1994 General Synod Report of the Commission on Theology: The Church and Homosexuality

View statement online

Introduction
The Commission on Theology received an
unusual mandate from the 1990 General Synod.
The 1990 General Synod voted:
To adopt as the position of the Reformed
Church in America that the practicing
homosexual lifestyle is contrary to
Scripture, while at the same time encouraging
love and sensitivity towards such persons
as fellow human beings (MGS 1990, R-
11, p. 461).

However, after making this very clear pronouncement,
the 1990 General Synod then reaffirmed
the earlier studies of 1978 (see MGS
1978, pp. 229-40) and 1979 (see MGS 1979, pp.
128-35), and also asked the Commission on
Theology to carry out another study on the subject
(MGS 1990, R-12, p. 461). The commission,
and the task force appointed by the commission
to address this issue, reflected at some length
on the unusual sequence of events. Usually
studies are made, and then resolutions are
adopted! Why in this case was the sequence
reversed?

It seems clear that the debate at the 1990
General Synod, as well as this unusual sequence
of events, indicated a lack of clarity and consensus
around these issues in the church as a
whole. That conclusion was powerfully confirmed
in a “listening session” organized by the
task force at the 1993 General Synod. In hearing
from more than 150 people from many different
sectors of the church, the task force confronted
a passionate diversity of opinions:

“I find gay persons to be sensitive, caring, loving,
persons.”
“I’m not sure if it is a choice or genetic.”
“Homosexual orientation is a result of sin in
our world.”
“They are stuck in that lifestyle.”
“The Bible is clear—their lifestyle is anathema.
I did not make this rule, God did.”
“They are sinful and defy God’s Word.”
“My son died of AIDS. My son may have
made poor choices—not about being gay, but he
took risks. Whether genetic or not, the church
needs to love gays.”

These are just a few of the statements made
by RCA people at the 1993 General Synod who
responded to the question: “What are your perceptions
about people who are gay and lesbian
and how did you arrive at them?”

The task force also encountered another phenomenon
in these hearings they had not expected:
a surprising openness to talk and to listen to
each other emerged within the context of very
fruitful dialogue. In fact, not only did such
openness appear in the listening sessions, but
the task force found themselves deepened and
stretched in their own understanding of the
issues they were addressing, despite the fact
they reflected a wide diversity of viewpoints on
the question of homosexuality.

These experiences lead to the following
assessment of the RCA’s current situation. It
seems clear that there is a significant majority
within the church who are convinced that the
question of homosexuality is quite clearly and
easily settled: one must simply and firmly condemn
a practicing homosexual lifestyle as sinful.

On the other hand, there are in the Reformed
Church parents of gay children, pastors who are
trying to work compassionately with gay people,
and gay people themselves, who voiced, in one
way or another, a frustration with the church’s
position and a longing for a more open conversation.
Among all these people there is a deep
commitment to Christ, to Scripture, and to the
church.

The church is attempting to do justice to four
basic concerns: 1) a concern for faithfulness to
the Word of God; 2) a concern for the unity of
the church; 3) a concern for homosexual persons;
and 4) a concern for the integrity of the
church’s moral witness in the culture. Yet many
Christians fear this issue cannot be resolved
without one of these values bing lost or compromised.
The commission firmly believes, however, that
this need not be the case. Rather, the commission
believes the Reformed Church in America
faces an opportunity to engage in a fresh and
more pastoral approach.

How should the RCA respond to such a situation,
where deep and passionately felt differences
of conviction emerge? As the task force
reflected on this pastoral dilemma, they
returned in their thinking to their hearings and
to their own interactions. In their report to the
Commission on Theology, they said:
We read, discussed, prayed, thought, wondered
aloud, and struggled with the Word. It
was a rich and enlightening experience, and one
we covet for the church as a whole.

Those times of prayer and dialogue were
moments of fruitfulness and growth for the task
force. Why should it not be possible for the
larger church to experience that same growth of
community and discernment? Why should it
not be possible for the people of the RCA to
learn from each other? …

[The complete 1994 Report can be viewed as a PDF by clicking on the above link, "View Online Statement," and then selecting "Appendix I."]

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