Michigan Church Refuses to Remove Gay Deacon, Appeals Denomination's Order Instead

Michigan Church Refuses to Remove Gay Deacon, Appeals Denomination's Order Instead

A congregation in Michigan that was ordered to rescind the ordination of an LGBT deacon is appealing the order.

Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church is appealing to the Christian Reformed Church of America not to remove an ordained deacon who is a member of the LGBT community. The Grand Rapids, Michigan congregation was ordered to rescind the ordination of the LGBT deacon, whose name was undisclosed for her safety. Now, the unprecedented step sends the issue to the small Dutch Calvinist denomination, which does not have a procedure to expel a congregation.

According to The Banner, the Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church ordained the LGBT deacon in May 2020. However, earlier this month, the denomination's annual synod ordered the Michigan chuch to reverse its vote. The synod had previously failed to meet due to the COVID pandemic. Now, the decision to remove the LGBT deacon comes during Pride Month and amidst the growing criticism of LGBT progress vis-a-vis the theologically conservative views of many denominations on marriage and sexuality.

LGBT Deacon Wishes to Continue Serving

On Monday, the LGBT deacon, who is in a same-sex marriage with another woman, told the Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church's council that she wished to continue serving on its deacon board, Religion News Service reported. The council is composed of about 20 individuals, including the church's two co-pastors, a group of elders, and a group of deacons. They all voted to appeal the synod's order to remove the LGBT deacon.

"We take the admonition of Synod 2022 very seriously," the Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church's council said in a statement. The council said it had "prayed, wrestled with the Word, and discerned the Spirit together" and later came to the conclusion that they would be "both disobedient to God's call, and less than fully loving to all His children" if they stripped hte LGBT deacon of her role.

"After prayerful consideration of the directives of Synod 2022, we have decided to appeal its decisions," the council concluded. The Michigan church's co-pastor Joel DeMoor said that their decision to appeal the order might be a first in the 165-year history of the denomination.

DeMoor declared that if the Christian Reformed Church of America decides to "cut [them] off, that's up to them." He remarked however that they still love the CRC and that they are "grateful" for it. The co-pastor said that they were not going to "react and leave." As per the denominations bylaws, there is a process for disaffiliating if they decide to do so, but no guidelines exist for kicking out a church.

Also Read: Methodist Church To Self-Appoint LGBTQ Pastors Following Bishop's Refusal

CRC Claims Michigan Church Acted 'Outside the Bounds of Past Synodical' Guidelines in Ordaining LGBT Deacon

On Wednesday, the synod voted 134 to 44 that Neland Avenue must end the term of the LGBT deacon, ordering it to "immediately rescind its decision to ordain a deacon in a same sex marriage, thus nullifying this deacon's current term," WoodTV reported. The committee alleged that when the Michigan church ordained a person in a same-sex marriage, it "acted outside the bounds of past synodical decisions, procedures, and guidance, and the CRCNA's interpretation of Scripture as it relates to same-sex marriage."

However, Neland Avenue, which is a 106-year old congregation, has been reexamining its understanding of homosexuality through "intentional dialogues" in the past seven years. Despite the CRC's belief that homosexual sex is a sin, the church has found a way to disagree and be welcoming to all kinds of people.

Related Article: Baptist Church Ordains First Ever Transgender Minister In Denomination's History