While Canada and many states within the United States have allowed same-sex marriage for varying lengths of time, last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court has given us an opportunity for reflection and response. 

The questions coming to my e-mail inbox in the wake of that decision can be divided into two categories: What is our position on the issue? and Will we take a stand with others?

It is not as if we don’t already have positions. When West Michigan media outlets interviewed me on the afternoon of the decision, I began by reminding them of our position on homosexuality.

In addition, our position on marriage begins this way: Marriage is an institution created by God. It is a covenant relationship established by mutual vows between a man and a woman united by God. 

At the conclusion of these statements and background material, both of these statements make reference to our synodical study for pastoral advice concerning same sex marriage, scheduled to report in 2016.

Many denominations and religious organizations are taking public stands regarding the U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

The Court ruled that state and federal prohibitions against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional because they deprive people of the right to equal liberty, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Many commentators see this as a battle between 14th Amendment rights to equal liberty and First Amendment rights to the freedom of expression of religion. Some are expressing a fear that government is steadily encroaching upon religious freedom in the United States.

While the recent Supreme Court ruling may provide evidence of this, there are untold numbers of court cases yet to be heard that will test whether the line between individual liberty and the exercise of freedom of religion is being redrawn.

These questions had been coming into my office before this ruling, and the recent decision has triggered another round of questions such as: Can the state, by means of this ruling, force churches to open their doors to same sex marriages? 

The answer, while not at a level of legal advice, continues to be the same: If a church restricts the use of its building for its stated religious purposes, it can refuse to “rent” to others for different purposes. 

Let me conclude by describing what I see as our task as Christians. While great discernment is necessary due to society’s rapidly changing mores, we must be clear about our witness. Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Society may change, but our goal does not. May we continue to be used powerfully by the Spirit in making disciples next door and around the world.

Dr. Steven Timmermans is the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America

Comments

The Church is faced with such dilemmas time and time again. The easiest way to respond is often to react, but is that really the way Christ would have us function? I appreciate Dr. Timmermans conclusion which focuses on Jesus' command to love one another including those whose lifestyle choices are different than we believe God would have us function as human beings. Nonetheless, we need to be on guard lest we focus disproportionately on the "sins" of others and ignore the "sins" in our own midst. It is a sad day when we the divorce rate among Christians to be slightly higher than the national average. It is is disheartening to read the statistics regarding the percentage of men in our conservative, evangelical churches involved in internet pornography or some other sexual addiction to be >65% and at least 50% of pastors are so involved. I know because I was one of those pastors. And the statistics are such that the more conservative the church the higher the percentage of sexual addiction. Thank God for recovery programs. Let us, then, look inward to the planks in our own eyes before we look outward at the specks in others, including those who advocate for same-sex marriages. Louis Korf, Chaplain in Longview, WA

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Dr. Timmermans states that "the questions coming to my e-mail inbox in the wake of that decision can be divided into two categories: What is our position on the issue? and Will we take a stand with others?" The second question is not addressed. However, from Synod's refusal to deal with those in our denomination who advocate for full inclusion of practicing homosexuals, the answer appears to be "No" (unless "others" only consist of those who are celebrating the "right" to same-sex "marriage"). If that is not the case, then I would like to know how does the CRC plans to take a stand with others?

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I apprecaite Dr. Timmermans's article and conclusion. On this issue, however, my concern is how to love the homosexuals. We have to love them, not by giving just a romantic hug or acknowledging their sexual favor but leading them into God's favor. But how?

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The title of Steve Timmermans’ article is, “How Should We React to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision?” Is Timmermans simply giving his own opinion or is he asking his readers for their opinions? If he is asking his readers, I would say that I’m grateful for the decision made by the court. It not only grants the same civil rights to committed gay couples in a committed life long relationship as to traditional married couples, it also changes the way that society looks at and engages with gay married couples. With time and the growing acceptance of homosexual marriage, homosexuals will find it much easier and more comfortable to relate with a culture that accepts them as equals and not as some abnormality. It’s too bad that many evangelical churches (including the CRC) will continue to look at gays as an abomination in God’s eyes.

I’m also grateful for the courts decision in the way it will benefit married gay couples in the churches that accept not only a gay inclination but also the accompanying lifestyle. Now a gay couple will feel a church’s acceptance, not just as two individual gay persons, but as a married couple in a life long relationship of love and fidelity. No longer will the gay couple be seen as an oxymoron, two singles having an intimate relationship, but now as a married couple where intimacy is expected and blessed. Of course, this will not be true in the CRC, as such married couples will not be recognized as married and therefor not permitted full membership in the church.

As the CRC has finally taken a cue from our culture and now allows women to hold positions of authority in the church, maybe before long the CRC will realize that God loves the homosexual and homosexual married couples and embraces them in his all encompassing love in the same way he embraces heterosexuals.

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From a public justice and avoidance of judicial pandemonium the decision certainly makes sense. The hodgepodge of state laws had gotten to the point that a national policy was needed. The notion of one state not recognizing a marriage legally constituted in another state was ludicrous.

Even for those who believe that intimate same-sex relationships are sinful (which many of us in the CRC do not), stable relationships trump fornication any day.

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First, the "new commandment" is different from the "old commandment" (which is still in effect.) The old is Love Your Neighbor and Christ expanded that to lover your enemies too. The New Commandment is Love One Another which refers to loving sisters and brothers in Christ. Second, the Supreme Court's decision on "gay rights" is to be expected but the reasoning is most troubling. Once again the Federal Government by the hand of an unaccountable group of nine people have declared the 10th amendment null and void. This decision, like most of those made since the Civil War denies States their right to be States and declares once again the false statement in the Pledge of Allegiance that we are "one nation." Third, the fear of losing more religious freedoms is nonsense. We lost all religious freedom the moment we gave it all away to the secularists by either approving their socialist agenda or by not standing against them in the public square. The church is no longer a light on a hill but a snuffed out candle undercover. The analysis of our condition (including the CRCNA in which I am a pastor) is clearly stated in the article http://americanvision.org/12163/pietists-you-may-now-kiss-your-bride/ . Get a copy of the free book to which the article refers and let us all repent of allowing "pop" theology to kill the witness of the church.

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