Art Friday – “Synod 2016”

Welcome to our second weekly Art Friday post.

Our community is still reeling from the massacre at Pulse, the gay night club in Orlando where 49 people, mainly LGBTQ+ people of color, were murdered and another 53 injured.  Some of our LGBTQ+ community members have written blogs in response, which you can find here, here, here, and here.  As staff, we plan to post some of our own reflections in the days to come.

In the midst of these tragic events this summer, several denominations are having important policy conversations about their LGBTQ+ members.  Wendy, our Executive Director, is a member of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), and through her, many LGBTQ+ people in the CRC have found their way into our community.  This week, that denomination held their annual Synod in Grand Rapids, where they discussed a report offering pastoral guidance for churches regarding same-sex marriage.  The report was prepared over a period of three years by a diverse committee (including Wendy), and offered some freedom for pastors to exercise their discretion as they journey with same-sex couples in their church.  Sadly this report was not adopted by Synod; instead a much stricter minority report drafted by two dissenting members of the committee was adopted, restricting pastors, elders and deacons from participating in same-sex weddings, and restricting same-sex couples from church membership.

For today’s Art Friday post, we are honored to share a poem Eric Van Giessen wrote in response watching the livestream of these events at Synod.  Eric is a member of our Kitchener Generous Space Group, and is the son of a CRC church planter.  He writes:

“I was somehow pulled to watching the Christian Reformed Church Synod meeting Wednesday night where they were set to discuss LGBTQ inclusion and pastoral care based on a committee report that took years to complete. I hadn’t planned to watch it, but after the livestream was complete an underlying feeling of illness that’s been present since the Orlando shooting on Sunday sunk a little deeper. These are my reflections.”

Synod 2016

by Eric Van Giessen

Knees tucked tight under my chin,

I find myself watching a spectacle

more tedious than televised golf.

Clearly there was a handbook

that I failed to review…

or else the signposts have been

intentionally disguised so as to

ensure the SOS of the foreigner. I have my passport ready,

my birth certificate with a detailed

family lineage and a plaqued

certificate of CRC competence—

just in case my confusion


becomes cause to question my belonging.

A docket of white men adorned with

glasses and a short-sleeved

button up uniformity speak

spaciously about the need to affirm

a motion to provide spiritual leaders

with clearer guidelines on how to


exclude me and to address my issues.

As a call to clarity some brandish bibles

causing the Book to jitterbug before

the delegates – as if it was

to dance for its life tonight.

“This book provides all the answers

we need with unbridled clarity!”

Except when it doesn’t…and exhaustive

interpretation and illustration

is necessary – a notion that is highly


irrelevant to the current cause.

Amongst the casual bashing and

hellspeak, tears and thoughtful warnings

are spoken to the deep exhale of

the thousands watching paint dry.

To those tears—to those allies

I curtsy in a gay huzzah:

your tears kept the paint wet for a

few moments more.

But it would dry and dry the same:

a putrid eggshell-white…


rainbow free since 1973* and beyond.

I weep because I wanted to write

a different poem.

One where “Do you take this man”

could blessedly christen

my father’s lips someday—

a sacred oneness sealed with a

once forbidden kiss—

I weep knowing all too well that those

110 say aye’s**—with ‘Biblical’ surety—

tipped the pill bottle

into my sister’s mouth

to resounding applause

some belly singing the tune

“Victoryyyyyyy in Jeeeeeesus…”

while others with dry mouth

search for a song yet unwritten and


too often sung.

In my dreaming I wonder

what might have been if

I was there to stare into their eyes if

I’d danced across the stage

with a with a pride-flag cape if

we’d arrived in hoards to circle

the CFAC*** and pray hand in hand

the Holy Spirit as our swaying song—

her mysterious moving turning hearts.

Now I pray patience and courage

to write that unwritten song

to wear my cape with pride

and to grasp those hands

firmly till our bones ache and

those grinding knuckles become

a tinitic drone in their ears

a reminder that we are here

we are queer and we will not

permit the domicide of our


Mother’s house by hatred and fear.

May the Sustainer sustain us.

May our anger be used for justice.

May our sorrow peel away the paint


and reveal the Kingdom.

* 1973 was the year that the CRC’s current position on homosexuality was passed, declaring that a homosexual orientation is not sinful, but homosexual activity is sinful.

** The decision to adopt the stricter minority report passed with a vote of 110-71.

*** The CFAC is the Covenant Fine Arts Centre where the Synod gathering is being held.

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