Home Christian News Christian Reformed Synod Orders Church to Rescind Deacon in Same-Sex Marriage

Christian Reformed Synod Orders Church to Rescind Deacon in Same-Sex Marriage

Christian Reformed
Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo courtesy Otto Selles for Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (RNS) — The governing assembly of the Christian Reformed Church of North America, meeting in Grand Rapids this week, voted not to sustain the appeal of a church that petitioned to retain a deacon who is married to a person of the same sex, against the denomination’s doctrine.

The synod ordered the Neland Ave. Christian Reformed Church, which stands a few blocks from where church leaders are meeting, to immediately rescind the appointment of “any and all” officeholders in same-sex relationships.

The synod also voted to instruct all classes, as the CRCNA’s regional jurisdictions are called, to bring pastors, elders and deacons who publicly disagree with its stance on human sexuality into compliance.

The CRCNA, one of the oldest but smallest denominations in the Americas, with about 200,000 members across the United States and Canada, has navigated tensions over questions of sexuality since last year’s Synod 2022, when delegates voted to affirm the confessional status of its position that “homosexual sex” is sin.

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Confessional status means that a position is considered part of the core beliefs of the CRCNA and that anyone holding office in the church is expected to uphold it.

Synod 2022 also ordered Neland Avenue to rescind its 2020 appointment of a deacon in a same-sex marriage. CRCNA General Secretary Zachary King was ordered to create an in loco committee to ensure Neland complied with the order.

It remains unclear from synodical proceedings, however, how the denomination will enforce this year’s decisions. In addition, the synod’s order is largely symbolic as Neland Avenue’s deacon has completed her three-year term and is no longer in office.

People attend the annual synod of the Christian Reformed Church at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Photo by Grace Buller

This year’s synod voted against the creation of a similar committee to ensure today’s decision is upheld. During discussion prior to the vote, Paul DeVries, chair of the previous committee, said that he recommended against creating a new one and that creating another committee would result in the removal of Neland.

“The previous in loco committee failed. We were not able to do what synod asked us to do,” said DeVries. “Another in loco committee will have no better success.”

The synod also voted to defer voting until Synod 2024 on decisions regarding the denomination’s gravamen process for expressing difficulties with an aspect of the church’s confessions.