Christian Reformed Church Codifies Homosexual Sex As Sin In Its Declaration of Faith

By Yonat Shimron
christian reformed church crcna
People attend the annual synod of the Christian Reformed Church at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 14, 2022. (Photo by Bryan Haley. Copyright 2022 Christian Reformed Church in North America.)

The Christian Reformed Church, a small evangelical denomination of U.S. and Canadian churches, voted Wednesday at its annual synod to codify its opposition to homosexual sex by elevating it to the status of confession, or declaration of faith.

The 123-53 vote at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, caps a process begun in 2016 when a previous synod voted to form a study committee to bring a report on the “biblical theology” of sexuality.

The vote, after two-long days of debate, approves a list of what the denomination calls sexual immorality it won’t tolerate, including “adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography and homosexual sex.”

“The church must warn its members that those who refuse to repent of these sins—as well as of idolatry, greed, and other such sins—will not inherit the kingdom of God,” the report says. “It must discipline those who refuse to repent of such sins for the sake of their souls.”

But 190 delegates to Synod 2022 spent the preponderance of time debating homosexuality, with many warning that passage of the so-called Human Sexuality Report and elevating its teachings to the status of confession would alienate LGBTQ people as well as younger generations of CRC members who have a different understanding of sexuality.

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“This motion harms LGBTQ people, harms the church’s witness and naming this as confession will have disastrous consequences for people and institutions,” said one delegate to the synod who voted against the motion.

The vote will also have profound consequences for its flagship university, Calvin. In December, one-third of Calvin faculty signed a letter expressing concerns about the Human Sexuality Report and some are now expected to leave. Faculty at Calvin University must sign a document saying they align with the historical creeds and confessions of the Christian Reformed Church.

calvin college crc christian reformed
Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Andy Calvert, courtesy of Calvin University)

It was not clear what the status document might be moving forward.

“Many people are polishing their CV’s, starting to look at what else is out there and preparing themselves to leave,” said Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a professor of history at Calvin University and one of its star faculty.

The university is known in the larger Christian higher education world for its supportive and pastoral approach to LGBTQ students. It allows a student group, the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, to function on campus and convenes an annual sexuality series led by a staff member. In the 2020-21 school year the university did not challenge an openly gay student body president.

But the university has less tolerance for deviation from church teachings by faculty. This year it did not renew a professor’s two-year appointment after he agreed to officiate a same-sex wedding. That wedding also led the university to cut ties with its longtime research center, The Center for Social Research, where one of the marriage partners was working.

Christian Reformed Church, a denomination of 204,664 members with roots in the Dutch Reformed Church of the Netherlands, has always taught that sex is reserved for one man and one woman in marriage.

christian reformed church
Christian Reformed Church logo (Courtesy image)

But over the years, it has given its churches a degree of latitude in ministering to LGBTQ people. It’s 1973 report on homosexuality distinguished between homosexual activity and homosexual orientation, noting that same-sex attraction, in and of itself, was not sinful and that people don’t have a choice in who they are attracted to.

Since then, many churches have become open and affirming to LGBTQ people, with some even ordaining them to the position of deacon. A church in Toronto was one of the first, and in recent years, several churches in Grand Rapids and one in Akron, Ohio, have either welcomed LGBTQ people to membership or ordained them to deacon roles.

The synod’s move this year comes amid a growing backlash to LGBTQ gains across the nation. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation earlier this year that prohibited classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation for some age groups in Florida schools. Dozens of bills have been introduced by Republican state lawmakers to restrict classroom discussions and access to books about the LGBTQ community and block medical care for transgender students.

While liberal Christian denominations have affirmed LGBTQ people over the past 20 years, marrying same-sex couples and ordaining LGBTQ people as clergy, centrist and conservative denominations have resisted such accommodation. The United Methodist Church, the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination, is now fracturing over the issue.

Closer to home, at least 43 theologically conservative congregations in the Reformed Church in America, a close cousin to the Christian Reformed Church, split from the denomination this year over LGBTQ inclusion.

Some predicted the issue of LGBTQ will also tear apart the CRC, though not in the same way as the UMC. In CRC, it may be more liberal churches that leave.

Yonat ShimronYonat Shimron is a national reporter and senior editor for Religion News Service.

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29 thoughts on “Christian Reformed Church Codifies Homosexual Sex As Sin In Its Declaration of Faith”

  1. Ok, what is the point of your article? It almost seems dismissive of the school/org. They are Christian and homosexual sex is sin. The gospel is an offense to those that are perishing, and this message has been such since Christ died for us, for them. Why does it seem your mission is becoming more and more woke? Anti-church, almost anti-christian?

    1. I, for one, did not read it the way you did. I thought it was both neutral and informative .. maybe just my education and experience in academia (admittedly, I am very thankful to now be retired from).

  2. If there was no homosexuality what would some of these “churches” and denominations use to keep the hornets nest stirred up with their folks. They truly believe they hold the keys to the Kingdom-they do not. But lastly, haters have to have something to hate.

  3. Rabindranath Ramcharan

    Not sure what would be the point. If they’re Calvinists who believe in theistic determinism and predestination, not only was there no other possible outcome for their deliberations, but who inherits the Kingdom of God has already been decided, quite independently of anything done or not done. In fact, the people whose behavior they hope to regulate can’t help what they do and can’t change their eternal destiny.
    If Calvinists had any sense of humor, I’d suggest that the joke’s on them.

    1. Yes, if you are a homosexual, an adulterer, etc. under 5 point Calvinistic Doctrine, you had no choice. I and many others reject a god that predetermines ones eternal destiny.

      1. That’s according to your own opinion of point 5 which wasn’t made by Calvinist, but Arminianism. You did have a choice to make the comment you just made. God didn’t make you do it. You acted within your limited free will. The problem is when people claim free will must be unlimited and relativistic or they’re a robot. It’s a problem because it’s a claim that you’re entitled to things you’re not entitled to such as the gospel. Paul was told by God to bypass Asia and go to Macedonia to spread the gospel. It shows God does choose who gets the gospel. No one is entitled to the gospel. Lots of people probably died in Asia before hearing the gospel after Paul was busy spreading it in Macedonia.

    2. God told Paul to bypass Asia and go to Macedonia to spread the gospel. That shows God does choose who gets to have the gospel. I’m sure many people in Asia died during that time without ever hearing the gospel. Free will isn’t some relativistic thing that you must have in order to not be a robot. You can’t just claim your free will to be a bird and jump off a cliff expecting to fly without paying the consequences. Your free will is limited. Yes God does choose to work with some humans that will respond to his grace and be saved. No one is owed the gospel as demonstrated with God’s choice to send Paul to Macedonia instead of Asia.

      1. Andrew Thomas

        Bob F,

        “Paul was told by God to bypass Asia and go to Macedonia to spread the gospel. It shows God does choose who gets the gospel.”

        Paul is not the only man God has chosen to spread the word, and you are making an assumption that God did not send someone else to that region of the world to spread the gospel.

      1. Marin Heiskell

        Agree with you, Tom. Why specifically call out one?
        I have been part of several singles ministry, and can tell you fornication is rampant. But I guess since it’s heterosexual, there’s no need to call it out.
        Ridiculous.

        1. Mark Gunderson

          Per the article, they did call out a list of sexual sins, including “pre-marital sex” and “adultery.”

          I don’t fully understand the distinction between making this part of their confession versus the previous teaching because I’m not part of a confessional reformed community.

          It does seem, though, that the more Christians focus on a particular kind of sin, the more likely they are overlooking other sins. And the answer is not to accept the sin, but humbly self-reflect. As long as they are just as willing to discipline members over greed, pride, envy, etc., I don’t see anything wrong with this. But they would have to demonstrate that and take seriously any charges of partiality that arise.

          1. Rabindranath Ramcharan

            That’s nice. Now, let’s see them do tax evasion and trafficking in contraband.

          2. Mark Gunderson

            I think what you’re referring to are generally referred to as “swindling” in the New Testament, and I have no idea why they would be relevant to this denomination.

            But if they are, then yes.

        2. Tim McCutcheon

          They might try focusing on the sin of gluttony. Far more widespread (pun alert). But that would hit to close to home to their self righteous selves.

          1. Rabindranath Ramcharan

            Some sins are relevant to a denomination and are worthy of being called out in the doctrinal statement, while others aren’t? That’s a new one on me.

          2. Gordon Hackman

            No one is holding pride parades for the sin of gluttony and trying to say that it’s normal and good. Your comment smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

  4. Robert Simpson

    Re: “Dozens of bills have been introduced by Republican state lawmakers to… block medical care for transgender students.”
    No, these bills have not blocked medical care for any students. These have blocked abuse of children through harmful surgery and damaging drugs.

    1. Exactly.
      Lobotomies aren’t done anymore – eventually, this stuff will fall into that category – just a matter of time.
      This stuff is just a horrible medical regression.

      1. Gordon Hackman

        Yes. It’s intellectually dishonest to complain that the denomination is only focusing on homosexual sin at a time when orthodox Christian teaching on human sexuality is under attack everywhere and in many denominations there is a push to normalize homosexual behavior. Clearly it has to be specifically addressed. To complain about it being addressed in such circumstances is like picking a fight and then complaining that the other person defends themselves. It’s a manipulative bad faith argument.

          1. Gordon Hackman

            You can disagree, but it’s not particularly helpful when you say you disagree without saying anything further. As far as I’m concerned, what I said is an accurate description of reality and you’ve done nothing to make me consider otherwise.

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