Magazine article The Christian Century

Gay-Friendly Church Leaves Denomination

Magazine article The Christian Century

Gay-Friendly Church Leaves Denomination

Article excerpt

A Michigan pastor and his congregation have reached agreement with the Reformed Church in America to leave the denomination, taking their church and its assets with them. "We are now in the status of an independent, nondenominational congregation," Richard A. Rhem said October 4. The agreement to allow Rhem and his 2,800-member congregation, Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan, to leave was approved October 1 by the RCA's regional body, the Muskegon Classis, by a 27 to 23 vote.

Rhem angered some denominational leaders by allowing the Muskegon Metropolitan Community Church, a primarily homosexual congregation, to meet in a building owned by the RCA church where he has been pastor since 1971. He further upset them by saying that belief in Jesus Christ is not the only path to God and salvation. "While I personally affirm belief in Jesus for myself, I have taken a pluralistic position concerning others," Rhem said.

According to Wesley GranbergMichaelson, RCA general secretary, Rhem is "one of our most liberal pastors" in "one of our most conservative classes," and the issue might have been handled differently in another classic. Granberg-Michaelson contended that Rhem created a "real problem" for the church by raising a question about the uniqueness of Christ. "He is outside pretty flexible and wide boundaries," GranbergMichaelson said. "He has not set forth just a doctrine of universal salvation, but has instead said God's saving action does operate in other religious' traditions apart from Christ."

Muskegon Classis officials first criticized Rhem and his congregation for their decision to provide meeting space for a primarily gay congregation. "When they were interrogating me about that, they said: 'You don't take the Bible seriously,"' Rhem recalled. The argument led to other issues. …

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