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 the Great Lakes Catechism
Dr. David Timmer – Iowa
Forty-three years ago, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, my friendship with a young woman named Mary Spoelman began to deepen into love. Since we were members of the same Christian Reformed congregation, the Church of the Servant, our relationship was encouraged and fostered by that church. In 1975, we were joined together in marriage by its pastor. As we moved in our early married life, we transferred our membership to the South Bend Christian Reformed Church, and finally to Second Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa. Each of those congregations recognized us as a married couple; they honored and supported our effort to forge a life-long intimate partnership; they baptized and nurtured our children; they blessed us, and helped us to be a blessing to others. This blessing has shaped and enriched every day of our lives as a couple.
The “Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality” calls on pastors, elders, and congregations to deny to many sincere Christians – including our son – the blessings that were offered to us. Our growing understanding of sexual orientation has made clear to us the pastoral folly of efforts to change gay and lesbian persons into heterosexuals, and equally the folly of encouraging such persons to enter into heterosexual marriages. That way implies psychological and relational disaster for most people with same-sex orientation. In response, we are told that we should offer to gay and lesbian Christians the same counsel that we would give to single straight Christians who are seeking a life-partner. But that is impossible. To straight Christians, we say “Be patient and chaste in your singleness, and if you find a partner we will rejoice with you and bless that relationship.” To gay and lesbian Christians we say, “We will never rejoice with you and bless your relationship. What we honor and uphold in your straight brothers and sisters, we condemn and deny in you.”
Many Christian pastors, leaders, parents, and friends find themselves unable anymore to deliver that message. It is not the Gospel. It infringes on the Christian freedom of those pastors and leaders. It leaves the church with no realistic pastoral guidance to offer our gay and lesbian brothers, sisters, children, and friends. It withholds the church’s blessing and support from the most significant relationships that they will form. Despite the positive message about heterosexual relationships found in the Great Lakes Catechism, its exclusion of gay and lesbian Christians is a serious flaw that must not be imposed upon the church.