In June 2018, the RCA General Synod commended the “Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality” for consideration by the Commission on Theology (COT) and the wider RCA. In response, a diverse group of people from the LGBTQ community, parents, pastors, educators and others shared their thoughts with Room for All and the COT, offering alternative perspectives on a faithful ethic for living as sexual and gendered people of God. Room for All is grateful for the opportunity to share those responses in “Outsights” over the next several weeks.
A Response to the Great Lakes Catechism
The Rev. Julie Johnson Staples, J.D. – New York
(Collegiate Senior Minister serving as Executive Director of Intersections International)
Richard Behn – New York
(Ordained Deacon, Marble Collegiate Church, serving the Collegiate Special Ministry of Intersections International)
“My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me….” (John 17:20-21, NIV).
Many are the calls of the church. We are to feed those who hunger; to slake the many thirsts of those who are parched, both physically and spiritually. We are liberators, called to free those who are captive. Humanity’s bonds and chains are many. Such liberative impulses are the good and external work of the church, which is the body of Christ. But our Savior’s prayer for His body is that it first and foremost might be unified.
Before we set off on our diverse and God-ordained missions to the world (cf. Mt. 28:19), the critical internal work to which we must attend is the unity of Christ’s body to which we are called. As Paul wrote, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (I Cor. 12: 12-13, ESV).
Regrettably and painfully, the Great Lakes Catechism further divides and injures Christ’s body. Even in the earnest attempt to reach consensus with Spirit-illuminated understanding, this Catechism in breathtaking ways subjugates God’s command that we love one another, including our siblings in all their diverse identities and expressions.
Rather than paving a way for reconciliation and healing for all the offspring of our Heavenly Parent, the sex-negative interpretations interlaced within this particular theological exploration risk the psychological harms of shame, denigration, condemnation, self-hatred and, most damagingly, the physical harms and injury that hatred can spawn.
The New Testament gospel of love and reconciliation is the one that we are called to proclaim, not one of legalism and rejection. God’s entire creation is offered the unmatchable gift of inexhaustible grace, redemption and love in Jesus Christ. The central, unyielding commandment of the scriptures is to love. It is a God-centered love that should enter every phase of our lives.
And for such a time as this, should not our theology and catechisms revolve around a more pressing central question? How can we embrace our brothers, sisters and gender fluid siblings? All that we do should be for the glory of God. That will simplify our catechism and enrich our spiritual lives.