The Christian Reformed Church, a small evangelical denomination of churches in the United States and Canada, voted Wednesday at its annual synod to codify its opposition to gay sex by elevating it to the status of a confession, or statement of faith.
The 123-53 vote at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan caps a process that began in 2016 when a previous synod voted to form a study committee to report on “biblical theology of sexuality.
The vote, after two long days of debate, approves a list of what the denomination calls sexual immorality it will not tolerate, including “adultery, premarital sex, extramarital affairs, polyamory , pornography and same-sex relationships”.
“The church must warn its members that those who refuse to repent of these sins – as well as idolatry, greed and other similar sins – will not inherit the kingdom of God,” the report states. “He must discipline those who refuse to repent of such sins for the sake of their souls.”
But 190 synod delegates spent most of their time debating homosexuality, with many warning that adopting the so-called report on human sexuality and elevating its teachings to confessional status would alienate LGBTQ people. as well as younger generations of CRC members who have a different understanding of sexuality.
“This motion harms LGBTQ people, harms the witness of the church, and naming this a denomination will have dire consequences for people and institutions,” said a synod delegate who voted against the motion.
The vote will also have profound consequences for its flagship university, Calvin. In December, a third of Calvin’s professors signed a letter expressing concerns about the report on human sexuality, and some are now expected to leave. Calvin University professors must sign a document stating that they align themselves with the historical beliefs and denominations of the Christian Reformed Church.
The status of the document was unclear.
“A lot of people are polishing their resumes, start looking at what else is out there, and getting ready to go,” said Kristin Kobes Du Mez, professor of history at Calvin University and one of its faculties. stars.
The university is known in the world of Christian higher education for its supportive and pastoral approach to LGBTQ students. It allows a group of students, the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, to operate on campus and in the 2020-21 academic year, the university did not contest a president of the openly gay student body.
But the university has less tolerance for faculty deviations from church teachings. This year he did not renew a professor’s two-year term after he agreed to officiate a same-sex marriage. This marriage also led the university to sever ties with its long-standing research center, the Center for Social Research, where one of the marriage partners worked.
The denomination of 204,664 members with roots in the Dutch Reformed Church in the Netherlands has always taught that sex is reserved for a man and a woman in marriage.
But over the years, he has given his churches some leeway in ministry to LGBTQ people. His 1973 report on homosexuality distinguished between homosexual activity and homosexual orientation, noting that same-sex attraction, in itself, was not a sin and that people do not have the choice of who they are attracted to.
Since then, many churches have become open and affirming to LGBTQ people, with some even ordaining them to the position of deacon. A church in Toronto was one of the first, and in recent years several churches in Grand Rapids and one in Akron, Ohio have either welcomed LGBTQ people as members or ordained them to deacon roles.
The synod’s decision this year comes amid a growing backlash to LGBTQ gains across the country. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation earlier this year banning classroom discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation for certain age groups in Florida schools. Dozens of bills have been introduced by Republican state lawmakers to restrict classroom discussions and access to books about the LGBTQ community and block medical care for transgender students.
While liberal Christian denominations have affirmed LGBTQ people over the past 20 years, marrying same-sex couples and ordaining LGBTQ people as clergy, centrist and conservative denominations have resisted such accommodation. The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the country, is now fracturing over the issue.
Closer to home, at least 43 theologically conservative congregations of the Reformed Church in America, a close cousin of the Christian Reformed Church, have split from the denomination this year over LGBTQ inclusion.
Some predicted that the LGBTQ issue would also tear the CRC apart, but not in the same way as the RCA. In the CRC, it is perhaps more liberal churches that are leaving.