“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – an op-ed for Overture 4.

This week, the Reformed Church in America’s General Synod will gather in Palos Heights, Illinois, to discuss a plethora of church business. Reports from various committees, overtures responding to requests of new business, and judicial matters will all be discussed in the upcoming 7 days. I will be a delegate from the seminary, as one of the “seminarian seminar” participants, there to learn more about the workings and processes of the RCA and of General Synod in particular.

 

One of the overtures before us comes from the Classis of New Brunswick. Overture 4 reads, in part:

 

The Classis of New Brunswick advises General Synod to acknowledge that therapy that seeks to change the sexual orientation (…) called “reorientation therapy” (…) is ineffective and thus often a cause of increased risk of depression, post- traumatic stress, and suicide, [and] “reparative therapy,” (…); this discredited idea has led to parent-blaming and family misery. All this is contrary to the church’s goal of affirming and safeguarding all human life.  

…we request that General Synod state that the RCA no longer supports the use of reorientation/reparative therapy and repents the harm the RCA has done by promoting this therapy in the past. [1]

 

As someone who is given neither vote nor voice at General Synod to speak on this matter (as seminarian seminar participants are not considered corresponding delegates), I feel taken to voice my opinions in a way that can heard and shared by those who can.

 

I need to speak in favor of this overture and ask my fellow delegates to speak in favor of it as well. I do not know what the Advisory Committee on Overtures and New Business will recommend for this particular overture, but I implore delegates to consider what this overture says.

 

While fully aware that statements made by General Synod are not binding on churches and classes, my hope is that the members of General Synod speak clearly and powerfully on this topic.

 

We need to send the message that being gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender, or queer is not something to be fixed, and that the harmful practices of reorientation/reparative therapy need to be stopped. I consent that while there are differing opinions on whether or not homosexual behavior is sinful, I believe that regardless of belief, we can stand united behind this message.

 

Psalm 139:14 is a beautiful declaration of accepting who we are, not matter what our circumstances.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.”[2]

By telling our LGBTQ neighbors that they need to be “fixed” denies the reality of Scripture, that even amidst the brokenness of the world, God has made us just the way we are. Our sexualities are part of our identities, and as such, are fearfully and wonderfully made. We can disagree on how we live out our sexual identities to be sure, but to encourage practices that are harmful and are built on the notion that LGBTQ people are broken is not cohesive with Scripture and the witness we are called to bear.

 

Supporting this overture does not mean that we believe God cannot change a person’s sexual orientation. Rather, it means that we recognize that the consistent testimony to the ineffectiveness of reorientation/reparative therapy and recognition of the harm that it causes means that we need to think more deeply about how God views our sexualities.

 

God can change a person’s sexual orientation. God can also choose to make pigs fly. However, God has shown that the vast majority of the time, neither of these things happen.

 

Delegates, supporting this overture means ending practices that are hurtful. It means supporting ministers to actually minister to LGBTQ persons, rather than just trying to “fix” them. And most importantly, it means that we recognize the complexity, mystery, and awe of what it means when we echo the Psalmist and process: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”


[1] General Synod 2015 Workbook, Page 86 (mistakenly labeled as a duplicate #3)

[2] Psalm 139:14 – NRSV

Advertisements

12 thoughts on ““I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – an op-ed for Overture 4.

  1. If this particular therapy doesn’t work, then we shouldn’t endorse it. That is a simple decision.

    Unfortunately, many people will try to attach other significance to this overture (as it appears you have). It’s unfortunate if anyone doesn’t understand that they need to be fixed. LGBDQ are no different than all of us sinners. We all need to be fixed, and until we accept that, we remain ‘unfixed’, that is, lost.

    The Reformed Church has tried to be very clear that we understand homosexual actions to be sin. We also understand that actions such as adultery, thievery, lying, coveting and many other things are sin as well. This is not because we have decided that. It’s because God’s word is very clear about it. We recognize that an inclination toward a particular sin is not, in itself, sin. In my community, many of our people have a genetic weakness toward alcoholism. That weakness does not justify excessive drinking. For many of them, the only reasonable solution is total abstinence.

    As the Church of Jesus Christ, we welcome all sinners to join us, believing that Jesus is Lord, and submitting to Him for fixing. We know that none of us can be fixed, except by a miracle of the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s not our place to single out those who practice one particular sin as worse than any other. But, if any of us continues in unrepentant sin, it must necessarily eliminate us from positions of leadership.

    We don’t choose unrepentant alcoholics to be our leaders. We don’t choose habitual thieves to teach our Sunday School. Our laws don’t allow convicted child-molesters to even be near our children, even if they are repentant. Why would we ever set up an unrepentant person who actively preaches the joys and advantages of that sin as the example for our people or our children to follow?

    In our church, we welcome, warmly, anyone who comes through those doors. We pray for them. We teach them from God’s word… not from our feelings… what we believe His word means, as interpreted by other parts of His word… not as interpreted by a very vocal and very small minority of our population.

    We are indeed, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We were created in God’s image… perfect. Then we sinned, and ever since we have often done our best to justify our sinful nature and sinful actions… ignoring the fact that God sent His only begotten Son to restore us to that perfection. He knew we couldn’t do it on our own. He knew we wouldn’t believe that even He can fix us. But, we all need to be fixed… forgiven. The first step is recognition of our sin and repentance of it.

    What a wonderful God we have who can both, fix and forgive.

    • Thanks for your responses! I want to clarify what I mean when I say “fixed”.
      I absolutely agree that all persons are in need of the saving grace found in Christ. In that, I stand firm in the Reformed faith tradition. However, I believe that regardless of whether or not we believe homosexual *behavior* is sinful, that we should stop trying to change an innate characteristic of a person, which is what reparative/reorientation therapy aims to do.
      Our sexualities are part of who we are, much like how my Korean race is a part of who I am. It is not the sum and total of my identity to be sure, but it is part of who God made me to be. Even if we encourage people not to act upon their sexualities, to encourage them to change a part of who they fundamentally are is, in my opinion, fundamentally damaging and what I am speaking out again.
      If we believe homosexual behavior is a sin, then absolutely, we can speak against that. However, to speak against a fundamental characteristic of a human being (without regard to whether or not they are committing said actions) is what I have a problem with.
      Grace and Peace,
      Jonathan

    • Amen and Amen! We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, but sin came into the world and corrupted that which was good. Redemption and repentance through the saving grace of Jesus Christ is the only way to be “fixed” (redeemed from *all* the sins we *all* do). Embracing the sins of a group of people is ignoring the word of God that we need to flee – and especially, flee from sexual sins (all of them).

  2. It is unfortunate that we want to subvert something based upon it’s name, which many do not understand. May I refer everyone to a recent podcast “Thinking Out Loud” by Alan Shlemon of STR dated May 15 and titled “Should we ban conversion therapy?”

    Jonathan, I see you put sexual preference on par with ethnicity. What brings you to a conclusion that they are fundamentally the same category of human characteristic?

    • Hi Tony, thanks for your response.
      To clarify, I did not put “sexual preference” on par with “ethnicity”. I was speaking of race and sexual orientation, which are different.

      The conclusions that I draw on the basis of sexual orientation being a fundamental human characteristic are based on my degree in Psychology and Social Work from Hope College where I worked alongside professors who have done work in this field, from working as a caseworker for the past three years in the social work field, personal research in this topic, and from examples from my father, who is a licensed clinical psychologist. I am not “subverting something based upon it’s name”, as it is something I understand and have done extensive work in. Alan Shlemon (who I am familiar with), while indeed holding an MA in Christian Apologetics, does not appear to have any background in this field (from what I’ve read on his website).

      While there are always anecdotal stories of people who state that they “choose” their sexual orientations, what they tend to be referring to is choosing a sexual “preference” – that is, choosing to have sexual relations with individuals regardless of their sexual orientation.
      I am referring to individuals who, for their entire lives, have known only that they have ever experienced any sort of attract to a person of the same gender. Just as (if I may assume), you did not choose to be attracted to women but merely *are*, people with a homosexual orientation are the same way. They can’t help it, and they cannot choose. It is to this nature that I am referring. Thanks again for your thoughts, I hope I have clarified.

      At the end of the day, I hope we call all agree upon that all people are created in the image of God and are fearfully and wonderfully made, and are called to new and whole life in Christ. If that is what we can agree upon, then we stand together in unity.

      Grace and Peace!

      • “I did not put “sexual preference” on par with “ethnicity”. I was speaking of race and sexual orientation, which are different.” This is why conversation is modern English is so hard! If one try’s to be gentle, foul is called?

        “fundamental human characteristic” please define.

        Are skin color, head shape, eye shape, nose shape, hair color, hair texture, and eye color included in your definition?

        In your studies and observations of people, is a persons actions and desires fundamentally defined by any of these characteristics?

        In your studies and observations of people, can you know their sexual orientation without knowledge of their actions or desires?

        I do agree that we are all created in the image of God, for a purpose made possible by Christ.

        tony

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and continuing the discussion. I can not speak to specific “reparative therapy” institutions but I personally know 4 of my friends and family who had/have homosexual feelings. They chose to go to a therapist and after a time in Christian therapy, they found, for them personally (I don’t think this applies across the board), their feelings came from a place of lies that they were believing. Once they had identified those lies and addressed them, they moved forward with a heterosexual lifestyle. 2 are now married and 1 is involved in a long term relationship. Had they not had the option to go to therapy, who knows what their life may look like now (could be better or worse, plus there’s the whole free will vs predestination debate for us all that is too long for this space). I am glad they were able to have help identifying those lies and not have them drive their future. They would tell you the same thing themselves.

    These are just anecdotal situations from those in my life. I don’t think therapy is for everyone. I do think it should be available as an option for those who choose to try it. Just as I wouldn’t tell someone they have to go therapy, I wouldn’t tell them they can’t and I want their option removed.

    Interested to hear your thoughts in reply. Thanks!

    • Hi Jamie! Thanks for your thoughts. I thought I had hit reply but in the craziness of GS, I must’ve overlooked it. Thanks for your graceful reminder.
      I’m not sure if you are here at General Synod, but I think the discussions around this overture highlight an inherent problem we have with these terms. Some people are still under the assumption that “Reparative Therapy” is a term used to cover ANY form of change therapy. That is simply not the case. As I said in my blog: I’m not DENYING that God CAN change people – its rather that reparative therapy, which is harmful (historically has involved things such as forcing homosexual people to watch hours of heterosexual pornography and compulsively masturbate and then being forced to watch hours of homosexual pornography while being given nausea-inducing medication), does not work.
      I’m sure there ARE people who have experienced lustful thoughts (about both men and women) that therapy has sought to “correct”, and I am certainly not invalidating these experiences. But there comes a point where when a consistent demonstration of certain forms of therapy (which are defined by name as “Reparative Therapy” by the APA, ASA, etc) do not work, that we must realize that to continue to support these disproven forms of therapy is harmful and unwise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s