All Around Us

Rev. VanBaren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.

"Leakage or Hemorrhage?"

The Standard Bearer in Vol. 68, p. 422 ("All Around Us," Prof. R. Decker), July 1, 1992, reported on an interview by the Grand Rapids Press of a Calvin Seminary professor who was questioned about the many members who were leaving the Christian Reformed Church. This professor "down-played the exodus from the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), calling it 'leakage,' a normal occurrence in most, if not all denominations." 

That comment must surely be one of the greater understatements ever made. 

Darrell Todd Maurina, Press Officer of the United Reformed News Service, presented a report concerning the seriousness of this "leakage."

When the conservative movement warned that a move toward ordaining women would prompt massive secessions from the Christian Reformed denomination, one denominational leader dismissed the possibility of secessions by commenting that "all denominations have leakage." Nobody is calling the precipitous Christian Reformed membership decline "leakage" now that it has cost the CRC 24,619 members in four years — a loss greater than the total membership of many denominations with which the CRC maintains fraternal relations.

According to official statistics in the 1996 CRC yearbook, the denominational decline has now reached 9.2% of the CRC's high-water mark of 316,415 members in the 1992 denominational yearbook — a statistic representing denominational membership six months before Synod 1992's decision to allow women to do most work of the ministry without ordination. Prior to 1992, the CRC had never had two consecutive years of decline. However, one bright spot in the numbers is that this year's loss of 2383 members wasn't as bad as the three previous years in which the CRC lost between five and ten thousand members annually.

At least part of the reduction in the annual decline is due to the decision of the Interclassical Conference, a gathering last November attended by conservative members from 110 Christian Reformed congregations, to ask Synod 1996 to revise Synod 1995's decision allowing women's ordination rather than calling for an immediate secession....

The attempt still is to put the "best face" on the situation. States Maurina:

According to CRC General Secretary Dr. David Engelhard, some of the change in the reported numbers stems from the fact that the CRC is moving toward assessing financial contributions based on the number of members rather than on the number of families in the congregation. "Churches are saying to themselves and to their classes and to the denomination that we have 'x' number of students who are college students or who never attend, so our reporting system, while never perfect, is now undergoing some fairly significant alternation directly related to the ministry share," said Engelhard....

According to Engelhard, the denomination has not yet drafted a plan to deal with its declining membership. "The Christian Reformed Church as far as I know has made no particular decision to stem the decline," said Engelhard....

However, Engelhard saw reason for hope in the fact that the Christian Reformed denomination has more local congregations even if it has fewer members. In 1996, the CRC reported 991 local congregations, 136 of which are emerging mission churches or specialized ministries — a net increase of ten churches during the same period that the denomination lost nearly ten percent of its membership...."

Shocking though the 9.2% decline is, that really does not represent the true seriousness of the situation. One would think that only with internal growth (not even now taking into account the mission labors), there should be conservatively speaking about a 2% annual growth. If such growth were estimated from 1992 and the 316,415 members, there is in fact about 50,700 less than what one would anticipate — or about a 14% decline. A few years ago, the CRC Synod set a membership goal of 400,000 by the year 2000. If that were indeed a realistic goal, the decline assumes an even more serious character.

Numbers, of course, do not mean anything in themselves. There were, after all, only eight who were saved in the ark. One expects some to leave the church because they refuse to heed the preaching or godly admonitions. Here, the sad situation is that it is the "conservatives" who are leaving. A sizablesegment still in the CRC have threatened to leave if the Synod of 1996 does not alter its stand on women in office. What is left in the CRC? It is a church seriously weakened by such loss in numbers, but even more seriously weakened when the more conservative, Reformed, traditionally CRC people leave. One can only anticipate an ever increasing descent into apostasy. But the cry for repentance and return to the "old paths" continues to fall on deaf ears.

Same-sex Marriage

There is a growing outcry against "same-sex" marriage. However, even within the churches there is the claim that as long as there is lifelong "commitment," one's "life-style" ought not to be a hindrance to "marriage."

The problem which faces many of the states today is that Hawaii has legalized "same-sex" marriage. The states have agreed to recognize the "marriages" performed in any of the other states. So, what if a "same-sex" couple moves to Colorado? Is this state compelled to recognize such a "marriage"?

The subject has been debated widely in the press. The Denver Post, February 29, 1996, reported:

The Denver Area Interfaith Clergy Conference yesterday vowed to fight a bill that would ban same-sex marriages in the state.

The measure ... won final approval in the Colorado House yesterday by the narrowest of margins, 33-31, after the second day of emotional debate.

It now goes to the state Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate. The Senate has a smaller, more moderate Republican majority than the House.

The interfaith organization, which includes Catholics, Protestants and Jews, voted to oppose the bill shortly before the House voted yesterday morning.

"It's a clearly vicious attack on a particular group of people, it's mean-spirited and wrong-headed," said the Rev. Gilbert Horn, a co-pastor at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church. He also believes the bill is unconstitutional.

Legislative opponents of the bill called it unnecessary and "a slap at gay and lesbian people."

An update on the above report: the Colorado House and Senate did pass the above bill, refusing to recognize "same-sex" marriages, but the Colorado governor vetoed the bill. 

It is one more step towards the gross immorality which finally destroyed Sodom and Gemorrah. It is another of the marks of the end of the age in which gross immorality abounds. It is an immorality increasingly being promoted also on TV dramas. The AFA Journal, April 1996, includes this observation:

As the research of the late Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin reveals, no society has loosened sexual morality outside marriage and survived. Analyzing studies of cultures spanning several thousand years on several continents, Sorokin found that virtually all political revolutions that brought about societal collapse were preceded by sexual revolutions in which marriage and family were no longer accorded premiere status. To put it another way, as marriage and family ties disintegrated, the social restraints learned in families also disintegrated. Societal chaos ushers in tyrants who promise to restore order by any means.

Self-governing people require a robust culture founded on marriage and family, which nurture the qualities that permit self-rule: deferred gratification, self-sacrifice, respect for kinship and law, and property rights. These qualities are founded upon sexual restraint, which permits people to pursue long-term interests, such as procreating and raising the next generation, and securing benefits for one's children.

But the Word of God states it infallibly and more clearly, "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves.... For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections; for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.... Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom. 1: 24, 26, 27, 32).