The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Michigan Church Congregation Refuses to Remove LGBTQ+ Deacon

Grand Rapids Michigan Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church

The congregation of a 106-year-old church in Michigan that was ordered to rescind the ordination of an LGBTQ+ deacon is appealing the decision by its denomination's leadership.

The Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids is imploring the Christian Reformed Church of America not to remove her. The deacon is in a same-sex marriage and has expressed her desire to continue serving on the deacon board of the church, according to the Religion News Service. 

The small 165-year-old Dutch Calvinist denomination's annual synod gathered earlier this month. During the meeting, it decided the Michigan church should reverse course.

The vote over the deacon came as the denomination examined its theology on human sexuality. It also agreed that the position about sexuality would be a confessional statement of faith, with possible ex-communication for those who don't adhere to it.

The denomination has no expulsion procedure for congregations.

When Neland's own council, which includes the church's two co-pastors, a group of elders, and a group of deacons, met last Monday, they unanimously voted in favor of the deacon and to appeal the synod's decision.

Neland ordained the queer deacon in May 2020. The deacon married her wife in 2016.

The church's council said, "We take the admonition of Synod 2022 very seriously," the Religion News Service reports.

In response to the church's vote, the Christian Reformed Church of America told the outlet that it would meet with the church over these issues, which the church has agreed to.

The church has found a way to live with disagreement and welcome all, despite some members continuing to view homosexuality as a sin, according to co-pastor Joel DeMoor, Christianity Daily reports

A council member told the outlet that they had "prayed, wrestled with the Word, and discerned together" and later decided that stripping the LGBTQ+ deacon of her role would be "both disobedient to God's call, and less than fully loving to all His children."

"It feels really great to be supported by my church family," the deacon told the Religion News Service in an email after the church's vote. "I hope others in the LGBTQ+ community who want to use their gifts in God's kingdom see Neland Church as a beacon of hope."

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