Summaries of General Synod Discussions and Actions on Homosexuality and the Rights of Homosexuals

In 2012, General Synod voted:

While compassion, patience, and loving support should be shown to all those who struggle with same-sex desires, the General Synod reaffirms our official position that homosexual behavior is a sin according to the Holy Scriptures, therefore any person, congregation, or assembly which advocates homosexual behavior or provides leadership for a service of same-sex marriage or a similar celebration has committed a disciplinable offense; and further,

that the General Synod Council shall oversee the creation of an eight member committee made up of representatives appointed by each of the regional synods to pray and work together to present a way forward for our denomination given the disagreement in our body relative to homosexuality. The purpose of the committee is not to revisit our stated position, but shall operate with the understanding expressed earlier in this recommendation and issue a report with practical recommendations to the General Synod of 2013 (MGS 2012: 149-150).

In 2013, the General Synod voted:

To instruct the General Synod Council to appoint a diverse working group representative of the constituencies of the RCA and the varying understandings within the Reformed Church in America regarding sexual orientation and gender identity to identify, design, and/or develop resources for use in congregations and other RCA settings that will encourage grace-filled conversations among those holding varying understandings; and further,

to identify, design, and/or develop resources for use in congregations and other RCA settings to assist the RCA in the development of strategies to preserve unity, purity, and peace (MGS 2013: 115).

The 2013 General Synod also voted:

To acknowledge that in 2012 we, the General Synod, in the proceedings that led to the adoption of R-28, demonstrated a lack of decorum and civility, and a general atmosphere in which delegates were not always treating one another as sisters and brothers in Christ; and further,

to acknowledge that in 2012 we, the General Synod, usurped the constitutional authority reserved for the classes when, in R-28, we stated that “any person, congregation, or assembly which advocates homosexual behavior or provides leadership for a service of same-sex marriage or a similar celebration has committed a disciplinable offense” (MGS 2013: 179).

The 2015 General Synod accepted a paper entitled “The Word Became Flesh”from the Commission on Theology as a resource for further reflection on human sexuality.

Setting the topic of sexuality within the drama of God’s rule and reconciliation in Christ might indeed enable our church to rediscover the ground of a meaningful cultural witness in the midst of wearying conflict over a variety of topics concerning sexuality.

The 2016 General Synod declared that the RCA does not support the use of reorientation/reparative therapy. Reparative therapy describes a variety of treatments intended to change someone’s sexual orientation. “There has been no data found for the widespread and long-term effectiveness of reparative therapy. However, there is documentation of the adverse effects of reparative therapy,” said the report of the Commission on Christian Action, which had been tasked with studying reparative therapy.

The 2016 General Synod adopted as constitutional the 2002 “Order for Christian Marriage” liturgy, which describes marriage as “a joyful covenanting between a man and a woman.” Synod also voted for a change to the Book of Church Order(BCO), mandating that consistories or governing bodies “shall assure that marriages in a church or congregation are between a man and a woman.” Neither constitutional amendment achieved the required approval of two-thirds of the classes (MGS 2017, pp. 41-42).

General Synod 2016 also passed this resolution:

No matter what position we as Christians have taken on the moral status of same-sex behavior, we reject all forms of mockery, degrading words and thoughts, economic oppression, abuse, threats, and violence made against members of the LGBTQ+ community, and we call on anyone involved in such behavior to repent and immediately begin walking in obedience to Jesus’ command to love.

General Synod 2017 voted “to affirm that the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108 and 109 categorically states that God condemns ‘all unchastity,’ which includes same-sex sexual activity, and that faithful adherence to the RCA’s Standards, therefore, entails the affirmation that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

General Synod 2017 also voted “to urge all RCA assemblies and other bodies and all RCA members to maintain our covenant bonds with each other, especially with regard to the conflict over human sexuality; and further, to urge classes to refrain from approving the requests of churches to transfer to another denomination prior to the conclusion of General Synod 2018, instead focusing on our God-given mission.”

View resolution here.

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