Reformed Church to Discuss Response to Homosexuality on Monday

After discussing their hopes for the denomination with respect to homosexuality over the weekend, the delegates of the annual General Synod of the Reformed Church in America will review on Monday proposals concerning the issue that is causing divisions.

The Advisory Committee on Overtures and New Business is scheduled to bring its recommendations on overtures concerning homosexuality on Monday during the June 21-26 General Synod being held at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill..

Some churches have called on the Synod to discipline anyone who promotes homosexual behavior or conducts gay marriage, and to end an agreement that enables sharing of ministers with three denominations that ordain gays, United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Presbyterian Church (USA), according to RCA Today.

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Before discussing the topic, all-synod advisory committees will present 10-word "statements of hope" based on "a pastoral response to homosexuality" their delegates discussed on Saturday night.

Lisa Vander Wal, former president of the General Synod (until Sunday), had asked delegates to reflect on Jesus' desire for His disciples to live in unity for the sake of the world. "I believe that this time in the history of the world – with all its diversity and challenges – is precisely what Jesus was envisioning as he prayed that [we] may all be one," Vander Wal, pastor of Lisha's Kill Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York, said in her report to the Synod.

On Sunday, Tom Smith, co-pastor of Faith Reformed Church in Rock Valley, Iowa, was elected president of General Synod, replacing Vander Wal.

The Synod has consistently and frequently affirmed that homosexual behavior is sin. In 1978, it adopted a paper that said that when Paul rejects homosexual acts on the grounds that they are "against nature" he expresses and reaffirms the clear sense of Scripture. And in 2004, it passed a resolution "to affirm that marriage is properly defined as the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others."

Saturday's exercise was "designed to create a context where the voices of many individuals with different stories could be shared." Vander Wal had urged delegates to be "respectful in conversation with each other in this matter" and to "maintain the unity of the body through the bond of peace." She added, "I am utterly convinced that trying to legislate our way out of our differences will not work, even as it has not worked in virtually every other denomination around us."

One of the stories the delegates heard Saturday was from Carl Ver Beek, an elder at Hope Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., who introduced himself as an RCA guy and the proud father of a gay son, Todd. He talked about his journey of moving from wanting to "fix" Todd to accepting his sexual orientation. "I believe that God sent his son into the world to save you and me. I think he sent my son for a necessary wake-up call," he was quoted as saying.

"The church must ask how radical will be our grace and patience," said Pastor Fred Harrell from City Church of San Francisco, sharing his church's view on the issue. "We are not sacrificing orthodoxy but embracing it, while also expanding our empathic imagination. Our posture is first welcome and inclusion, followed by ongoing process of discipleship."

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