod's mandate to "guide into compliance" dictates the bottom line of any conversation between church visitors and councils.  You can listen all you want, but the only value in the "conversation" is to allow individuals to vent their frustrations.  Synod has been consistently unwilling to listen to those who disagree, including but not limited to those who want to revisit the Scriptural teaching on the issue and the minority report about those who submit a gravamen.  Now we're encouraged to listen!  Any "listening" at this point is merely patronizing-- especially if the church is not open to considering alternative viewpoints as having validity.

Douglas, I can not agree more with your position! As far as I am concerned the church and the leadership of the church have taken a very heavy handed approach it is "Our way way or the highway" I do not feel welcomed in a CRA church. For transparency if you want to pigeon hole people or put people into a nice comfy box. I am straight, married, two children (adults now). There I fit into one of Synod's neat little boxes. Yet I do listen, I listen to the people crying because the bulliness of Synod decisions and directions have hurt God's children. The church might as well restart conversion therapy (which is outlawed by both the US and Canada's Psychology Societies on human sexuality.) There are people in the church that want to have the discussion about who are God's Children? Not how do we punish some people we aren't comfortable with.

I have had the replies on other posts - we discerned, we talked at great lengths on the topic, we prayed, we read the Holy Bible (Old Testament) and the Apostles positions on homosexuality - but did you read and listen to what Jesus says about homosexuality? Because if you did you would find he does not talk about it at all - nope not once. People say well he was a wedding between a man and a woman there's your proof - no you have missed the entire meaning of that lesson - it had nothing to do with a wedding it was all about Jesus' first miracle turning the water into wine, and Mary his mother knew who her son was (she told the servants do what he tells you). 

I know the responses I will receive - you weren't there, you don't know what was said and what was done. "you don't know what you are talking about" None of those statements are about listening they are all statements to bully someone into a corner and to send them out the door.


Jeffrey Thompson:  You hit on a couple of things that I think are significant.  Your words, "the bulliness of Synod" and " we discerned, we talked at great lengths on the topic, we prayed, we read the Holy Bible."  What this ultimately boils down to is spiritual abuse.  God has given legitimate authority to Synod, but this authority has been abused to force compliance to the majority opinion, with a sheen of spirituality.  I find it interesting that the "prayer room" has been moved to the stage of Synod.  We had better listen to ("comply with") Synodical decisions, because they are "settled and binding."  Too bad if you are the 1/3 in the church that doesn't agree-- you lost the vote.

As for Scripture, I'm not willing to limit our study to the Gospels.  I'm increasingly convinced that if we began the discussion with Pauls's words in Romans 2:1,  "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things," it might affect how we understand Romans 1.  It is sad that the chapter break falls where it does, because Romans 2:1 is the whole point.  Paul is not giving us a lesson on sexual ethics-- he's pointing out the universal reach of sin and the need of all for a Savior (which he summarizes in Romans 3:23-24,  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

The CRCNA has not arrived at "the truth" re. the LGBTQ challenge.  Contrary to the other response, we are not yet ready to come to a conclusion.  We need more time for prayer, study, discussion, and discernment.  And we need to listen to all voices-- our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, those who call themselves "affirming," the "abide" folks, and people like me who still have significant questions for both sides and are not ready to join either camp.  If we really want to take the Bible seriously, I suggest we all focus on I Corinthians 12, where the Church is called a body, and every part is important.  ". . .there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."  (I Corinthians 12:25-26).  Many of us are suffering-- our LGBTQ members and those who cannot agree with Synod's recent decisions.  The solution,  "conform or leave" may resolve the church's anxiety, but it is certainly not Biblical.


What does one do with any decision of any body (Council, Classis, Synod) if they do not agree? Then, how long do we read, pray, seek to discern? I pose these not as an argument, but as legitimate questions. Do we seek unanimity? Reasonably, I do not believe this would ever be forthcoming. Do we continue until the proverbial tide turns? This would simply mean that another group will feel discounted. Is it possible we have not genuinely heard God speak because we do not wish to? Is it possible that we have heard him speak and do not wish to accept what he has said? 


Douglas; I am in agreement with your statements and suggestions. There are others suffering the ongoing superiority complex that has invaded the church. to use the quote "You are either with us or against us" and if you are against us we don't want you. That sounds like a clique, not a church. I find your statement the "prayer room" has been moved to the stage of Synod." classic we are higher then you and therefore better then you or we know more then you so listen to us. I do not buy the excuse that putting people on stage so others can see them as a valid excuse especially in this day of video transmissions. 

I vividly remember the 1980s/90s when people with AIDS were dying, dying a horrible death and church leaders and church members walked away, or called it a plague sent by God and many other horrible things. I lost many dear friends to AIDS / HIV. It was horrible to watch someone die while the Christian leaders refused to lead in comforting those who were dying. 

Your interpretations of the scriptures are very interesting and I have called out a couple of them before, yet I think you did a better job at coordinating the scriptures and bring them together as a whole and not as simple snippets that are used by those who are not ready to deep divide into the Bible and its teachings. You are also correct there are other things we need to look at besides just the Holy Bible. 

I guess I am in the 1/3 - but I shall not be silenced. I didn't accept bullies in grade school, I certainly do not accept them at age 63!

Jeffrey Thomson

Hi Jeffrey, With all respect due, it cannot be said that Jesus never spoke about homosexuality. As the gospel according to John makes it clear, if it is not obvious, there were many more things that he said and did that are not recorded. The argument from silence is a logical fallacy. The gospel writers picked and chose what they would include and what they would exclude based on their own criteria. 

I also have trouble with name calling. We ought to be able to have respectful conversations that focus on issues and not individuals. I  have not heard of anyone who wishes to "punish" anyone. Further, across the spectrum, there are those who have (or may have) a relationship with the Lord but are not living a "sanctified" life. The foundation for any discussion of a believer's behavior is a recognition that "we all fall short of the glory of God." That is not an excuse to be taken advantage of by appealing to the grace of God, simply a fact. That's why we have (or did have) discipline exercised by the elders and why we have (or did have) "mutual censure." It is all about bringing one another into compliance, about discipling one another. Good listening is understanding and accepting the other person's position without necessarily agreeing with them. But ultimately, with any issue, any question, any motion, any overture there needs to be a time when a decision is made. As I noted earlier, there are those who would persist in discussing, praying, meditating, seeking to discern until they get their own way. That is unreasonable. The HSR has been before us for over 3 years. How much discussion has taken place within our individual congregations or within our classes, I do not know, but that is where the most fruitful discussions will take place. The challenge with out Synod is that each year the delegates are different individuals which, at least in theory, means that a different decisions could be reached each year, resulting in yo-yo convictions. No body can live with that anxiety and uncertainty.   

Ronald, thank you for your respectful response, dialogue is important. I do have a few comments to your response, but before going to those, I agree we keep talking and talking and talking without a true definitive answer, especially when we change people at Synod every year! When this happens we call that the guinea pig circus wheel spinning around and around. I have been a mediator inside and outside of the church and that phrase has been used by many mediators to describe what it happening here at CRANA.

HSR has been talked about in our society for more than 3 years - maybe only 3 years at Synod, but longer in our society.

To say that not everything that Jesus said, was written into the Holy Bible I believe is a mistake. The Word of our Lord and Savior was captured and documented these Words would not have been left out - that would be in the day something that would not have been tolerated or accepted. Can you imagine a group of people today sitting down and writing out the scriptures according to what Jesus said and we decide not to capture some of His Words? because it doesn't fit the narrative?? I doubt that today we would leave His Words out as just as those who wrote and put together the first edition would not miss a single word known to be said by Jesus.

I too do not find "name calling" and punishment unacceptable either, and yet that is what society did back in the 1980s/90s. Because I helped or talked to members of the Gay Society I was immediately deemed a member of that society and I suffered many attempts to be beaten up (it was called Gay Bashing back then and was supported by the Police) - those who persecuted me did not go unscathed.

So how do we resolve this "issue" so we can move onward and provide service to all of God's Children? Because the way we are doing it - is not working.

Again I thank you Ronald for your respectful conversation - we need more of that


Jeffrey Thomson

Hi again,

For me there is a logic here. Jesus' public ministry was some 3 years. If you were to count the number of things that Jesus said as recorded in the 4 gospels and then eliminate those that are repeated, I suspect (I have not actually done this.) that would would have a result of him having spoken less than 3 sentences per day. That does not take into account the fact that parables consume more than one sentence. It would be remarkable, therefore, to assume that he spoke no more than what we have. (Confession: John refers to what he did, not what he said so I erred there.) Writers in those days  did not (obviously) have access to even a typewriter, let alone a computer or a smart phone to record. So they had to be selective in what incidents they recorded. There is also the question of whether there are gospels or records of Jesus' sayings that have been lost. (We do have such as the Gospel of Thomas and a large collection of other gospels and epistles that are readily available but not included in our canon. Are there more?) We accept, therefore, what while me may not have everything, we have everything we need for salvation, however that word is understood. I might add here as well that even today historians, despite having an abundance of information at their disposal, are selective in what they use. No history book is or can be complete. Related, of course, is that so far as we know, no one was tagging along as a recording secretary. What we have is memory and that memory, as with all our memories, is selective. We recall those things that are important to us, that have made an impact on us, that have caused us to pause and think differently, act differently. If homosexuality was not an issue within the Jewish community then it would be rather pointless for him to speak to it, one way or another.

You ask how do we move forward and "provide service to all God's children?" Before my term expired as an elder and chair of council I did a confidential survey amongst the elders and deacons. There was no one who would say that homosexuals (include others within this category) should be excluded. The majority did see homosexual practice as being a sin and would therefore disavow having them serve in any leadership capacity unless celibate. They would yet be open to all the ministries of the congregation. The potential problem with this--and the HSR addresses it, is that if we do not wish to be and to be seen as hypocrites we must be a diligent with others who perpetually act in what is understood to be sinful. That is a real challenge.

The question is a good one, however. Even if we agree with the decision of Synod, how can we move forward without doing harm? I am honestly not sure there is an answer to this. What is harmful to one may be innocuous to another. Given that a decision has been made, perhaps the place for these discussions is now on the classical and congregational levels? One things for sure, we need to continue talking.   


There has been considerable discussion over several years on the matter, it is not just recently that it has come before Synod. Discussions of the HSR within congregations, from what I have heard, is quite a different matter. At some point a decision needs to be made and the reality is that which ever party sees said decision as being contrary to their position will suggest that they have not been heard or their views taken seriously. That is not necessarily true, simply that a contrary decision has been made. Listening and listening and understanding and  even empathizing with another's perspective does not equate with agreeing of compromising. 

I've already written plenty on this, but let me add 2 observations.

1. Re: "discussions of the HSR within congregations . . . is quite a different matter."  One of the issues going on here is that the HSR came out at the beginning of COVID, and Synod did not meet for two years.  I think this produced a great deal of anxiety within the church, fed by some who overstated the issues and created worst-case scenarios.  As I mentioned before, I believe the 2022 decision was an attempt to address the church's anxiety, which took priority over ministry to the LGBTQ community.

2. Whatever Jesus may have said that is not recorded in the Gospels is irrelevant.  These words are not available to us, and so we are in the realm of speculation.  They certainly don't have the authority over the church and believers that Scripture has.

3. How long do we keep the discussion going?  The problem here is sin-- and not the sin of the LGBTQ community.  Too many of us are convinced we have the truth in this matter and are unwilling to consider other voices.  This is pride, which is nothing other than garden-variety sin.  I believe we need to, as a church, repent of our arrogance.  We do not have all the answers.  I'm not sure we even know what all the questions are.  Discerning the leading of God and God's Spirit takes time.  We are in Lent, a 40 day period that begins with considering Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.  Discernment takes time.  Anxiety needs to be resolved immediately.  Are we going to be driven by our anxiety or a genuine desire to discern God's leading and a commitment to take whatever time we need?

May God bless all of us in the CRCNA as we strive with our human frailties to be a faithful church.



Ronald and Douglas - It's me again :-) 

I want to thank both of you for a healthy and respectful discussion. My eyes have been opened to both new and different perspectives. 

Do we have the answers? No, but we certainly have some similar views. 

Would I rather have this discussion over a nice red wine and a roast beef dinner with both of you - absolutely!

My home is open to you should you need some loaves of bread in the middle of the night :-) (My favourite lesson)

My God Bless you and your families during this period of Lent and let us open our hearts to the words our Lord and Savior sends to each of us.

God Bless you, and thank you.

Jeffrey Thomson

Waterloo, Ontario


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