For full reports and exact statements of the CRCNA position on a particular issue, see references provided below.
The CRC position on homosexuality, established by Synod 1973 and affirmed by several subsequent synods, is summarized in the following definitions and statements of pastoral advice that were recommended to CRC churches.
- Homosexuality: a condition of personal identity in which a person is sexually oriented toward persons of the same sex.
- Homosexualism: explicit and overt homosexual practice.
- Homosexual: a person who has erotic attractions for members of the same sex and who may or may not actually engage in homosexualism.
Statements of pastoral advice
Homosexuality is a condition in which a person is sexually oriented toward persons of the same sex, and for which the person may bear only a minimal responsibility. Persons of same-sex attraction may not be denied community acceptance solely because of their sexual orientation and should be wholeheartedly received by the church and given loving support and encouragement. Same-sex oriented Christians, like all Christians, are called to discipleship, holy obedience, and the use of their gifts in the cause of the kingdom. Opportunities to serve within the offices and the life of the congregation should be afforded to same-sex oriented Christians as well as to heterosexual Christians.
Homosexualism (that is, explicit homosexual practice), however, is incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture. The church affirms that it must exercise the same compassion for same-sex oriented persons in their sins as it exercises for all other sinners. The church should do everything in its power to help persons with same-sex orientation and give them support toward healing and wholeness. A synodical report titled Pastoral Care for Homosexual Members is available at www.crcna.org/SynodResources.
In 1973, synod submitted a report on homosexuality to the churches as a background study and adopted a series of statements of pastoral advice to the churches. Those statements, summarized above, constitute the position of the CRC on the issue.
Since 1973 the matter of homosexuality has come up repeatedly at synod through overtures from the churches and in ecumenical relations with other denominations. Synod has consistently sustained the 1973 position in spite of pressure from within and outside the denomination. Synod 1999 reviewed the report of its Committee to Give Direction about and for Pastoral Care for Homosexual Members. The report was sent to the churches for responses. Synod 2002 received a final form of the report and adopted it with some alterations.
In 2013 synod received two overtures requesting guidance on applying the CRC’s position in light of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada (since 2005) and in many U.S. states, and synod responded by appointing a study committee to report to Synod 2016. (In the meantime the United States legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on June 26, 2015.) The Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance re Same-sex Marriage submitted a majority report and a minority report to Synod 2016, and synod decided to receive the reports as information and to recommend the pastoral guidance of the minority report in keeping with earlier synodical decisions (see Agenda for Synod 2016, pp. 436-43). Synod 2016 further decided “to place a reference to the pastoral guidance of the minority report as a new Supplement to Church Order Article 69-c,” and to “appoint a new study committee to articulate a foundation-laying biblical theology of human sexuality that pays particular attention to biblical conceptions of gender and sexuality” (Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 917-19).
The new committee was mandated to present a written summary of their work by February 1, 2019, and a final report to Synod 2021 (Acts of Synod 2016, p. 927). Synod 2019 received the interim report of the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality, and delegates participated in round-table discussions to provide feedback for the study committee as it continued its work (Acts of Synod 2019, pp. 716-17, 753-54). The committee’s final report, submitted for deliberation by synod in 2021 but deferred because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was received by Synod 2022 and was recommended “to the churches as providing a useful summary of biblical teaching regarding human sexuality” (Acts of Synod 2022, p. 919). Among other actions in response to this report, Synod 2022 affirmed “that ‘unchastity’ in Heidelberg Catechism Q. and A. 108 encompasses adultery, premarital sex, extramarital sex, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex, all of which violate the seventh commandment” and declared that “this interpretation has confessional status” (Acts of Synod 2022, p. 922).
In 2016 synod also noted a significant caution regarding therapies such as conversion/reparative therapy, as noted in the majority report of the Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance re Same-sex Marriage, because such therapies have been found to be ineffective and, in some forms, to cause psychological and spiritual harm (see Agenda for Synod 2016, p. 403; Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 929-30). (See also Agenda for Synod 2022, pp. 407.)
References to Agendas and Acts of Synod
Acts of Synod 1970, pp. 120-21, 540
Acts of Synod 1971, pp. 16, 541
Acts of Synod 1972, pp. 17, 396
Acts of Synod 1973, pp. 50-53, 609-33
Acts of Synod 1974, pp. 78-79, 633-34
Acts of Synod 1977, pp. 16, 680
Acts of Synod 1981, p. 66
Acts of Synod 1983, pp. 147-48, 150, 153, 480-82, 497, 502-3, 575, 677-80
Agenda for Synod 1992, p. 157
Acts of Synod 1992, pp. 566-67, 617
Agenda for Synod 1993, pp. 206-7, 279-80
Acts of Synod 1993, pp. 367-68, 411-13, 420-21, 504-5, 544
Agenda for Synod 1994, pp. 271-76, 278-79
Acts of Synod 1994, pp. 447-50, 459-60, 522, 524
Agenda for Synod 1995, pp. 221-22, 233-37, 528-29
Acts of Synod 1995, pp. 597-98, 614-15, 701
Agenda for Synod 1996, pp. 283-91, 309-10
Acts of Synod 1996, pp. 382-83, 394, 404-5, 572-74, 582
Agenda for Synod 1997, pp. 31, 230-31
Acts of Synod 1997, pp. 554-57, 622-23
Agenda for Synod 1999, pp. 237-79
Acts of Synod 1999, pp. 601-3
Agenda for Synod 2002, pp. 313-51
Acts of Synod 2002, pp. 483-84
Agenda for Synod 2013, pp. 418-20
Acts of Synod 2013, pp. 640-41
Agenda for Synod 2016, pp. 361-443
Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 914-21, 926-27, 929-30
Agenda for Synod 2017, pp. 434-35
Acts of Synod 2017, p. 625
Agenda for Synod 2019, pp. 403-44
Acts of Synod 2019, pp. 716-17, 753-54
Agenda for Synod 2022, pp. 313-487
Acts of Synod 2022, pp. 904-24