How do I explain to my younger children what it means for someone to “come out” as gay?

If your children watch television, go to school, play any youth sports, or get out of the house at all–in other words, if they’re not hermetically sealed inside your home–then this is a question you’ll have to address. Here’s my advice: If possible, lay the groundwork for that conversation long before it comes.

It begins by teaching your children that God is the Creator. He made this world and everything in it. God designed all the beauty that we see. He made human life and put us here in this world. As the designer, God knows how everything is meant to function. In other words, he has a design plan for life. That amazing design plan, when pursued, leads to flourishing, abundant life. When ignored, it leads to brokenness.

Along with that basic, affirmative view of God’s design, teach your children that God has given us access to his “design plan” in the Bible. We are meant to live in God’s world according to his Word. When we sin, whether it’s lying or cheating or hurting someone else, we’re essentially exchanging His design plan for our own.

As much as possible, I try to teach these two principles to my own children. We try to connect the rationale for our “house rules” back to this idea that our family wants to live in harmony with God’s design plan.

So, when the question comes up, we’re equipped with the beginnings of an answer. It goes like this: When someone “comes out of the closet,” it means that they want to be close to (or “be intimate with”) someone of the same gender in the same way that mom and dad are close, maybe even get married. But the problem is, that’s not how God designed us. He designed marriage as a life-long relationship between a man and a woman. God made us and knows how life is supposed to work, so we want to obey him. We still love this person and want what’s best for them. We just don’t agree with some of the choices they’re making.

A gay couple I know asked me if my church would accept them if they came to church as a couple. How should I respond?

The short answer to this one is: Truthfully. How would your church respond to this couple? One of the things we promote at my church is radical hospitality with Biblical clarity. Everyone is welcome to come, hear the Gospel and build relationships. There is no litmus test for love and friendship. I’ve been blessed to see our church receive people who, there’s no other way to put this, “stand out” from the average attender. They are welcomed and treated respectfully. We’ve had same-sex couples visit, interact with us and be treated with love and respect. If your congregation has this same, outreach-oriented heartbeat, then feel free to let your friends know they’ll be welcomed.

At the same time, a church that embraces Biblical teaching on this topic will eventually bring this couple into contact with the message that God has a different plan for human sexuality than the one they are pursuing. Sometimes, that happens right away, because they ask. Sometimes, it comes a little further down the road. But it will come. At that point, your friends will be facing the question that Jesus asks all of us, “Are you willing to lay down your life and take up the Cross?”

How do I respond to a gay friend whose only Christian interactions have been with “open and affirming” churches?

We would suggest using a few thoughtful statement-questions to open the conversation. So much of how you approach this will depend on the nature of your relationship. Sometimes, a frank question might seem impossible for certain relationships. In other contexts, it might be the ticket. One of the following might work:

Have you heard teachers in your church really dig into the passages that talk about sexual ethics? What do they say?

What does your church teach about the Bible? Do they believe the Bible contains errors?

If your church thinks the Bible got it wrong on God’s design plan for human sexuality, how do you know that the other teachings of Scripture are reliable?

There are a lot of ethical teachings in the Bible, can we just do away with the ones that we don’t like?

Am I obligated to share my convictions with a family member who is in a same-sex relationship?


If you believe the truths we’ve presented in Compassion without Compromise, then you realize that one of the most unloving things we can do is simply affirm people’s choices (including our own!). In an age that falsely equates genuine disagreement with radical intolerance, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out how we can disagree without destroying a relationship. How do we know it’s time to speak up?

As with many other issues, one of the first considerations to make is: Where does this family member stand in relation to Jesus Christ? Are they claiming Christ as their Lord? In this instance, if we have an ongoing relationship with the family member, we should feel comfortable beginning with a question: How do you square this relationship with God’s Word?

If the family member is not a Christian, then we would suggest that the question of this relationship is not the place to start. It’s more important to get to the root of the issue: Their relationship with Jesus (see pages 64-66 on Jesus & discipleship).

Of course, if your family member specifically asks you what you believe, then you should respond truthfully. In that instance, we would suggest something like: I believe the Bible teaches that the only God-designed context for sexual intimacy is marriage between a husband and wife. After carefully exploring Scripture, that’s the conviction I hold. I want you to know I love you and respect that you’re going to make your own decisions in life, but I’m seeking to live according to the Scriptures. As a Christian, I believe that God’s will, even when it’s difficult to understand and/or practice faithfully, leads me to deeper joy. I believe the most important question all of us have to answer is: Who will have ultimate authority in my life, and will I obey? For me, that’s a much more foundational question than any other.

Finally, we’d simply remind you of Paul’s words in Colossians 4:5-6 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. 

Why An Open Letter?

Yesterday, we posted an open letter to City Church.  The post has received thousands of views from all over the country.  We have heard many encouraging words and thankfully, many conversations have been started because of this letter.  But there has been one question/concern that has been raised in a variety of places that deserves attention: why not interact personally with City Church?  Below are the reasons why the open letter was the avenue we chose:

  • Do a quick Google search on “City Church San Francisco” and this is what you find: click here.  City Church’s letter is public domain.  Whether City Church intended it or not, a variety of parties are engaging their letter.  From the Washington Post to obscure bloggers, everyone is talking about City Church.  This is a conversation happening right now.  There is no biblical reason why a group of concerned pastors, who love the RCA and the church, cannot share their opinion on this decision.  In fact, we felt compelled to add to this conversation.  All we did was to respond to a public letter publicly.
  • Since this is not a letter about a person or a relationship but about a public decision of a church, we find no reason not to talk about it publicly.  We are seeking to be helpful.  Notice that in the letter there are no “lines drawn” or accusations being thrown publicly.  Instead, we want to encourage City Church to answer these questions.  And we want to give courage to those who hold to an orthodox position to stand for the sake of the gospel.  There is no sin in that.
  • Public conversations about theological disagreements are nothing new.    Again and again, throughout history, there has been profound disagreements and discussions around theological ideas.  Matter of fact, it is through these discussions that the truth is defended.  This is no different.  We have questions.  City Church has some of the brightest leaders in the RCA; they can handle questions.
  • We know that City Church is having many personal, private conversations with people in their relational spheres.  They are also speaking to leaders within their Classis and on a denominational level.  We are thankful for that.  We feel no need to be a part of those conversations.  What we do want to do is put out into the public conversation the questions we think need to be answered.  This is not to be intrusive but we know that this denomination has a tendency to not deal with painful areas of disagreements when they happen.  We would rather this not happen here.
  • The RCA needs to have this conversation.  There is a huge fracture in our denomination.  Many good leaders just want to move beyond it and do ministry.  We get it.  So do we.  But we have passed the buck too long, allowed silence to be the answer for over a decade.  This won’t work anymore.  We can either have an open, denomination-wide conversation like mature leaders, or watch the ship sink.  There is no sitting on the side lines anymore.
  • Most importantly, the gospel is at stake.  We believe that if you get the good news wrong for the LGBTQ community, then you very well might lose it for everyone.  We don’t want this to happen.  We are concerned that City Church is moving away from Jesus and the gospel for the sexually broken.  We do not want this to happen!  God does not need us to defend his cause but he demands that we have an answer for the hope that is within us.

One final thought: we can treat each other with respect, dignity and love and still “go at it.”  The idea that we cannot disagree publicly because it’s not nice has nothing to do with the Bible and more to do with a culture that has forgotten how to disagree.

We know this won’t make everyone happy but at least it gives you a glimpse into why we did what we did.

Ron Citlau
Bob Bouwer

An Open Letter to City Church of San Francisco

On March 13th, City Church of San Francisco issued this statement: read here .  Below is a public letter in response to their statement.

An Open Letter to the Elders of City Church,

Grace and peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ. This letter comes from leaders throughout the denomination of the Reformed Church in America. It is written in the hope of understanding the decision you have made—to open up membership to men and women in sexually active gay relationships. You said you have made this decision because your, “pastoral practice of demanding lifelong ‘celibacy’, by which we meant that for the rest of your life you would not engage your sexual orientation in any way, was causing obvious harm and has not led to human flourishing.” Many of us are dismayed by your decision and reasoning.

We wonder if we are misunderstanding you. Could it be that this is just another innovative way to be, “pastorally progressive and theologically conservative”? Because we love you, want to understand more fully how you made your decision, and admit that this has serious implications for our denomination, we have some questions that we hope you will answer publicly.

We understand that we have no ecclesiastical authority to ask these questions. But your senior pastor has been advocating a third way on the LGBT issue publicly in our denomination. Since he has been such an advocate for this “new way”, we wonder if this is it. Answers to the questions below will help all of us understand exactly what you have decided and why you have decided to do it.

  1. How does City Church view homosexuality? Is homosexuality a gift from God or something that is rooted in brokenness that requires redemption? Please give a biblical reasoning for your answer.
  2. You cite the work of Ken Wilson as being instrumental in your decision. Did you know that Wilson’s attempt to do what you are doing failed at his church? It created deep division, denominational crisis, disunity and eventually, Wilson had to leave. Do you understand the risk you are putting City Church and the RCA in making this decision?
  3. How long did you take to make this decision? How many resources did your Board explore before making this decision? Which resources? Were opposing views openly discussed? Was the City Classis invited into the process?
  4. Do your members have open forums to share concerns or questions? Are there public conversations happening that are hosted by your leadership? Was there a period of open dialogue where members could give input before the decision was made? Why or why not?
  5. If an LGBT person came to you, told you that she had made a decision to follow Christ, had been reading her Bible and decided that her relationship with her gay spouse is sinful, how would you counsel her?
  6. In your public statement you write, “For all members, regardless of sexual orientation, we will continue to expect chastity in singleness until marriage.” Can we assume that you will now perform gay weddings at City Church so that the LGBT community can live up to your moral demands?

Thank you for taking the time to consider this letter. We look forward to the conversation your answers bring. Our deep hope is to keep unity and peace and to continue together in gospel mission.

Love, Concern & Prayers,

Rev. Bob Bouwer – Senior Pastor, Faith Church
Rev. Ron Citlau – Senior Pastor, Calvary Church
Rev. Mike Pitsenberger – Dyer Campus Pastor, Faith Church
Rev. Andres Serrano – RCA Pastor, Iglesia La Senda Classis of California
Wayne Van Regenmorter
Rev. Tim Taylor – Senior Pastor, Hope Reformed Church Grand Haven, MI
Tim Vink – Coordinator for Church Multiplication, RCA
Pastor Brad Haitsma – Valporaiso Campus Pastor, Faith Church
Pastor David T. Weemhoff – Cedar Lake Campus Pastor, Faith Church
Pastor Jeff Lundington – Lead Pastor, Park Church
Rev. Bruce Wilterdink – Transitional Pastor, New Hope Community Church, Wasau, WI
Richard L. Schuler Classis Leader – Chicago Classis Executive Administrator Calvary Reformed Church, Orland Park, IL
Rev. Dave Izenbart – Senior Pastor, Living Springs Community Church
Rev. Dennis Colton – Pastor, Calvary Church
Pastor Scott Nichols–Faith Reformed, Midland Park
Barry Voorn – Elder, Calvary Church
Bruce Reenders – Vice President, Hope Reformed Church
Pastor Charlie Contreras – Hammond Campus Pastor, Faith Church
Rev. Shawn M. Hulst – Lead Pastor, Fellowship Reformed Church
Pastor Jamison Elder – Calvary Church
Pastor Nathan Prairie – Beecher Campus Pastor, Faith Church
Rev. Jason DeVries – Highland Campus Pastor, Faith Church
Rafael Garcia Elder, Iglesia La Senda from Corona California, part of California Classis
Pastor Brett Dood – Schererville Campus Pastor, Faith Church
Rev. Ted Lindman – Senior Pastor, Alto Reformed Church, Waupun, WI
Rev. Michael VanBuren – Fellowship Reformed Church, Hudsonville, MI
Pastor Ron Ovitt-Calvary Church
Pastor Keith Allen, Pastor of Redemption Church Providence and RCA New England Catalyst for Multiplication
Rev. David H. Powers–Pastor Newkirk Reformed Church
Rev. Troy Nanninga–American Reformed Church, DeMotte, IN
Rev Tony De La Rosa–Christ’s Community Church
Pastor Earl Vander Wall–Calvary Church
Rev. David Vandervelde–Ebenezer Reformed Church
Rev. Joshua Scheid–Massapequa Reformed Church, Long Island, NY
Rev. Grant Mulder–Associate Pastor, Gibbsville Reformed Church
Rev. Chad Strabbing–Pastor, St. Paul’s Reformed Church, Ohio City, OH
Matthew Hendricks, RCA deacon & seminary student
Rev. Nathan Weller–Campus Pastor, Centerpoint Church
Pastor Christopher Hall–Commissioned Pastor, Elevation Church, Wyoming Church, Wyoming, MI
Rev. Michael Saville–Pastor, Faith Reformed Church, Stevensville, OH
Pastor Jim Vellenga–Pastor, Bethel Reformed Church, Exeter, ON
Pastor Mark Jicinsky, Ebenezer Reformed Church, Leighton Iowa
Pastor Paul Smith–New Life Community Church, Corralville, IA