All are welcome at RCHP.
When Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, they were not required to obey dietary laws and circumcision (Acts 15). So God does not require people whom God created and called to live and flourish with LGBTQIA+ identities to obey the Bible’s same-sex prohibitions. Jesus never mentions these few prohibitions nor countless others that no longer concern us. Nowhere does the Bible say “All homosexual behavior is a sin.” Today those who repeat this hurtful phrase promote human idolatry that destroys people and families; leads to anxiety, depression and suicide; and disparages God’s good and holy works.
Sustaining, life-giving love between people in the Bible like Jonathan and David, Naomi and Ruth, and Jesus and his Beloved Disciple remind us that from the very beginning, God said it is not good for human beings to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Though the Bible does not provide a blueprint for 21st century relationships, instead Jesus gave us a new command that would last forever.
At RCHP, God calls us to love one another and witness the Holy Spirit empowering LGBTQ+ people. We embrace human sexuality in all its beautiful diversity as a gift from God to build people up rather than tear people down. In married relationships, human sexuality enables committed partners to show love and support for one another and gain strength and encouragement for both their personal fulfillment and lives of service to the Body of Christ.RCHP joins the 29 local churches of our open and affirming Classis of New Brunswick in two statements about God’s life-giving promises for all people:
1. Human sexuality in all its diversity and all gender expressions are gifts from God to be celebrated. Click to read: Homosexuality is a Gift from God
2. We repent the harm the church did when it recommended that homosexuals seek to change their sexual orientation in order to conform with societal norms through reparative/reorientation/conversion therapy, now proven ineffective and harmful. Click to read: Repenting the harm done by dangerous therapy
Background on Homosexuality and the Church:
RCHP’s response to the General Synod decision: (June 2012)
“The Reformed Church of Highland Park laments the decision of the 2012 General Synod of the Reformed Church in America which said that homosexuality is a sin. (https://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=8529 ) As we study Scripture, encounter the redeeming love of Jesus Christ and follow the Spirit, we do not believe homosexuality to be a sin. Rather, we experience God’s great love for ALL people, homosexual and heterosexual alike. We reaffirm our commitment to being an open and affirming community of faith, we pray for all who have been hurt by this action of the General Synod and we continue to work for God’s justice here in our midst.” -RCHP Consistory, June 27, 2012.
Position Statement by Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale that was included in a document by the Commission on Christian Action, (2005)
In 1978 the Reformed Church in America commission on theology produced a position paper entitled, “Homosexuality: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal.” This paper drew the conclusion that “homosexual acts are contrary to the will of God for human sexuality,” based mainly on Paul’s statement in Romans 1:18ff and on scripture’s “repeat endorsement of heterosexuality as the Creator’s express intent.”
The paper of ‘78 carefully scrutinized the negative passages about homosexuality, concluding that all but Romans 1:18ff were either not relevant or not clear about their intent to be used as definitive statements about the appropriateness of two consenting adults engaging in homosexual acts within the context of their life-long relationship. The paper states that Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:4-11), Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13, I Cor. 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 are all unfit for the task of giving definitive guidance
regarding homosexuality. To acknowledge the irrelevance or indecisiveness of this passage was a responsible and wonderful choice.
About Romans 1:18ff, the paper concludes that “Paul’s perspective on homosexuality presumes a theology of creation.” Paul assumes that those who engage in same-sex physical acts are going against the created order and their own created nature. The normative place of heterosexuality within the canon suggests that Paul’s assumptions line up with the “sense of scripture.” Homosexual acts, therefore, are sinful, due to the fact that they are sinful acts that deny the created order.
The last section of the paper, called, “the human sciences,” acknowledges the great complexity that is sexual orientation. The paper endorses the view that some people are homosexual by design, by some combination of nature and nurture, and that their orientation is not sinful. The paper calls for the church to help alleviate guilt feelings held by those who are homosexual in orientation. Yet, even while acknowledging this very different situation between those whose homosexual life is the result of sin
and those whose homosexual life is the design they have been given, there is no
blessing given to same-sex relationships. Paul’s words in Romans against homosexuality are precisely words against those who go against their own nature and engage in sinful acts. In the case of someone with a homosexual orientation one can genuinely argue that to go against one’s nature would be to engage in a heterosexual intimate relationship.
The paper failed to take this very obvious step in reasoning because of a very non-exegetical assumption that is made. The paper assumes that a homosexual orientation is a result of “the fall.” Homosexual orientation is assumed to be a bad thing, a flaw in God’s design. There is nothing in scripture to suggest that this can be said definitively. It is the case that most people are heterosexual. It is the case that most people will have children. It is the case that most people are right handed. It is the case that most people are given similar physical abilities (for example, the ability to use two arms
and two legs). But to suggest that all other options are a result of “the fall,” and not simply a part of God’s good design for diversity, is not a step that should be taken.
The Reformed Church in America prides itself on taking scripture seriously. With its uncritical assumption-making about homosexuality being a result of “the fall” the otherwise careful exegetical work of the paper of 1978 is wasted. The Reformed Church has taken the wrong view about homosexual relationships engaged in by those who are oriented toward people of the same-sex.
It is time for the church to repent of its sinful assumption making about people of homosexual orientation. It is time to welcome the spiritual gifts that these people bring to our congregations. It is time to bless holy relationships and to encourage mutuality and respect between same-sex partners.
Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale: Submitted to Perspectives, not published. (2005)
In the late 1970’s the Reformed Church in America recognized homosexuality as a social issue to which the church seeking to be faithful to Jesus Christ needed to respond. In response to a Synod referral to reflect on a motion to affirm the human and
civil rights of homosexual persons the commission on theology opted to write a full-length position paper, “Homosexuality: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal.” This document, presented to the Synod of 1978, has served as the position paper of the Reformed Church in America on homosexuality for the past 26 years. But what does the paper actually say?
The most definitive position statement made in the paper is, “heterosexuality in not only normal; it is normative. Homosexual acts are contrary to the will of God for human sexuality…homosexuality [is] a departure from God’s intent”(235) This conclusion comes after careful exegetical work of both Old and New Testament passages referring to homosexual acts, and a section called “the sense of scripture,” which clearly and responsibly articulates the normative place of heterosexual sex in the teachings of Christian scripture.
However, even with this seemingly clear position statement and careful exegetical work, there is reason to see within the paper of 1978 another position lying just below the surface that somehow fails to be expressed. In the last section, called “the Human Sciences,” the commission reveals new (for 1978!) findings in science that indicate homosexuality is a most nuanced condition. The commission wrote that studies show some people are innately drawn to people of the same sex, and therefore not all homosexual acts are forms of sexual experimentation that go against one’s heterosexual orientation.
The authors even go so far as to say about homosexual orientation, “we cannot fail to recognize…one basic axiom of ethical reflection and common sense: a person cannot be blamed for a situation over which he/she has neither control or choice.” In terms of pastoral care, church communities would do good to “begin with the attempt to lift a burden of guilt that need not be carried. Inverts [the word used for those who are homosexual in orientation] may not idealize their orientation as a legitimate alternative, but neither should they blame themselves for their sexual orientation.” The authors go so far as to say, “the distinction noted above means that the church must learn to deal differently with persons who are homosexual by constitution and not by choice.”(238)
With such insight into the situational difference between what the paper calls perverted and inverted homosexuality, it is surprising that the position statement of the paper loses all nuance in its position statement, simply regarding all homosexual acts as being sinful.
It is surprising until one recognizing a gigantic assumption made in the paper, one that makes this Reformed Christian very wary. The paper boldly identifies homosexual orientation as being a result of “the fall.”
There is firm biblical support and every humane reason to understand the invert’s predicament as evidence of the problem of evil, rather than sin. As the Bible makes clear, the tragic effects of the fall were precipitated by a chosen act of rebellion, but they extended far beyond it. Sin’s result is cosmic disorder on a grand scale in which the innocent suffer along with the guilty. (238)
While there is firm biblical support to understand that some things in this world are not the way they are supposed to be, and that the innocent suffer due to “the fall,” to say with certainty that there is strong biblical support to understand homosexual orientation as one such result is quite simply a false statement. In the entire exegetical section of the document there was no mention of “the fall” or homosexual orientation. In the exegesis all discussion around homosexuality was in regard to self-chosen rebellion/sin, living contrary to one’s created nature.
There is strong biblical support that evil breaks into this world, effecting people and the planet in ways that lead us all to groan and long for a new day (Romans 8). However,
only with great caution one should proceed in definitively naming what is from “the fall,” and what is “God’s intent.” There is an arrogance exhibited when any group of Christians find themselves capable of naming, absolutely, whole categories of people as having a condition that is the result of the fall—especially if that condition is one in which the fruits of the Spirit are on display.
Certainly there are things that we as Christians can say are not the way they are supposed to be and are a result of the fall. Violence, broken relationships, hatred, war, apathy, injustice and greed are some of the things that Christians can say, with confidence, were not intended to be part of garden-living. It is, however, very much a non-exegetical conclusion to say with confidence that homosexual orientation and corresponding same-sex relationships of mutuality and respect are a result of “the fall.”
“Homosexuality: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal” is a paper that has legitimacy in its interpretation of the relevant passages in scripture. It has legitimacy too in that it shows the normative place of heterosexuality in God’s design. Its insights into the differences between sinful homosexual acts and homosexual orientation are essential to a right understanding of this issue. However, the paper comes up short when it makes blanket assumptions about the fallen state of those who are homosexual in orientation.
The Reformed Church in America needs to address the shortcomings of the paper of 1978 by writing a new paper that helps the church take seriously the difference between elicit same-sex acts by heterosexuals and the faithful expression of a same-sex or bi sexual orientation.
Although the biblical story describes just two people in the garden, oriented toward each other, we know that in whatever Eden-like kingdom God is leading us toward there will be human diversity that far exceeds the rather limited potential for diversity that was present in Adam and Eve. Some will be left-handed, some right-handed. There will be a multiplicity of colors and cultures, practices and theologies. There will also be people with varied sexual orientations. Indeed, the diversity of heaven will be vast like the ever-expanding diversity found in Jesus’ “kingdom-is-at-hand-community,” the church.
Jeffrey Knol – Student Pastor at the Reformed Church of Highland Park – A response to General Synod R-56, pulbished in the Summer of 2012.
In June of 2012 the General Synod of the RCA approved the following statement:
R-56 SUBSTITUTE AS APPROVED
While compassion, patience, and loving support should be shown to all those who struggle with same-sex desires, the General Synod reaffirms our official position that homosexual behavior is a sin according to the Holy Scriptures, therefore any person, congregation, or assembly which advocates homosexual behavior or provides leadership for a service of same-sex marriage or a similar celebration has committed a disciplinable offense…
As a church we at RCHP are not in agreement with this statement.
Our church is a community that affirms all people in the diversity of their sexual orientations. The church affirms those who are lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, queer, and those who are currently questioning their sexual orientation.
We believe that all of God’s children are called to use their God-given sexuality in ways that are faithful, caring, and responsible.
We believe that it is wrong to say that “homosexual behavior is a sin according to the Holy Scriptures” Instead, we believe that human sexuality, in all of its beautiful diversity, is a gift from God and, like all gifts from God, human sexuality must be used to build up rather than tear down. Human sexuality is one God-given way for two people, in a marriage relationship (or committed partnership), to show their love and support for one another. This sharing of love and support gives married people strength and encouragement for their lives of service to the God and Father of Jesus Christ.
The God of all creation is glorified when the gift of sexuality is used in this way.
Our Church supports, blesses, and encourages couples who use their God-given sexuality to build each other up with love, encouragement, and support, whether they are straight, gay, lesbian, queer, or transgendered.