Better Together Is Only Making it Worse

These are two posts from Voices that relate and which I fumblingly read from on my video.

Post after post, thread after thread.

The position that same sex behavior is inherently sinful. It misses the mark. This was the heart of the 1973 report and it remains the majority belief in the CRCNA.

Many others believe that same sex behavior is just a natural variant of human sexuality, like left-handedness. It is of no moral consequence. This is a minority belief in the CRCNA.

This is an impasse. As we’ve seen with WICO such differences tend to irritate. WICO irritation seems tolerable by the system. LGBTQ will not be.

With WICO it has been difficult to live out the difference whether that women can serve in office but not impossible. The Estalbishment hasn’t always played fair. A sizable group believes that women should not serve and this bothers the women who are serving. Again and again we hear about this both publicly and privately.

Again and again we hear that any non-affirmation of same sex relationships or lifestyle or even potential is not just an annoyance but an existential threat to LGBTQ people. Remember that a solid majority of people in the CRC, many of whom are members of churches with leadership that wants to affirm, believe this way. How on earth are you going to create a “safe space” with this reality? What you’re telling the majority of the CRCNA is that they may not have any voice or space to express their beliefs in their churches, a belief that has been a majority belief in the CRCNA for almost all its existence and has been the majority belief in the Christian church far more broadly than any belief with respect to women in ministry.

The recent public posturing of this issue as a “justice” issue means that the affirming camp cannot back down. They are going to adopt a “prophetic” posture that demands confrontation. This is the broader cultural posture. This is their use of power. Activism, flags, protests, are going to be the tools used to address the majority of the church who do not see it their way. The majority understands that the Banner, Liturgy committees, social justice groups, are going to be using trying to evolve the position of the majority of the CRC into their position.

Now the age thing.

There are two growing demographics in the CRC: the old and the conservative young.

Many of the old increasingly do not wish to be bothered. That goes with age. At some point they are done fighting and just want to get ready for their last struggle which is increasing loss of friends and vitality. They don’t want to fight. They don’t want to be the target of someone’s re-education program.

Many (beyond Grand Rapids) who are coming into the CRC are young conservatives. They are ready to fight and they have the tools and the organizational imagination to carry on this fight. (Abide). They are frankly winning the fight. I’m familiar with social media tools and they are playing the game well.

In my opinion all of these things are a given. Whatever course you wish to chart this is the landscape. Whether you like it or not it is the truth about the CRC.

In some ways I stand with the theory of Better Together and even the Hesed Project. I WANT good conversation and a space for appreciative inquiry. The question is where and how. If you try to do this inside the CRC with tools of power you will elicit the defensive posture we’ve already seen. Synod 2022 happened like it did because people who want to change the CRC’s position on this have for over 20 years been pushing pushing pushing. At Synod 2022 the other side finally pushed back. If the votes get closer they will push back harder.

The CRC repeatedly has tried to structure its way out of problems. Well happy day this is a problem that requires a structural solution but the Establishment doesn’t want it because it’s going to cost them dearly. This is where we are at IMHO. pvk

There is a suspicion around the Better Together tribe that “team winsome” is actually kayfabe: a pro-wrestling conceit.

Team Better Together is a spectrum.

This generates the energy of the current winsome wars. Say “David French” in an evangelical space and watch it rise.

The suspicion is that Jamie Smith won’t say on Better Together Youtube what people believe he truly believes, signaled previously on Twitter. It’s not winsome, it’s dishonest they fear. He’s a mole. This tends to fuel the “root them out of the institutions” impulse.

The irony is that via Twitter he called me out over a decade ago for voting at Synod for maintaining relationships with the PKN (Dutch church) over the issue of homosexuality. Jamie Smith has evolved.

Plenty of people have questions about my winsomeness too. I get it. Others fear that PVK has been evolving the other way.

We watch each other. pvk

And many will scratch their heads asking “what does he mean by kayfabe”?

The leaders of Better together represent the leadership middle of the denomination. These are the successful CRC pastors many of which are at the peak of their careers. They have not migrated into the denominational structure because today the ideal of a successful pastor is in their local church, not a denominational bureaucrat.

What Better Together is showing no aptitude for (and what Abide has shown tremendous aptitude for) is politics. Ironically Better Together isn’t thinking systemically. The only shot to really keep most of the family together is to work on the gravamen rules. Cedric Parsons laid out why the current status of the gravamen is probably not sufficient shelter and Clay Libolt undercut it further. Clay is looking to win but is overplaying his hand. Moderates want to keep the family together. If you want to do that it will mean two things:

  1. People obey the rules in terms of ordination and same sex marriage. You can’t do what Neland did. If you’re willing to NOT elect officers in same sex marriages you can stay CRC. We know this now. If you can’t live with this rule, you should probably look for another denomination.

You may decide to be patient and hope this will change, but that timing isn’t now. Unless Synod 2023 decides to NOT act against Neland and GRE then we’re back into chaos land and likely dissolution-ville.

  1. You can have your conscience, and have your conversations but as long as you hold line one you can stay.

People act like Synod 2022 was a watershed, and it was in some ways, but in a way it wasn’t. Before Synod 2022 we basically had “don’t ask don’t tell”. Neland told, and Synod asked, and then demanded.

There is the line. Synod 2023 could change that line but blurring the line could lead to greater chaos. Coalitions don’t like chaos.

The wiggle room remains in the gravamen space. There is potential there.

Why hasn’t Better Together gone there? Possibilities:

  1. Because the Kayfabe the conservatives suspect is true. Enough Better Together are closet affirmers in spaces that won’t allow them to come out and so the gravamen path violates their consciences.
  2. Better Together just isn’t thinking clearly or practically about systemic strategy.

The new young conservatives don’t really want control. They are not looking to own the institutions that the Establishment cherishes. They just want those institutions to stop promoting the Establishment values in the name and with the money of the conservatives. Conservatives have been literally sending this message to Synod for over 20 years in overture after overture and Synod after Synod has basically been playing Muhammed Ali, from float like a butterfly to rope-a-dope.

The Progressives fear that the Conservatives want to control. They don’t. They’re more libertarian than tyrannical. This is the big shift of the 1980s conservatism. The CRC conservatives of the pre 1980s died of exhaustion. They were destroyed by the counter culture. Now the desire for control is on the left. They won’t rest until their vision of Diversity Inclusivity and Equity is ubiquitous. They have inherited the “right person’s burden” of the old CRC conservatives. Confessionalists are happy enough with “me and my house”. They will leave you alone.

This is not so much a coup as a fence. Progressives are playing a long game, everyone will evolve. Conservatives are now playing a longer game. Progressives will die out because they don’t reproduce or cohere new Conservatives believe. Conservatives today are ironically Darwinian. Only those who reproduce inherit the earth. Look how good the Amish are doing.

Conservatives aren’t worried about the CRC dying. They’ll start a new one. They don’t really want to inherit the legacy obligations of taking care of all of the cherished institutional jewels that the Establishment has lovingly built. They’re sort of Nimbys.

Abide won’t rebuild the Banner. Why should they? Look at what they’ve done with their Youtube channel. They get celebrities from the broader Evangelical world to make their arguments. Abide has already replace the Banner and on the cheap.

Progressive are confused because they think they are fighting mid 20th century tyranny. Always fighting the last war. Conservatives are happy to walk away if they have to. Synod 2022 showed them they might not have to. The CRC Establishment will lose either way. Either they keep all their institutions but struggle to maintain them without the feeding/funding network that flourished in between WWII and 2000. Or they get shown the door because they hold to their convictions. What will really break their hearts is that they see that those who beat them at Synod have no appetite or desire to maintain the institutions the Establishment was displaced from. It’s a very sad story.

Establishment exiles will then try to rebuild some of what they’re losing. It will be cheaper, newer, better suited to the current environment. Bees make hives, foxes make dens. It is their nature.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in CRC, Saved CRCVoices Posts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s