CRC teachings on sexuality already confessional, new report says

The Christian Reformed Church’s beliefs around human sexuality are already considered confessional, according to a report released Thursday by the denomination’s study committee on human sexuality.

“As a committee, we conclude, therefore, that the church’s teaching on premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex already has confessional status. As such, there is no need for a new declaration. We also conclude that this status is warranted because these sins threaten a person’s salvation,” the report stated.

The CRC currently states that sex is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman. Pre-marital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, polyamory and homosexual sex are then considered “incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.”

This status imparts that CRC teachings on sexuality represent the biblical position for the topic. To disagree would be to be in violation of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort, which “fully agree with the Word of God,” according to the CRC. 

The confessions rank just behind Scripture and the creeds (the Apostles Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Nicene Creed) in terms of authority for doctrinal and moral teaching.

The committee asked that this year’s Synod declare the denomination’s teaching already merits confessional status. 

Calvin University faculty must sign a synodically approved “Covenant for Faculty Members,” affirming the three historic Reformed forms of unity—the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. They then “pledge to teach, speak, and write in harmony with the confessions.”

The study committee, officially the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality, was tasked with creating this report in 2016, following the legalization of same-sex marriage in both the US and Canada and the growing number of churches seeking advice.

“The central aim of this theological task will be to provide concise yet clear ethical guidance for what constitutes a holy and healthy Christian sexual life,” the 2016 Synod report stated. Additionally, the committee was to investigate whether these teachings merited confessional status.

Some CRC churches have interpreted the denomination’s position regarding sexuality as pastoral advice, less binding than confessional status. This was Neland CRC’s justification for appointing a deacon this summer who was in a same-sex marriage, despite the CRC stating that members in SSMs are deserving of church discipline.

Synod 2021 is scheduled to meet from June 11 to June 17. All responses to the report must be in the form of an overture or communication to Synod.