For full reports and exact statements of the denomination's position on a particular issue, the reader should look to the references provided.
Synod 2003 declared that a married couple's decision whether or not to use birth control is a private, disputable matter. The church urges married couples to consider the size of their families prayerfully and encourages them to be motivated by a desire to glorify God and further his kingdom in their family planning.
See also Life Issues.
In response to an overture from Classis Grand Rapids East, Synod 1934 appointed a committee to study the issue of birth control in view of its widespread practice and the concern of church members regarding the Lord's will in this matter. In an era of birthrate decline, Synod 1936 appointed a special committee that wrote the "Birth Control Testimony," which synod adopted. It called married church members to fulfill one of the purposes of marriage, which is to beget children. It also testified against the "growing evil of selfish birth restriction" and "indiscriminate dissemination of contraceptive information." In 1971 three individuals overtured synod to reconsider the church's position on birth control in light of the concern about overpopulation, the possibility of governmental population control, the use of birth-control devices, and the need for a clear witness to the world. Synod defeated a recommendation to appoint a committee to study the matter but urged those with special competence in these subject areas to serve the church with published articles showing a biblical perspective.
In later years, practice regarding birth control changed considerably. Synod 1999 considered an overture to study abortion and pregnancy-related issues along with an overture regarding ethical and theological issues in bioscience; in response synod appointed a study committee “to examine the biblical/theological/ethical issues raised by the increasing capabilities and recent discoveries in bioscience and genetic engineering” (Acts of Synod 1999, p. 578). In response to an overture presented in 2003 (and in contrast to the decision made in 1936), synod declared “that a married couple's decision whether or not to use birth control to prevent the conception of a baby is a private, disputable matter," urged that married couples "consider the size of their families prayerfully before God," and encouraged couples "in their family planning, to be motivated by a desire to glorify God and to further his kingdom and not by selfish reasons or fear of the future" (Acts of Synod 2003, p. 648).
References to Agendas and Acts of Synod
Acts of Synod 1906, pp. 52-53
Acts of Synod 1930, p. 140
Acts of Synod 1934, pp. 125-27
Acts of Synod 1936, pp. 12, 136-38
Acts of Synod 1971, pp. 55, 132, 643-46
Agenda for Synod 1999, p. 389
Acts of Synod 1999, pp. 578, 625
Agenda for Synod 2003, pp. 430-32
Acts of Synod 2003, pp. 644-48