The Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRC) and my Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) are fraternal, ecumenical partners and are both denominational members of the World Communion of Reformed Churches as well as the World Reformed Fellowship. The CRC in 2016 appointed a study committee to address questions of human sexuality, with that committee publishing its report this past weekend. The report can be found here and its executive summary here. The committee is soliciting feedback from CRC congregations and classes, and its 2021 synod may yet edit their report in light of that response. The EPC similarly dealt with these subjects through a revised position paper (2016) and extensive pastoral letter (2018). There is much to commend in the CRC’s report, and several areas that the EPC could stand to emulate or consider imitating in modifying our own position and pastoral papers on this subject. My areas of concern focus in particular on the report’s therapeutic approach, minimizing the necessity of repentance, sidestepping important confessional questions on transgenderism and preferred pronouns, and the intrinsic evil of pornography.
Areas of Appreciation
I want to begin my comments with the report’s strong conclusion, which addresses the CRC’s confessional position regarding human sexuality: It observes that Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108’s teaching that the 7th commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”) condemns all “unchastity”, which includes premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex (pg. 146, 148). Citing Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 81-82 and Belgic Confession 29, the report affirms that the CRC’s confessions already teach that the church may never ignore or affirm these expressions of unchaste sexual immorality, and instead must warn that those who practice such sins and refuse to repent will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (pg. 146). The report concludes that the CRC’s confessional teaching is biblically warranted “because these sins threaten a person’s salvation. The Scriptures call the church to warn people to flee sexual immorality for the sake of their souls and to encourage them with God’s presence and power to equip them for holy living. A church that fails to call people to repentance and offer them the hope of God’s loving deliverance is acting like a false church (pg. 148).”
This is sober and hard language, but loving…
An elder of the church who commits adultery should be permanently disqualified him from ever again serving as an elder of the church.
This statement may seem to contradict the Christian spirit of repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, and restoration, yet it remains the biblical truth.
1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1
In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul lays out the requirements for an overseer/bishop of the church, repeated by him in Titus 1:5-9 for elders of the church. In both passages (1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:6), Paul says that the officer of the church must be a μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, literally a “man of one woman”. This is commonly translated as “husband of one wife” (e.g. the CSB, ESV, KJV, NASB), but some translations have rendered it as “faithful to his wife” (e.g. NIV, NLT). Both of these translations get to an aspect of its meaning, but by themselves are inadequate in capturing the full sense of the phrase.
The idea in Paul’s requirement is not that an elder of the church is merely monogamous, but is faithful in his commitment to his wife. To be an elder you must be a man of one woman, and someone already an elder must remain a man of one woman.
Last week James K.A. Smith kicked off a discussion on the use of the term ‘orthodox’ to describe the traditional Christian position on marriage and sexuality. Wesley Hill has a decent post rounding up the relevant articles in the ongoing…
I’ve been thinking about this post at Spiritual Friendship for the last few days. The focus in the brief post is whether the attraction between two celibate gay men necessarily constitutes lust, and whether those friendships should undergo repentance. The…