Confessional Subscription in the CRC

So it begins: “Historically there have been very few requests for an exception about a specific teaching. But following Synod 2022’s decisions regarding human sexuality, particularly in affirming the confessional status of the church’s traditional understanding of marriage, some Council members have been seeking a process to file an exception, indicating their difficulty with that decision.”

The CRC’s approach to scruples and exceptions, “gravamen”, has differed from the confessional subscription debates in Presbyterianism. No more. Now, at least for the Council of Delegates (denominational executive committee), “When a delegate requests an exception, the Council’s executive committee will make a decision on whether or not to grant it, based on the centrality of the belief for which the exception is sought and the member’s agreement not to publicly contradict, teach, or act against the synodical position.”

The resistance to this recommendation hits all the familiar beats. “We need to be able to teach what we believe, not keep it secret if we disagree!” “What counts as ‘central’, anyway?” “How can we trust each other, doctrinally, if we’re now regularly taking exceptions?” “Who keeps the record of the exceptions, and should the whole church know or not?” “Should people who disagree with the church be allowed to hire staff for the church, since they’ll lean towards people who align with their disagreements and that will inevitably change the church’s culture?” All of these are in the short Banner article, and all of these are perpetual questions and debates in Presbyterian churches.

So, welcome to the club, CRC! I’m sure they’ll have plenty of debates about this subject in the coming years, but unless they affirm either strict subscriptionism or a strictly defined system subscriptionism, they’ll find the joy of living in this tension hounding them perpetually.