Transforming Communities and just initiatives

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

When you think of a politically focused church, you probably don’t think of Refuge. And that’s by design. Politics don’t rule our Sundays or regular rhythms here at Refuge. We want to put the Word first. Additionally, there are many issues where the solution involves a compromise between parties of good will. What should the tax rate be? Well, 0% would mean anarchy, and 100% would mean theft. But in between, brothers and sisters in Christ can vary widely regarding what a wise and just tax rate might be; and how much, or how little, our government should be involved in any number of issues. You can be a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or None-Of-The-Above and love Jesus. That should go without saying. At the same time, vigorously debating amongst ourselves which candidates and which parties and platforms best reflect our Christianity in public life are conversations worth having, with gentleness and respect.

That being said, one of our church’s core values is “transforming communities” – impacting the community around us in meaningful ways requiring intentional relationships, sacrificial service, and more. So when there are issues where we believe there are clear biblical mandates or prohibitions involved, we will bring those to your attention as warranted. For example, we believe that unborn children ought to be protected much more vigorously than they currently are. We don’t really care whose platform agrees with that or not. The church should be against abortion on demand, period, whether all political parties or no political parties agree with that.

So with that as background regarding politics and Refuge, one of our elders brought Initiative 1552 to our attention and, after discussion, we determined it was worthy of both information and recommended action. In December, 2015, the Washington Human Rights Commission passed a new rule that allows anyone to access locker rooms, showers, spas, and restrooms based on their gender expression and gender identity.  Initiative 1552 could effectively reverse this, requiring schools to maintain separate facilities for boys and girls and allowing businesses to manage private areas in the way they feel is best for them.

In recent years there has been a crescendo of public thought and discussion on the issue of transgenderism. In light of that, it is important to remind ourselves that there are principles and teachings in our Bibles that apply to every person, everywhere – not just those who follow Christ. And the fact that God made every human being in his image, and created us male and female, is not a fiction and not up for debate. Additionally, the fact that there can be genuine and tragic confusion surrounding this issue is not because the scripture is not clear. Scripture is clear. So when there is legislation involving those broad mandates of scripture that apply to not only Christians, but every person, we are happy to link arms with those who would work to advance a just situation.

The Refuge Church elders believe we are justified in joining hands to advance just laws. But because we live in a comparatively free, open and democratic society that does not suffer under utter, systemic and complete deprivation of rights and liberties and injustices, the occasions for our advocacy should be rare and only in narrowly circumscribed areas. Most areas – like the tax rate example I mentioned before – are wise for us to steer clear of as far as church-wide pronouncements because the Bible doesn’t bind believers’ consciences in a certain way. But clearly God expects all people everywhere to know and affirm that He made us male and female.

Support of this initiative isn’t mandatory; our members are free to disagree with us regarding this initiative without concern of discipline or recrimination, but we speak in hope that our convictions in favor of this initiative are both persuasive and biblically-based. Members of Refuge and any who wish to partner and register support for I-1552 can do so. Starting next week, there should be forms available in the foyer where you will be free to officially register your support. As God has dispensed the common grace of wisdom to believers and unbelievers alike, we have no problem finding common cause with people of all stripes who affirm God’s design for gender and sexuality.

Providentially, all the elders had been praying internally over a growing conviction that we sparingly broach and speak to these types of issues, so when one was prompted to bring an actual case to the table for discussion it became a Spirit-confirming moment, a joyous revelation that individual meditations were being cultivated for a moment of unifying action.

Lastly, it’s providential timing as our denomination, the RCA, is about to have its General Synod June 8 – 13 and will be discussing some challenging, clarifying issues at a high level on issues regarding male, female, gender, sexuality, etc. This may be one of the most significant year’s for the RCA and impact us dramatically in the next few years, so in all of this be praying as it will be month to clarify where we stand biblically and relationally as a church on these matters, and others.

(Written by Ben Keller, Steve Aaby and James Harleman)

Additional helpful information and links:

 Video of the announcement made at Refuge Church on May 28th: