Delegates Affirm Stance on Homosexuality
Following more than three hours of discussion and debate, the General Synod on Monday approved a recommendation that affirmed an official position that homosexual behavior is a sin according to Scripture.
The recommendation also calls for the creation of a committee to provide practical recommendations that “present a way forward” without revisiting the RCA's official stance.
The debate, which came in response to overtures from several classes calling for officeholders who promote, celebrate, or bless homosexual behavior to be disciplined, began with discussion of a recommendation from the Special Advisory Committee on Overtures and New Business.
During subsequent discussion on the initial recommendation, several proposed amendments were defeated before Ron Opmeer, a minister delegate from Canadian Prairies Classis, made the substitute motion that ultimately was adopted.
"In my 22 years of pastoral ministry, homosexuality has been overshadowing our General Synods," he said. "We [recently] engaged in dialogue for three years, and now it's time to act on the matter of accountability."
Jim Brownson, a General Synod professor of theology, offered a word of caution. "Synod delegates have to ask themselves whether they want General Synod to dictate to classes what are appropriate interpretations of Scripture. If General Synod makes a determination about Israel and Palestine, and some ministers or elders disagree with the interpretation, is that a disciplinable offense?"
Adam Barr, a minister delegate from South Grand Rapids Classis, said, "Often this gets painted as an issue for those only interested in matters of truth and doctrine, but this touches on my pastoral integrity. If we have fundamentally opposed positions on this issue, then we run the risk of offering contradictory advice to people in our churches."
After the synod voted to adopt the substitute recommendation, RCA general secretary Tom De Vries addressed the synod with a pastoral word that included a reference to 1 John 4:18ff.
"First John says, ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment…If anyone says, I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his sister and brother.'
"We're going to be challenged in how we live this out together," De Vries said. "My call would be for us to say, how do we begin to take steps of love? Steps forward, steps toward each other, and steps that declare that we love God, but we also love each other and others."
On Saturday, delegates met in advisory committees to discuss pastoral responses to homosexuality. Each group crafted a statement of hope (PDF); the group statements were read aloud before discussion began on Monday.
R-56 SUBSTITUTE AS APPROVED
While compassion, patience, and loving support should be shown to all those who struggle with same-sex desires, the General Synod reaffirms our official position that homosexual behavior is a sin according to the Holy Scriptures, therefore any person, congregation, or assembly which advocates homosexual behavior or provides leadership for a service of same-sex marriage or a similar celebration has committed a disciplinable offense; and further,
that the General Synod Council shall oversee the creation of an eight member committee made up of representatives appointed by each of the regional synods to pray and work together to present a way forward for our denomination given the disagreement in our body relative to homosexuality. The purpose of the committee is not to revisit our stated position, but shall operate with the understanding expressed earlier in this recommendation and issue a report with practical recommendations to the General Synod of 2013.
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