Synod 2023 of the Christian Reformed Church in North America rejected an appeal by the council of Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., of a Synod 2022 order that called for the congregation to rescind its decision to ordain a deacon who is in a same-sex marriage.
The appeal was defeated by a vote of 124 to 47 with six delegates abstaining.
Synod 2023’s decision followed a review of the situation by an in loco committee that had been mandated to act on behalf of Synod 2022, as well as deliberation by a Synod 2023 advisory committee and passionate debate from delegates for and against the Neland council’s action.
“This has been heavy, heavy for everyone, including our committee. … I spent lots of nights weeping. Last night, I spent time weeping with a close friend. This has been hard,” said Jason Ruis of Classis Wisconsin, who chaired the advisory committee.
“There’s no desire to cause pain. Part of the heaviness of our committee is recognizing that no matter what decision we made, there would be grief and pain.”
In May 2020, the Neland Avenue council elected a person who was in a same-sex marriage to the office of deacon. Several church councils and classes (regional bodies of churches) sent communications to the Neland council, with most calling on the council to remove the deacon. Officebearers are meant to uphold the confessions and teachings of the church. Since its explicit articulation in 1973, the Christian Reformed Church has held the position that homosexual sex is contrary to the will of God as revealed in scripture.
In its appeal, Neland asserted that Church Order (articles 3 and 4) leaves “the final judgment as to who is qualified to serve” to the local council alone and that synod (in 1980) has previously identified “the local council or consistory as the appropriate body for decision making in complex pastoral situations.” Regardless, committee reporter Todd Kuperus said that neither CRC Church Order nor the Acts of Synod 1980 provided necessary grounds for Neland’s appeal.
“The church order clearly stipulates that only those who meet the biblical requirements are eligible to serve as officebearers in the Christian Reformed Church,” Kuperus said. “Thus, while local congregations have the responsibility to elect their own officebearers, they do not have the right to elect anyone who does not meet biblical requirements. … Synod has the authority to declare the biblical requirements for officebearers.”
Greg Chandler | “Synod 2023 Rejects Neland Avenue CRC’s Appeal” | June 16, 2023
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