The radical turn-around by the Dutch Reformed Church
The announcement by the Dutch Reformed Church that they will henceforth not only approve same-sex unions but that they will even ordain openly gay ministers have come as a massive surprise for all and sundry. This decision is a radical move for the church that is known as arch-conservative; a church that justified and supported Apartheid; a church that has always maintained that homosexuality is an evil sin and that gay people will be severely punished in the hereafter.
Will the Dutch Reformed Church be split asunder?
There can be no doubt that this bombshell by the Dutch Reformed Church has dismayed many of its congregations and members. The ongoing squabbling about he Belhar Convention has already caused a rift in the Dutch Reformed Church. The new official stance on gay marriages and ministers will definitely cause fierce debate in many congregations and there is a strong possibility that the Dutch Reformed Church will lose some of its arch-conservative members.
Nelis Janse van Rensburg, moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, said that the issue of same-sex marriages have been under discussion since the 1980’s. He said that the church has been forced to review many of its previous doctrines and to study the New Testament teaching of Jesus anew. He said that the church has been forced to admit the fact that Jesus continually reached out to marginalized communities. To deny this fact is to deny the essence of Jesus’ teachings.
What do the other churches say?
Archbishop William Slattery of the Roman Catholic Church says that his church does not support the decision of the Dutch Reformed Church. He says that the Catholic Church maintains the position that homosexualism is sin and unnatural.
Bishop Rubin Philip from the Anglican Church said that the announcement by the Dutch Reformed Church can best be described as astonishing. He said that the decision by the Dutch Reformed Church will have major implications for Christians of all denominations. The Anglican Church, however, maintains a position that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
One thing is certain: the Dutch Reformed Church has turned Christianity on its head. Many Christians will have to re-examine their own belief systems and the doctrines of their denominations. But debate is healthy and the Dutch Reformed Church should be applauded for its brave step.