By Eric Carpenter
The storm is not coming. It is here! Compare the RCA to a fleet of ships, the various classes. The current LGBTQ issues toss us in a great sea-roiling tempest. The eye of the storm has pulled us in. The fleet slowly circles−crippled. Some already lost. Some separated and aligned with other fleets. If strategic, insightful leadership does not emerge NOW, the fleet will be scattered. Facing the storm demands biblically rooted and Spirit-empowered leadership NOW.
The Rocky Mountain classis has submitted a paper (attached) and an Overture (see below) for General Synod. I have interacted with RCA leaders who have read these documents. Sadly, there is a significant misunderstanding of the core intent−especially among those most theologically aligned with us. Here are some clarifications and a heartfelt plea.
Please reread the overture and paper. Pray and reconsider the core ideas.
I myself have just read the 20 overtures included in the General Synod workbook. We are a house divided. We will not survive the storm without a firm hand on the tiller.
The Rocky Mountain Classis Overture (RMCO) is unique among all the others. The theological positions on LGBTQ issues are easily discerned for each Overture. Notice, however, that the RMCO does NOT argue for any one position. Instead, it presents a discernment framework for developing a way to survive the storm and sail on.
When you reread the RMCO’s discussion of the three Pauline options, you will realize we do not directly advocate one particular position. We simply present a framework for discussion. This is the unique intent of RMCO.
Don’t frown and give up. Forbear one another in love…
I’ve just preached on sanctification and the fruit of the Spirit. There I rediscovered the fruit of forbearance or patient endurance, and it struck me in regards to the RCA. Yes, many leaders feel done with this issue. That’s how I felt ten years ago, so don’t talk to us about forbearance. However much we want them to, these issues aren’t going away. They must be dealt with.
Instead of using the discussion recommended by the RCA, the RMC reframed the conversation according to the attached paper. Each RMC participant read it prior to the gathering. There was a formal presentation, and then we broke into small groups for discussion. Several important comments came up. An Elder remarked, “This frame work is incredibly helpful. It clarifies what I think about these issues. Who else is using this framework?” The answer− “No one besides us, the RMC.”
Then a pastor commented, “This framework is really asking us to pull back and think theologically and biblically about the nature of the LGBTQ issues before us.”
Another Elder stood, his voice shaking, “It is incredibly important that we get this right. If these issues are not ‘disputable matters’ and we treat them as such, we grieve the heart of God. But if they are indeed ‘disputable matters’ and we don’t treat them as such, then we grieve the heart of God.”
As a classis, most favored a particular “direction.” We continued, however, to discuss what our role should be, and agreed that it was not to share our conclusions. Instead, we invited the RCA to use this framework in approaching LBGTQ issues. From this discussion then, the Overture grew, inviting the denomination to “get this right together.” Let us discern the prophetic voice for this time.
Forbearance, perseverance−hear my plea. We do not ask for the same old discussion, but for a new framework. This could be the beginning of the end of the matter.
Support this approach. Advocate for the discernment framework.
Our RMCO can be supported or denied by both conservatives and progressives. From friends and co-laborers across the theological spectrum, I have heard both affirmation and resistance. The RMCO framework allows for peaceable discussion, for innovation, for truth to emerge.
To return to the storm analogy−here is an opportunity to stop shooting at each another from our little boats. Let us prayerfully reflect and discuss how we can move away from the center of the storm. This may be in different directions, or as one. At least, it will be away from the raging storm that threatens to destroy us all.
General Synod 2018 Overture #18
Definitive Resolution and Direction to LGBTQ Issues
The Classis of Rocky Mountains overtures the 2018 General Synod to request the GSC, the regional synods, and each classis to engage in discussions regarding a definitive path forward for the Reformed Church in America at their next stated meetings. Given our current state of contention and division regarding scriptural interpretation and application of LGBTQ individuals’ status and participation issues at all levels of denominational polity, the time has come to determine the future of the RCA. These issues have been detrimental to the creative energy and efficiency of the denomination, particularly during recent years, and we need to progress toward a resolution that is compatible with the scriptural interpretational beliefs of all involved.
Though the questions submitted via R 17-56 at the 2017 General Synod were meaningful for discussion, in their present format they do not lead toward definitive resolution of these issues. Given that, a set of questions for further discussion at all levels is proposed herein. Results of these discussions are to be summarized and shared with the 2019 General Synod by the General Secretary and/or his appointed representative. This should be accomplished in consultation with the GSC, regional synod executives, and classis pastoral and/or elder representatives as appropriate.
The questions proposed for discussion are:
- Does scriptural interpretation provide that alternative sexual lifestyle behavior is a “disputable matter” rather than one that is indisputable? (See Romans 14.) If deemed a “disputable matter,” what are the reasons and what should the related action be? A possible resolution could be the development of “conscience clauses” within each level of church polity (church, classis, regional synod, general synod) to establish policy for scriptural acceptability of alternative sexual lifestyle behavior. The resultant action might then be the maintaining of the unity of the Reformed Church in America as one denominational body, allowing for differences in scriptural interpretation of these issues.
- Does scriptural interpretation provide that alternative sexual lifestyle behavior is not a “disputable matter” but one over which to “break fellowship” and begin disciplinary action? (See 1 Corinthians 5.) If so, what are the reasons and what should the related action be? A possible resolution could be to begin disciplinary procedures through our judicial system, as outlined in the Book of Church Order, Chapter 2.
- Does scriptural interpretation provide that alternative sexual lifestyle behavior is not a “disputable matter” but one over which to “separate for mission” and initiate the process of a peaceful separation? (See Acts 15:36-41.) If so, what are the reasons and what should the related action be? A possible resolution could be the orderly creation of different denominational entities that would be compatible with their own scriptural viewpoints and convictions surrounding LGBTQ issues.
As with any proposal having significant import to the future of the denomination, the entire process should be constantly covered in prayer, focused on Holy Scripture, and provide an open and accepting environment for authentic and honest discussion within relevant assemblies and with one another to further God’s purposes within the Reformed Church in America and the world we are called to serve.