Clarity: Not Sufficient, But Necessary
by Jonathan Fischer
Someone who is struggling with their sexuality does not simply or mainly need a denominational pronouncement. That person needs a hug, someone to weep and pray with, and someone to struggle daily with against sin as a follower of Jesus.
A denomination cannot do that. It cannot give a hug to someone who feels profoundly alone, or weep with someone who is counting the cost of breaking off an ungodly but cherished relationship, or call someone to pray and confess and bear one another’s burdens. A denomination cannot provide daily care. It was never intended to.
But a denomination can and must provide clarity.
Our denomination can and must speak with clarity about the gospel and the call of discipleship. Our denomination must speak clearly of how all (including but not limited to those who identify as LGBTQ) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Our denomination must speak clearly of God's mercy available to all, of the command to all to repent and believe in Jesus, of the nature of discipleship and the call to a holy life, of the fruit of the Spirit in contrast to the acts of the flesh, and of the purpose and necessity of mutual admonition and even formal church discipline. And, of course, it must also speak with clarity about the need for God-centered care to be extended to one another in the everyday walk of discipleship, and even curate resources to help individuals extend that care. Our denomination must speak with clarity.
And while clarity is not sufficient for our progress in the faith, it is necessary—especially where there is confusion. And there is confusion in the CRC at this time—confusion sown by our broader culture, confusion sown by individuals within the CRC such as those promoting All One Body, and any confusion that results from anyone who may be downplaying the evil inherent in all forms of sin and the universal need for repentance and faith. Each of these forms of confusion distorts God’s word at immense cost.
Against the backdrop of this confusion, our denomination needs to speak with clarity.
One of the recommendations of the Human Sexuality Report is “That synod declare that the church’s teaching on premarital sex, extra-marital sex, adultery, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex already has confessional status.” An implication of this recommendation is that the church’s teaching on these matters is not simply advice; it is actually speaking with clarity about what in Scripture is already recognized as sin and therefore must be repented of.
This clarity is not sufficient for Christians who persistently feel the pull to indulge in homosexual sex, or the temptation to define themselves by feelings of gender dysphoria, or the draw toward heterosexual pornography. But it is necessary. It warns believers not make friends with things that Jesus came to deliver us from—things that look good but are actually poison.
So with clarity, we as members of local churches can name and confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed (see James 5:16). With clarity, we can extend compassionate care to one another in the mutual fight against sin and toward a holy life in Christ. With clarity, we can remind each other of what Jesus died to free us from, delights to forgive, and has the power to cleanse us from. With clarity, we can speak of the deadliness of unrepentance, the call to discipleship, and the joy of a life lived in step with the Spirit.
The Human Sexuality Report recognizes the authoritative nature of the church’s teachings on sexual sins, and in doing so it speaks with clarity. And while clarity is not sufficient to equip Christians for our mutual struggle against temptation, at this stage in our denomination’s history it is necessary.