So what we have here is the Banner attempting to clarify, via the Synodical Study Committee reporter what their work meant by offering interpretation and application. It’s not unusual for Synods to leave us with muddled and garbled policies. Assemblies by their nature are biased towards compromise and equivocation. Our polity doesn’t really lend itself towards policy and enforcement. What really governs in our post-discipline age is will of councils and classes to voluntarily submit and conform.
A look around at other denominations reveals that what really determines a denominational stance on this issue is the willingness of an assembly or a church officer (like a bishop) to discipline a violator. In the RCA the affirming churches persist because their classes shield them from an increasingly conservative RCA General Synod. The UMC has been in the midst of that battle for a long time now. The same sex marriage revolution has been waged from below daring church officials to get the rust off long neglected discipline machinery. In many cases churches would rather affirm than discipline. That then becomes the test.
What does this mean for the CRC?
A now “dismissed with thanks” Advisory committee may help shine light on “what were they thinking” but they really can’t say “this is the way it is in the CRC from now on”. If it’s a mist in the Acts of Synod it will be a fog in the churches.
The irony of all of this is that the place to watch will be the Classes, the most neglected, under-funded and haphazard level of our polity. We’ve got 5 years before Synod will likely speak again. Given the speed at which these issues are moving in our broader cultural environment it seems hard to imagine things on the ground in a thousand churches can be put on ice.
Does our system of church government really lend itself to leadership? Where, how and will the CRC find leadership on this issue? Where does leadership come from and how it it exerted in our system? We seem to have no idea.