Homosexual Relationships and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated)
I find it difficult to write the following without sounding alarmist. It is so alarming that it’s challenging to say anything about it as a Reformed believer without expressing some reaction. However, I will try my best to simply give you the facts with a minimum of editorial comment. I find it sad to mention this, but unfortunately it’s also necessary to make people aware of where things are going. We should not have our heads in the sand.
Some months ago, our oldest daughter was attending a church Bible study for young people. They were studying Romans. There were a couple of visitors from the Netherlands. There is an exchange program for Reformed high school students from the Netherlands and Canada. As part of that program, the two young ladies were spending three weeks in Canada. They are members of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) — sister churches of the Canadian Reformed Churches. Somehow the discussion turned to homosexual behaviour and relationships — did I mention they were studying Romans? One of the Dutch visitors mentioned that this isn’t a problem in her church, as long as the couple isn’t living together before they get married. Our daughter related this to me as I drove her home. I asked several questions to check whether perhaps there had been a misunderstanding. But apparently not. For example, there was no language problem — the Dutch student had lived in Canada for several years and spoke perfect English. No, it seemed that, as shocking as it was, the Dutch student meant what she said.
Last week, the Dutch newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad ran this story. Translated into English, the title reads: “RCN Classis Allows Gay Couples to be Admitted to the Lord’s Supper.” The classical region in question is Classis Groningen. This supports the decision of a local church, Groningen-Oost, to admit to the Lord’s Supper practicing homosexuals who want to follow Christ. To get the full story, one needs to read the press release of Classis Groningen of April 30, 2015. You can find it in Dutch online here. Here’s my effort at translating the relevant part for you:
In previous meetings we have discussed together the place of gays and lesbians inside our congregations. The discussion focussed on the question of whether cohabiting or married gay couples may also take part in the Lord’s Supper. For this meeting, the moderamen prepared an informative brief for us to discuss together. Herein is summarized what till now has transpired at classis, what has been decided at General Synod about this topic, which two main features are apparent in this discussion (“Biblical directive regarding marriage between man and woman,” and “pastoral room for consistories to make exceptions in concrete situations”) and what the purpose is of this discussion at the classis level. The church at Zuidwolde asks whether we as classis must not speak more firmly against admitting cohabiting gay couples to the Lord’s Supper. It is decided not to do this. Many can find themselves in agreement with the brief and the conclusion of the moderamen is: the discussion of this informative brief is the (provisional) end of the discussion at the classis level.
A summary of the “informative brief” can be found here, in Dutch (you’ll have to scroll down the page a bit to find it). It was prepared by the pastors S. De Boer, R. IJbema, and W. Jagersma.
Let me make three observations in conclusion:
- Problems regarding how to deal with homosexual behaviour and relationships have been festering in the RCN for a long time. This is not a development that falls out of the sky with no prior history. Back in the 1990s already, an article appeared in Reformed Perspective magazine drawing attention to an RCN minister who was willing to accommodate homosexual couples, as long as they only kiss.
- Note the mention of “cohabiting or married gay couples” in the Classis Groningen press release. This raises the question: are there such couples in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands? Is this discussion hypothetical or is this actually tolerated in the RCN? From what I’ve mentioned before, it appears that cohabitation has been tolerated for some time already — but what about marriage?
- One church (Zuidwolde) questioned this direction. The region of Classis Groningen includes 11 churches.
UPDATE: Rev. S De Boer has written a letter to Nederlands Dagblad on this matter. I have posted something about it here.