by David Feddes
The next Synod of the Christian Reformed Church will make one of the most important decisions in its history. Synod faces a stark choice: either stand firm in the gospel truth about sexuality, or accommodate revisionist views. The Human Sexuality Report (HSR) represents the former; some prominent CRC leaders are lobbying for the latter.
Confessional, Biblical Gospel
Synod must decide whether to adopt the HSR’s recommendation: “That synod declare that the church’s teaching on premarital sex, extra-marital sex, adultery, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex already has confessional status.” Confessional status means that this is the position of our Reformed confessional standards and is mandatory for all CRC leaders to uphold.
The HSR quotes Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108, “God condemns all unchastity.” The report then explains, “By the word ‘unchastity’ the catechism intends to encompass all sexual immorality, including homosexual activity… pornography, polyamory, and all forms of premarital and extramarital sex… We conclude, then, that the church’s teaching against sexual immorality, including homosexual sex, already has confessional status.”
The HSR insists that this confessional stance is based on God’s Word. “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only appropriate place for sex. Anything that deviates from that teaching is contrary to Scripture… Whenever the church teaches that a form of behavior forbidden in Scripture is morally permissible, it is guilty of false teaching.”
Affirming sexual sin is not only unbiblical, says the HSR, but contradicts “the heart of the gospel” and presents “a dangerous stumbling block.” It is deadly not to repent and receive forgiveness through Jesus’ blood and transformation by his Spirit. Those who persistently practice or defend sexual immorality “will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Some CRC members might be surprised that any of this would be open for debate. They attend churches where the Bible is trusted, the gospel is proclaimed, and Christian sexuality is taught. Perhaps they assume the HSR recommendation will pass. That is not a safe assumption.
Opponents of the CRC’s longtime biblical view of sexuality are on the march. Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids ordained a lesbian deacon living in a same-sex marriage. Former Neland pastor Duane Kelderman and former Neland elder Steven Timmermans posted videos on the website of LGBTQ advocacy group All One Body, criticizing the HSR. These leaders have held high positions and wielded great influence. Timmermans was executive director of the CRC until 2020 and, prior to that, president of Trinity Christian College. Kelderman, after 13 years as Neland’s pastor, served for a decade at Calvin Seminary as a professor and vice president.
There are others, such as Len Vander Zee, former Banner editor and head of Faith Alive; Bruce Adema, former Director of Canadian Ministries; Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, former Creation Care Coordinator for the Office of Social Justice, and several people working with Resonate Global Mission. Some contributed videos to All One Body’s website; others signed the anti-HSR petition posted on the website “Sexuality in the CRC.”
Moreover, almost 150 faculty and staff at Calvin University signed a letter opposing the HSR, alleging various flaws and worrying that it might undermine “our standing as a reputable academic institution.” The letter states, “Of primary concern are the report’s conclusions stating that prohibitions of ‘homosexual sex already have confessional status,’ that homosexual sex ‘threaten[s] a person’s salvation,’ and that the failure to call people in same-sex relationships ‘to repentance is … acting like a false church.’”
For years these leaders have been operating in CRC churches and exerting influence in some of the highest positions in CRC agencies and academia. Now they are openly pressing for the CRC to accommodate revisionist sexuality.
A Call to Stand
Synod must reject revisionism and adopt the HSR’s recommendation. Synod must declare that the gospel truth about sexuality “already has confessional status” and is mandatory for all believers, especially leaders.
This will be hard. Many of us still accept the biblical standard for sexuality, but some may be reluctant to insist on it. We want to avoid conflict. We don’t want a church split. We don’t want to take sides against longtime leaders, cherished colleagues, dear friends, or beloved relatives. But sometimes loyalty to Jesus brings a sword (Matthew 10:34-39). If we warn that salvation requires repentance, we may offend people we love. Still, out of love for our Lord and our neighbor, we must stand firm