Response to Synod 2022 Decisions
In June of 2022, the Christian Reformed Church synod (annual gathering of leaders) defined “unchastity” to include “homosexual sex,” effectively making opposition to gay marriage something that all CRC office bearers and members are expected to adhere to. There are a variety of perspectives among Church of the Savior’s members regarding God’s will for human sexuality, and some of us are still working out our views, but the majority of us are in disagreement with this decision made by our denomination. For that reason, we are spending time in a process of discernment and education about what that decision means for the future and direction of our local church community. As we seek God’s will together, we remain deeply committed to CotS’ vision: A safe and authentic community where we are known and loved as we experience and share the grace of Jesus Christ.
Next Steps Discernment Process
In February 2023, our church started the Next Steps Discernment process, a tool developed by Pastor Church Relations, who have spent the last forty years "inviting Christian Reformed congregations to embrace challenging conversations and lean into spiritual discernment rather than avoid them and hope their questions just disappear or resolve on their own." You can learn more at their website or by watching the video.
On January 14, 2023, six members of the congregation were trained as Listening Circle Facilitators.
From February 26 through March 4, six different small groups met in listening circles with facilitators.
"Remain in Christ" - two opportunities for a scripture practice of "Holy Reading" (Lectio Divina) were offered the week before the listening circles.
"Love One Another" - the respectful and loving listening that took place in the circles.
"Not My Will, But Yours" - a guided prayer before each listening circle helped us to enter into this attitude.
On March 21, the Council had its own listening circle to process the information received in the First Stage. They met again on March 28 to continue the discussion. After these discussions and reviewing the comments from the first stage of listening circles, the Council recognized that our options boiled down to three paths – leave the CRC denomination; remain in the CRC and comply with its teachings on human sexuality; or remain in the CRC without complying with those teachings. Of these, Council unanimously chose the last one in a commitment to unity and a commitment to love. While they discuss exactly what that means in financial, educational, and practical terms, Council decided to postpone any further Listening Circles until there is a specific scenario on which more feedback is needed.
Meanwhile, the Council will pursue further education for itself and the congregation about:
the theology of sexuality, church, and denomination;
our practical connections to and disciplinary exposure within the CRC; and
how we might join with and learn from other similar CRC congregations.
Look for specific opportunities starting this summer.
On June 4, the Council communicated where it currently stands on human sexuality as it pertains to aspects of church life based on conversations they had in May. The basis for their discussions was a set of statements they drafted to identify and distinguish those various aspects. Although they took no formal votes (and will not do so until the education initiatives are complete), in the interest of transparency they shared those statements, along with a rough sense of Council’s current support for each. Please click/tap here for the full communication and the specific statements.
Members of the church were invited to read the book, Heavy Burdens: 7 Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the Church by Bridget Eileen Rivera. The adult education team facilitated a series of meetings to discuss the material of the book.
Several educational events were hosted for the benefit of the church and community:
September 9: Author Bridget Eileen Rivera spoke about her experience and her book Heavy Burdens: 7 Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the Church.
October 13: Dr. Christiana de Groot presented an “affirming” approach to LGBTQ inclusion in the church, making a biblical case for supporting marriage equality. Dr. Benj Petroelje gave a response to the presentation from a “traditional” perspective.
November 4: Dr. Jeffrey Weima presented the “traditional” approach to LGBTQ inclusion in the church, making the case that the Bible does not support same-sex relationships. Dr. Warren Campbell gave a response to the presentation from an “affirming” perspective.
November, 5, 12, & 17: Adult Sunday school series addressing intellectual humility, loving others while following our conscience, the other educational events, and a panel discussion about the current status and possible avenues for CotS.
January 17-22, 2024: six different small groups met in listening circles with facilitators to respond to a statement proposed by Council.
March 22-23: Council will retreat to process the results and be led in a listening circle themselves.