Thank you for this article. I'm also thankful for this initiative of the Abide Project. If those of us in the CRC desire God's approval, it will be necessary for us, to first of all know His Word as our 'daily bread', and obey what it teaches us through the Holy Spirit. Hebrews defines faith as 'the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen'(1:11), and that those who come to God 'must first believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him' (11:6) because, 'without faith it is impossible to please God'. As children of God then we understand from scripture that we can expect the Lord's discipline in different ways and for different things. Discipline is necessary to deal with all sexual immorality in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Discipline is necessary to maintain the purity of the church and to restore those in err back to fellowship. Discipline is required when we fall into sin and continue in it. We must agree with God as to what sin is. He defines it, He requires repentance of it because Jesus died for it. God will never give sin a 'pass' because Jesus has already givenHis life, 'once for all' to redeem us from sin and death. Discipline is necessary to make us holy unto God. Holiness is purity and being set apart for God's purposes, not our own. The church belongs to God, we are His bride and are to be living sacrifices to Him. Those who excuse sexual immorality or reject discipline are directly in opposition to God and His Word and are warned in Hebrews 6 about the dangers of apostacy. Proverbs 3 also contains many admonitions not to be' wise in your own eyes', 'fear the Lord and turn away from evil', as well as to'not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of His reproof.' So we need to believe that God rewards obedience, but also that His discipline is for our good and His glory. Synod 2024 needs to uphold God's Word as Truth and expose that which is NOT completely in line with it. 'Fear of man brings a snare'....Discipline requires taking into our hearts the Truth that sets us free as part of our 'training in Godliness'. That which God has graciously granted us through His Word, is to be used in lovingly pointing out error and sin when it occurs, and to be loving enough to correct true brothers and sisters in Christ with that truth and discipline in order to lead them to repentance and peace with God and neighbor. God's Word is explicit in this. Unity is not more important than obedience to God's design for holiness for His people. Unity in the Body of Christ can only happen as we submit to God's Truth. As Matthew Henry has said "Peace is such a precious jewel, I would give anything for it but Truth". Overlooking sin in the Church of Jesus Christ is not an option. God's Truth is what we are to be completely committed to upholding. Those who question interpretations on this matter are avoiding what God Himself has plainly spoken and upholds through out His Word. The philosophy and opinions, so called 'knowledge' and worldly wisdom are not to be our source for guidance and direction within the Church of Jesus Christ. The infallible Word of God (IITimothy 3:16&17) proclaims itself profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

God through the Holy Spirit has made this known to all truly born again believers, that His Word is True, that He and His Word are one, that His Son Jesus was explicitly called 'the Word' and Jesus calls Himself the 'Way, the Truth and the Life'. In the Great Commission Christ not only sent the disciples out to 'Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations,' but He also specifically charged 'teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19&20) We are to know and teach God's Word above and before anything else.

We know that 'scripture interprets scripture', and sometimes we sidetrack knowing & obeying God's Word by leaning on our 'scripturally informed' opinions rather than on the Word itself. Proverbs 3:5&6 reminds us "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths' The more we know the Word, the more we know God, Who reveals Himself as gracious and loving. He teaches us in the book of Hebrews and in other scriptures about the need for discipline, the purpose of discipline and the pain of discipline which eventually yields 'the peaceful fruit of righteousness'. The Word is what brings light into the darkness of our sin and exposes that which needs to be conformed to God's ways. Preaching the Word, teaching what God has said to us is what will provide the Light and the pathway forward in the CRC. Only by abiding in Christ and His Word will we able to come to a unity in the CRC. Not a unity compromising truth with false peace, but true peace will only happen when all those who truly love God and His Word are willing to submit to it together and all of us repent of the sin which continues to beset us, whether it be the sin of sexual immorality grossly sinning while abusing the grace of God, or of being prideful, or not exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, or of being deliberately illiterate of God's Word and ill equipped to deal with sin because we have chosen to read lots of man's opinions and possible lies, rather than relying and trusting in God's all sufficient Word. May God work in us through the Holy Spirit toward the true peace which God desires for us, a peace that brings unity from standing together in His Truth and loving one another enough to be devoted to commit to disciplinary action when required and to also submit to disciplinary action when we are found to be in sin against a Holy God Who has , in His mercy made a way for us to be His chosen and incredibly blessed children!

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Marlene, thanks for your thoughts and your encouraging words.

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This is more of a question than a comment. Do we consider everything contained in the Confessions to be doctrine? And I guess as corollary, do we have other formulations of doctrine outside of the Confessions?

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Apr 11·edited Apr 12

Update: So, apparently Classis GRE is in fact carrying out the instructions given to them by Synod 2023 regarding guiding churches and leadership into compliance with the guidelines affirmed by Synod 2022 in the HSR. I did mention before in a previous post on another article published on this website that the majority of Classis GRE had merely opted to postpone/withhold from any substantial action on this front for a while in order to more clearly assess where each church in the Classis is at. They were never planning to refrain from taking action indefinitely on this matter.

Granted, the way they are going about it, is perhaps not what I suppose many of you would do if you were in their shoes. Their approach is much slower and not as immediate/swift as I imagine some of you think it should be. Just thought y’all should know. Also, I’ve been a bit confused as to why people keep referring to Classis GRE collectively as guilty of noncompliance when there’s some churches in GRE that have never gone against the guidelines of the HSR...

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Hello EV,

Fellow EV(D) here, but you can call me Eric. I would prefer to be able to respond to you by name as well, as I prefer openness to anonymity and think it fosters better communication. You are free to take that as an encouragement, not as an admonishment.

I'm a little unsure what to make of your update given the lack of anything specific or verifiable, but would say this much: Better late than never and better slow than absent. It would seem like whatever efforts they are making are not bearing much visible fruit so far, as there remain numerous public pronunciations of unorthodoxy from within GRE. One would think that the most public and provocative displays of the lack of compliance would be the first target for efforts to bring churches into compliance.

The reason that people speak of GRE collectively is that the nature of a classis is that of a collective entity. And the members of that entity bear a collective or corporate responsibility. GRE has oversight and accountability responsibilities that they have long forsook. For better or worse, that reflects a corporate lack of responsibility and results in corporate culpability. I'm sure within GRE there are those who are more responsible than others for the lack of proper oversight and the long-held unwillingness to change that GRE has demonstrated. But that does not absolve others of their own inaction and silence or their collective guilt.

Thanks for weighing in and contributing to the discussion.

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Of course, Eric.

Btw, I decided not to get into all the details as Classis GRE has sent a report to Synod 2024 in which they articulate what they are exactly doing, and what they have already done better than I could. Also, as to what you said about corporate responsibility, thanks for enlightening me - that makes sense.

And as for public pronunciations from churches in Classis GRE, are you talking about the position statements that have been up since the last year or two or are you talking about recent posts that have been made? I’m guessing you are referring to both? Either way, yeah... you would think so, but the first target doesn't always prove to be the easiest to knock down, so to speak.

P.S - I appreciate the encouragement, but for now I'll keep going by EV until I feel comfortable enough to do otherwise.

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Thanks EV. I appreciate your contribution and further explanation. I'm looking forward to the day when you are comfortable enough to be open with your identity. It makes me sad to think of our current situation as a body that would have you feeling the need to shield your identity. I don't judge you for it but rather mourn it.

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EV, expanding a little further on what Eric said above, I have sat in on a few Classis meetings of GRE in the last couple of years, and have seen clearly that their votes have not been unanimous on several of these matters. Yet, what I have not witnessed nor heard is 1. Anyone registering a negative vote. 2. Only one officebearer in the entire Classis appealing any of the errant decisions of the Classis. Similar to sitting on any Council of a local church, one can vigorously debate a certain decision, but if they are on the loosing end, unless they have registered a negative vote, or appealed the decision to Classis, the decision is owned by the whole body.

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I wouldn't characterize discipline as punitive, though it may seem so at the time--this is right of the Hebrews playbook, no?

I think what does go missing is the precondition of mutuality. Why does one stay for the discipline? isn't it easier to walk? This is made the more striking when the questions of discipline (or their obverse, of gravamina) are also bound with the question of confession. This is where things get so messy, and further, why the precondition of mutuality, of what holds us together might want to have a greater profile. Discipline only makes sense if you first know that you are loved, that you are part of a common mission or project, that you are in some sense, secure.

Note: this could all be a bit of special pleading on my side, all given my own location in one of those dissenting congregations. yet, I'm pretty sure we are poorer without the conservatives.

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Apr 9·edited Apr 9

Hi Bill,

Thanks for joining in. I'm not sure I'm tracking with you on the precondition of mutuality being missed. The essence of our very existence as a denomination is one of mutuality. We are on a common mission precisely because we have identified ourselves as mutually bound and mutually committed with mutual understandings. It is baked into everything we do and say, both in implicit and explicit terms.

When you and I made vows as office bearers we acknowledged, supported, and vowed to uphold that mutuality. The actions of Neland, GRE, and COS have violated that mutuality. How is it that you can now plead that mutuality is not present? It is the vow of mutuality that we keep appealing to in order to restore our covenantal relationship! We've appealed to it time and again. And when we say that we are doing it in love we can only hope that we are taken at our word. How could I love you more (short of offering my life for you) than to seek to steer you from serious error? If we had no love, no mutuality, then I would write you off. I would care less about Neland, GRE, and COS. Far be it from me!

Again, for me the precondition of mutuality is part and parcel to every part of this conversation, from beginning to end. Without mutuality we are not even having this conversation. So, for me mutuality could not possibly have a higher profile than what it already has. It's the lifeblood. It's why I call you brother.

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First, Eric, it sounds as if you may be taking this mutuality aspect as something of a critique, 'oh those mean conservatives' and the like. No, not that. From here the question is one of (in)security on our side, that the only option we really have is to walk away, but if we walk away then the positive aspects of discipline is for nought, right? So how do we stay, or how could we stay? And underneath that for us, is also a sense of loss and with it an all too easy human desire to make it "their" problem (you don't understand me, complains the 13-year old). So what is it that would hold us in continued conversation? That was my idea of mutuality.

Along with the above, I was thinking back to our own worship, how much we actually share in spirit and conviction with "conservatives"®--it came to mind again in our morning prayers as we prayed for those who had walked away or he did not now or never knew God's good news in Jesus Christ, our family members, our friends. The wells may be at different places, but we share a common aquifer of Grace.

I have no program about what comes next, even how to express this common life, other than to know that this is also something to tend to, to garden, as it were. It is my joy always to call you brother.

--some of this thinking, maybe a large part of it, is prompted from a classic econ text, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States, A. O. Hirschmann (Harvard 1970). He looks at how some speak out, some leave, and some stay.

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Hi Bill,

No, I wasn't taking your comment as a critique as much as a confusion or perceived conundrum. To the extent that mutuality is front and center to me in these matters, I struggled to understand this language from you:

"what does go missing is the precondition of mutuality"

"why the precondition of mutuality, of what holds us together might want to have a greater profile"

"Discipline only makes sense if you first know that you are loved, that you are part of a common mission or project"

I don't see how you can speak of mutuality as a missing precondition because I can't see how it is missing. I don't see how you can speak of mutuality needing a greater profile when it is the ethos under which we are operating. I don't see how you can speak as if you don't see yourself as part of a common mission or project. My response was meant to illume the reality that mutuality is so inescapable in our covenant (what is a covenant if not an agreement in mutuality?), in our oaths, in our work, in our appealing to each other, in our synods, etc. that it is foreign to me to speak as if mutuality is something fleeting that needs to be chased or fore-fronted.

A few more reactions to specifics in your most recent reply:

"if we walk away then the positive aspects of discipline is for nought, right?" First, I and many others are praying for repentance, for correction, for the submission to the body that was promised (with fingers crossed?) to be evident, so we do not seek for you to "walk away". Second, though I stressed the corrective purpose of discipline, you will note that our Church Order lists other benefits or necessary results of discipline. These positive aspects remain when discipline is continued faithfully and are not frustrated by the refusal of our brothers and sisters to heed correction.

"So how do we stay, or how could we stay?" Brother, I know you know the answer to this question. It is not a matter of knowledge of the path to walk, it is a matter of the will to walk the path. Mutuality requires (by oath and covenant) the submission that you promised but are now unwilling to demonstrate. Therein lies the deficiency in mutuality. We must speak plainly about these things. I do not do so to impugn you, but rather to demonstrate my love for you.

"So what is it that would hold us in continued conversation?" I have a mixed reaction to this question, and therefore a mixed answer. One level is the interpersonal. Conversations can and will continue indefinitely there. It is my hope that we can continue our conversations, digital or unmediated. The other level is the institutional. The "continued conversation" on sexuality (in the manner we are having it) in the CRC is not God-honoring, and thus cannot continue. Commensurate with that necessary change is that there must be a cessation of rebellion against the doctrine and authority of the church under the guise of continued conversation. I am glad to wrestle personally with any brother or sister as many times and for as long as necessary to grapple with the challenge of these hard questions and their applications. But the CRC cannot exist as a house divided, and those who have divided it, or are seeking to divide it, must realize that the onus is on them to bring their convictions and conversations within the bounds of our mutual covenant.

I'll conclude with the evergreen illustration: marriage. Suppose sometime after covenanting with my wife and promising to love, honor, and cherish her my eye wanders and begins to love, honor, and cherish another. While in a joint therapy session my wife calls on me to renew my commitment to love, honor, an cherish her, to the exclusion of all others. How will she receive my query "Where's the mutuality?" as I continue to defy my vows to her?

I sense you are working through your own pattern of grief in a public way, perhaps. If that is the case, perhaps I am being way too literal with you. But I cannot take your words for anything other than their plain meaning, and their plain meaning confuses me.

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This is late, but I am honored by the response.

I can see how my take doesn't work for you. Im sure it is my lack of clarity.

So let me instead agree, the discipline or accountability is a necessary part of a church or any institution as it seeks to reach its goal. We discipline so we can do something better together. And sometimes discipline is also a matter of edges or of clarification, as how I hear it here.

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We can surely let it rest at that. If I have misunderstood you it was not with intent. As always, you show yourself to be a gracious interlocutor.

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The CRC over the last 3 years on this issue with Neland and GE East has failed to pass one of the marks of the true church-discipline. That is according to Article 29 of the Belgic Confession. This is ridiculous, they needed to be disciplined punitively 2 years ago. Orthodox Christians need to wake up and start taking action or the enemy will take another denomination-time is running out. It is not a goal of Christianity to be "liked" but to do what the Lord has commanded and clearly laid out in His word. I believe this is expressed reasonably well in our confessions, that we are not following.

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Hello Rob,

Thanks for joining the discussion. I disagree with you in two ways:

1) As explained above, the purpose of church discipline is not punitive, but corrective. If you disagree with that conclusion based on Scripture and Church Order, I'd be interested to hear your assessment.

2) I disagree that the CRC (through Synod) has failed to demonstrate the third mark of the church (discipline) over the last several years. I do agree that there are faults to be found in the disciplinary work and that work was not carried out completely (as I argue above), but I don't believe we can accurately state that discipline has not occurred. Unfortunately we can conclude very clearly that in refusing to submit to the discipline and government of the church, Neland and GRE and served to foment further rebellion within our midst.

Our goal is always to be faithful, not "liked" - you and I will agree wholeheartedly there. And we will also agree wholeheartedly that there is still significant work to complete in order for us to be faithful. May God grant that our hearts are both pastorally tender and also steeled for the difficult work that we are called to as we exercise mutual accountability.

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Eric, I agree with everything you have said in the article as well as your response to me. I stand corrected -Synod has enacted discipline, it has just completely failed. The end goal as you stated, being correction/repentance has not been achieved. In fact the opposite has occurred. A big middle finger to Synod! I just believe we are long past the time of continued calls to repentance and have moved onto the next phase of biblical discipline. That would be disaffiliation in my opinion. If you don't want to call that "punitive" fine, call it what you want, it just needs to get done and get done soon. There still is a conservative majority, but that can change.One overlooked aspect of this discussion is the harm these toxic ideologies are doing to the denomination as a leaven. It isn't all about being "loving" to Neland- it is also about protecting the rest of the flock.

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Hi again Rob. Thanks for the continued engagement. I think we are tracking on similar lines, though I might express some things differently. I agree that false teaching does harm in the church and that one of the purposes (as expressed in the article) of discipline is maintaining the purity of the church. I agree that there is rebelliousness present, though I would prefer to avoid the "middle finger" terminology and imagery. There is little doubt that Synod 2024 will need to deal more resolutely with the matters at hand, and that is typical with how discipline progresses when repentance is not forthcoming. May God grant us wisdom for the task that we face.

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