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Mark Stephenson et al.: Thank you for sticking your necks out in the name of unity - notably, a unity that would make room precisely *for* many of the comments that are now being made against you.

Indeed, I don't see anything in what is written here that says someone couldn't speak out about what they consider clear from Scripture, or even couldn't 'rebuke' an LGBTQ person in their congregation, if they felt called to; it just says that, as in so many things, they can't count on the unanimous agreement of the CRC members or office-bearers (which, even if the HSR is accepted, they won't have), and that they can't safely assume the position of 'rebuker' without opening themselves to being 'rebuked' back (and I, for one, cannot look at the history of LGBTQ people within the CRC and not think I myself would deserve it). Accepting these realities patiently and lovingly is what unity looks like in a human community dedicated to following Christ. If Reformed Christians like me (and I assume some of Mark Stephenson and his co-signers) who affirm, say, gay marriages wanted to 'silence' or 'cancel' those who disagreed with us in the CRC, then we would be pushing *for* a confessional status, not against.

If Mark Stephenson and his co-signers are anything like me, they must have been tempted to go on the 'offensive': not only call for unity across positions on human sexuality, give the reasons they have for *their* positions - e.g., that Scripture teaches the value of marriage, particularly for those struggling with lust, while discussing polygamy, concubinage, marrying widowed in-laws, and marrying outside God's people without comment or with outright endorsement; or that we might take our cues on 'clearly defined' institutions from Jesus' dialogue with the Pharisees on the Sabbath, which was after all a commandment in itself, a whole day of creation, and a sin that the LORD had Moses kill someone for violating; but I don't claim to have Mark and his co-signers' expertise or to speak for them - that would be the obvious counter to the claims of clarity that I am seeing in these comments. But it would also be to distract from their point - regardless of how clearly scriptural I might think something is, or even of how many of my fellow Reformed Christians agree with me, that shouldn't in itself make agreeing on it a criterion for my communion with others, and that our default as followers of Jesus should be to *embrace* brothers and sisters we disagree, and not draw lines in the sand unless we have to.

Certainly I am guilty of not doing this; to be honest I have been feeling angry and disappointed with many of my brothers and sisters for a while now and, on occasion, wanted to distance myself from them. But the only solutions *I* have would be to worship in each other's churches, listen to each other's pastoral advice, and pray for and with each other. And these leaders are standing up for our ability to do just that. To those who are arguing against it, I hope to do it with you all the same, God helping me.

I appreciate your concern, but please understand that noone I know wants to compromise God's holiness or wants less reverence or thoughtfulness in the Church. Hopefully we all agree that there are no parts of God that can be balanced or weighed against each other - He is holy Love and the loving Holy One. And so while I am very unsure of your claim that God's holiness might uniquely be 'the center through which all of His attributes intersect', you are certainly right that God is a love we must dread and self-abase ourselves before. That makes it all the more dangerous to appropriate the Holy One's power to judge us, to compromise that His declaration that to He is Love, or to equivocate His Holiness with a 1st-century Hellenistic Jewish definition of marriage. Quite apart from the particular position on human sexuality as a moral issue, I find it very hard to look at the situation of churches in North America and not conclude that there is a real threat of making false gods of capitalism, 'family values', and self-help. On top of which I can't think of any Christians who have endured more abasement than LGBTQ Christians themselves - would that it were before God.

Thanks Dan, I have a few answers, again speaking only for myself. As a point of information before I do, though, I'd like to reiterate that the discussion here is not for changing the definition of anything, it is for *not* making a particular definition explicitly *confessional* - and that *would* be a change, even if you think it was implicit already. I stand by my own reasons for supporting same-sex marriages in the Church, I think more CRCers will come to support same-sex marriages in time, and I do think we're failing LGBTQ Christians and certainly don't blame anyone for leaving, but I haven't seen anyone actually ask for a confessional status or any formal changes in that 'direction'.

The most basic reason I don't want to leave would be that responding to disagreements by cutting ties is not what Jesus had in mind when He founded the church - the New Testament teaches against factions and encourages unity in any number of places, everyone knows that polarization is already enough of a problem in North American culture, and I suspect we can all look back at the history of Reformed churches and of Christianity more broadly and find a few partings of ways that we regret. On top of which, I think we are actively called *to* engage with each other on difficult topics. That's what we are doing right now, after all, isn't it? Would this conversation between you and me even be happening if we continually self-selected into increasingly narrow doctrinal and cultural fragments?

By the same token, I think some of the things Jesus *did* have in mind are fellowship, supporting (including correcting) each other in His ways, dwelling in peace with one another, and worshiping Him with a unison befitting His one kingdom. And all that comes with relationships that develop over time and, by the work of the Holy Spirit, constitute the Church as His body. Christians within a church who disagree with each other are still very much connected with each other, which is part of the idea - perhaps you have been experiencing these arguments differently, but for me this feels less like an abstract deliberation and more like a bitter fight between family and friends, with all the associated bitterness and grief. So I think parting ways would do an awful lot of harm to everyone.

And then lastly I think this is by any account a live and fluid issue. If the beliefs of many on this matter are, like my own, 'new-found', then it is fair to expect that those who have them now are not the last that will find them, and if as some have said this is just a surrender to 'worldliness' and 'cultural pressure', in that case I hope you persuade me. The CRC as a group of people is not of one mind now: supporting same-sex marriages is definitely a minority position, but I'm not even sure it is *that* small a minority, especially when we think about the non-members who come and go and become members, and lots of the most thoughtful Christians I know have positions that are a fair bit more complicated, ambiguous, or cautious than either of ours. In some congregations, the minority position *is* the majority. And, ultimately, I don't think that either leaving the CRC or the adoption of a confessional status would change any of these fundamentals: there might be a formal consensus, but it wouldn't be a consensus everyone had consented to, people would still change their minds and doubt their own positions, people would certainly still fight, and neither faithfulness to Scripture nor the plight of LGBTQ Christians would be in any way better for any individual.

Sorry, this went even longer than I wanted to go. And I regret that the nature of my argument is mostly about what *I* would be comfortable with as a CRCer whose relationship is generally recognized as valid, not to mention having always felt accepted by his church and never having had to deal with feelings of suicidality related to that, God forbid - like I said I don't think there is an excuse for some of that stuff, regardless of belief, and maybe there will come or has come a time when Christians like me need to do something about it we're not comfortable with. But as far as how I feel, you have my answer. I see that a conversation has broken out further down about Jude and Sodom, and I have been thinking a bit about that, but I don't think I can justify spending more time talking about this today. Peace.

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