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.
Statement on Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality
Rev. Beth Carroll, Rev. Jill Russell, and Rev. Gordon Wiersma – Pastors of Hope Church, Holland, MI
Critique in Regard to Content:
While not claiming to be an exhaustive study of human sexuality, the GLCMS falls short even in its presentation of basic content. While setting for itself the standard of Scripture as its sole authority for the structures of faithful sexuality, it fails to recognize or deal with any of the problematic and culturally bound aspects within Scripture itself (i.e. polygamy, patriarchy, Levitical laws). Furthermore, for its admittedly brief content, the GLCMS has a disproportionate amount of content focused on marriage as only appropriate for a male-female union and on condemning all expressions of non- heterosexual intimacy. In doing so, the GLCMS reveals itself as being more concerned with a “traditional marriage” agenda than with substantive content. The GLCMS has little as a catechism to teach, but instead simply uses a Q&A form to restate often repeated prohibitions without deeply engaging the Scripture it appeals to.
Critique in Regard to Concept:
Beyond discussion of the content of the GLCMS, the concept of using a catechism for discussions of human sexuality is misguided. Catechisms in the Church are useful to teach the broad scope of Christian doctrine in a succinct and systematic form, but human sexuality is not best defined by systematic doctrine. Christian practice in all aspects is best engaged through relationship and context, carried out in the interplay between individual and communal discernment, and this is particularly so for the sensitive and powerful dynamics at work in sexuality. As Christians in the Reformed tradition, this especially calls us to bring together all aspects of human understanding, believing that the Spirit is at work among us as science, culture and experience are brought into faithful conversation with Scripture. This is not accomplished through the structure of a catechism, but through ongoing communal discernment, engaged in with relationships of trust and humility and with openness to the Spirit who guides us to faithfulness.