Former Banner Editor Resigns from CRC Ministry

May 18, 2012 — John Suk, editor of The Banner, from 1993 to 2003, announced he is resigning from ministry in the Christian Reformed Church.

His announcement states, “I have long struggled with my doubt and uncertainty about Christian Reformed teachings. For many reasons, this struggle has become very intense over the last year, and especially the past few months. I have come to the conclusion that I can in good conscience no longer serve as a pastor in the CRC.”

Suk wrote freely about his journey to this point in his recent book Not Sure: A Pastor's Journey from Faith to Doubt.

Reaction to Suk’s resignation poured in on a Facebook page for CRC pastors. Bryan Berghoef wrote, “We will be losing a strong and needed voice.”

Bonny Mulder-Behnia noted that Suk challenged the borders of [CRC] thinking and beliefs in an intelligent and respectful way and that Suk joins a long string of exits that hurt the church.

Herman Keizer wrote that Suk has been a healthy voice in the CRC and spoke with prophetic courage.

Following his time at The Banner, Suk taught theology in the Philippines, served as president of the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, and most recently served as pastor of Grace CRC in Cobourg, Ontario.

He noted that he hopes to receive a call for ministry in the United Church of Canada.

“I leave with a lot of love for the CRC and thankfulness for the time I’ve been able to serve as a pastor in the CRC,” he said.

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I always appreciated John's stint as Banner editor. He stuck his neck out on diversity and he fought for the Banner to maintain its freedom of press status. John, thank you for your service to the CRC.

A tough decision for sure. I hate to see anyone leave our fellowship and I pray the Lord will use him elsewhere. Even though his views are drastically different than mine I respect him for doing the right thing and stepping away.

God bless you, John.

This makes me very sad; yet I respect John very much and know that he needs to do what he believes. A loss for the CRC.

I haven't been following the story. What, exactly, was John's beef with CRC doctrine?

This did not come as a surprise to me. A loss to the CRC? I think that's debatable. To be sure, the CRC needs to get its act together, but not in the way John Suk apparently thinks it does. What we don't need -- but what the CRC is moving toward -- is the makings of another mainline Protestant denomination that becomes more social club/social service agency than Church of Jesus Christ that maintains the urgent need to preach the biblical Gospel to the world (and to its own members). The United Church is one of the mainline churches (in Canada and the U.S.) that has been hemorrhaging members for a long time because its leadership and the majority of parish clergy have mostly abandoned Scripture as the inspired Word of God. The pertinent question, then, is: Why would John want to be part of the clergy of that church? Does he sees himself as having the opportunity to be a Luther or Calvin amongst them? I doubt it. But maybe I'm being cynical.

THANKS TO MARIAN VAN TIL FOR GOOD THOUGHTFUL COMMENTS.

A loss is difficult. Whether the loss is as small as losing your wallet or something bigger like suddenly losing a dear friend – the reactions and stages are the same. Distress over the loss, regaining composure to create a new normalcy and then living out the new normalcy.

We have lost someone from the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) who has contributed greatly to the growth of the faith of persons who attend the CRC and those interested in the CRC faith life.

We recognize the need of people to move on – we recognize the need of people to experience growth in a different way that may not come from their current situation – we recognize the need of people for change. We read of and know people in our lives that have picked up and moved across town – or - across the ocean, to start a new life – some with family and some on their own. That experience can cause distress for those leaving and those staying behind.

We have lost someone from the immediate CRC community today, like we do every day for the reason of ________(They can fill in the blank).

People also join the CRC every day for its brilliant understanding of the justice and grace of God, the grace and love the CRC shows its neighbours through deeds of mercy within its communities, country and the world, and the love and humbleness it shows in exercising these deeds of mercy.

We send off those that have left the CRC as missionaries – missionaries that have received the benefit of the CRC understanding of faith in God and who will build on that understanding through their continuing life journey of understanding of God’s love for them and their response to that love.

We also accept those that come to join the CRC as missionaries themselves with their own traditions and understandings of faith that can enrich the CRC. We recognize that faith is a journey - each of us needs to respect where each other is on that journey - whether they continue to be part of our immediate community of Christ-followers or not.

We thank God for those who left the CRC and we thank those who come to the CRC - both for contributing to the incredible tapestry that is the CRC – which in itself is only part of the entire tapestry that God is creating with us, his servants, as the Kingdom of God.

This did not come as a surprise to me. A loss to the CRC? I think that's debatable. To be sure, the CRC needs to get its act together, but not in the way John Suk apparently thinks it does. What we don't need -- but what the CRC is moving toward -- is the makings of another mainline Protestant denomination that becomes more social club/social service agency than Church of Jesus Christ that maintains the urgent need to preach the biblical Gospel to the world (and to its own members). The United Church is one of the mainline churches (in Canada and the U.S.) that has been hemorrhaging members for a long time because its leadership and the majority of parish clergy have mostly abandoned Scripture as the inspired Word of God. The pertinent question, then, is: Why would John want to be part of the clergy of that church? Does he sees himself as having the opportunity to be a Luther or Calvin amongst them? I doubt it. But maybe I'm being cynical.

I've read a good deal of the book (Not Sure) and have watched John Suk's interviews on YouTube. Respectfully, but also frankly, I found the book (and the interviews) to be on the self-indulgent, almost "poor me" side of things. Suk is troubled by the horrible things he has seen in the world, but it seems his response (a connection I can't quite understand) is to write a book about his doubts so that all in the world can see how much the ex-Banner editor doubts a great deal (most?) of what he was taught in the CRC, from childhood through seminary.

I do respect Suk for his honesty in leaving the CRC. Indeed, given what he indicates in his book and interviews, he might have been more quite a bit more honest by leaving some time ago.

Many have left the CRC over the last couple of decades. It is a bit troubling to see the Banner almost eulogize the departure of John Suk (even the softly fuzzed picture is like a funeral picture), but say nothing (or comment in a cold way) about the departure of many others who may have left for reasons "opposite" of John Suk's.

@Doug -
Agree, Suk should have left long ago if he were willing to face up to the reality of his convictions, but he (and many others in the denominational leadership) still hope to be able to pull the CRC away from orthodoxy into the shallow troughs of mainline liberal protestantism, so they stick around.

That Suk has finally decided to give up on that project and simply join a liberal church is, to me, a hopeful sign. I rather hope others who are equally unwilling to accept the confessions and creeds of the CRC will also find the courage of their convictions. I'm sure the United Church of Canada will be happy to have them.

It may be helpful to outline Suk's concerns so that one who is totally unfamiliar with his struggles can respond, or at the very least, understand the issues.

I'm not surprised to hear of your resignation; I've appreciated your articles and viewpoints over your Banner editor years, and when I read your book "Not Sure" I thought someone had entered my mind and voiced ideas I've thought about for a good number of years. All the best in your new vocation; our loss, their gain.

@Ed Tigchelaar
@ Dean

I don't think is it possible to "outline Suk's concerns" or to say "what his beef is with CRC doctrine." My read (from his book and interviews), is that Suk has a difficulty with pretty much all CRC doctrines, not to mention what his perception is of CRC culture.

He derides the idea, which he says he grew up with in the CRC that "we have all the answers," but in my mind, he can be fairly characterized to now say that "we don't have any answers."

I have a BA in philosophy (and a Juris Doctor). I would tend to translate what I read and hear from Suk as suggesting he has had, and has, just a lot of skepticism and almost an existentialist sort of angst. Not any particular issues, but rather all issues and whether much of anything is knowable or believable (at least in terms of what he thought he knew or believed).

Certainly, I can't imagine someone with this perspective staying in a confessionalist church. I also had/have a hard time understanding why he was selected as Banner editor. My concern is that a certain group of "heirarchical CRC folk" share Suk's angst and skepticism (doubt) about everything CRC but are not willing/able to be honest about it. (And thus, they intend to change the CRC for everyone to match what they personally think and feel).

I don't know what exactly brought this about. I wish we were told the gist of Rev. Suk's doubts. However, that he'd like to join the United Church tells me a lot. Suk was the editor of our denomination's magazine yet we had no inkling he didn't believe all that we teach and cherish in the CRC. And yet he controlled what went into the pages of The Banner. No wonder today I question The Banner's agenda.

"John Suk, meet Gretta Vosper"
"Gretta Vosper, meet John Suk."

The Christian Reformed Church has lost an intelligent voice that addressed key issues within the Christian Reformed Church.

From the monthly Banner to the monthly Observer! John, I am perplexed!

In the sense that he has joined a denomination more in line with what he believes, I say good for him. It is far more intellectually honest than attempting to undermine the CRC. I too question why someone with apparently lukewarm commitment to the Reformed faith would gravitate to a leadership position, especially considering his age and length of time in ministry (How long has he had problems with our doctrine?). Nonetheless, he has done the right thing and we should wish him well.

In the sense that he has joined a denomination more in line with what he believes, I say good for him. It is far more intellectually honest than attempting to undermine the CRC. I too question why someone with apparently lukewarm commitment to the Reformed faith would gravitate to a leadership position, especially considering his age and length of time in ministry (How long has he had problems with our doctrine?). Nonetheless, he has done the right thing and we should wish him well.

In the sense that he has joined a denomination more in line with what he believes, I say good for him. It is far more intellectually honest than attempting to undermine the CRC. I too question why someone with apparently lukewarm commitment to the Reformed faith would gravitate to a leadership position, especially considering his age and length of time in ministry (How long has he had problems with our doctrine?). Nonetheless, he has done the right thing and we should wish him well.

From the book, The Truth War (Fighting for certainty in an age of deception) John MacArthur says this, ...That is precisely the conclusion at which many in the academic and philosophical realms have now arrived. They no longer believe in truth as a sure and knowable reality. Make no mistake unbelief is the seed of that opinion. The contemporary aversion to truth is simply a natural expression of fallen humanity 's innate hostility toward God. (Romans 8:7).

"Uncertainty is the new truth. Doubt and skepticism have been canonized as a form of humility. Right and wrong have been redefined in terms of subjective feelings and personal perspectives."

If the UCC (or RCA for that matter) is really no different than the CRC like we are told over and over, why will Suk and his doctrinal doubts feel so much more comfortable there?

@ Chad,

The CRC is on the same trajectory as the UCC . The UCC is a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, like us. The UCC has no restrictions on interfaith marriages, gender issues, sexual orientation, and abortion rights for women. Change takes time, but we are getting there. Being a member of the WCRC will help us get there faster.

Just a clarification:
"Truthmatters" and "Chad" mention the UCC. John Suk wants a call from the United Church of Canada, not the United Church of Christ. The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 from Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian congregations and is Canada's biggest Protestant denomination. The two denominations are not dissimilar in their both being on the far outer edges of "progressive Christianity." But it is the United Church of Christ which is part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). However, to call the United Church of Christ "Reformed" at this point in history is a complete misnomer. Both denominations are members of the World Council of Churches. (I'm still wondering how the majority of CRC synod delegates could have been so oblivious as to have approved the CRC joining the WCRC. But that's another topic for another day...)

Just a clarification:
"Truthmatters" and "Chad" mention the UCC. John Suk wants a call from the United Church of Canada, not the United Church of Christ. The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 from Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian congregations and is Canada's biggest Protestant denomination. The two denominations are not dissimilar in their both being on the far outer edges of "progressive Christianity." But it is the United Church of Christ which is part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). However, to call the United Church of Christ "Reformed" at this point in history is a complete misnomer. Both denominations are members of the World Council of Churches. (I'm still wondering how the majority of CRC synod delegates could have been so oblivious as to have approved the CRC joining the WCRC. But that's another topic for another day...)

Just a clarification:
"Truthmatters" and "Chad" mention the UCC. John Suk wants a call from the United Church of Canada, not the United Church of Christ. The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 from Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian congregations and is Canada's biggest Protestant denomination. The two denominations are not dissimilar in their both being on the far outer edges of "progressive Christianity." But it is the United Church of Christ which is part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). However, to call the United Church of Christ "Reformed" at this point in history is a complete misnomer. Both denominations are members of the World Council of Churches. (I'm still wondering how the majority of CRC synod delegates could have been so oblivious as to have approved the CRC joining the WCRC. But that's another topic for another day...)

Marian, and others,
The United Church of Christ was formed from the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. There is therefore, certainly, a Calvinist lineage. The UCC has also so accommodating that some more conservative congregations have left. We attended an Evangelical and Reformed Church in Pennsylvania many years ago. I worshipped at Trinity Reformed Church in Central Pennsylvania a few years ago and was told that they had left the UCC because that denomination had accepted same sex unions. They were a bit uncomfortable even talking about it.

Just a clarification:
"Truthmatters" and "Chad" mention the UCC. John Suk wants a call from the United Church of Canada, not the United Church of Christ. The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 from Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian congregations and is Canada's biggest Protestant denomination. The two denominations are not dissimilar in their both being on the far outer edges of "progressive Christianity." But it is the United Church of Christ which is part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). However, to call the United Church of Christ "Reformed" at this point in history is a complete misnomer. Both denominations are members of the World Council of Churches. (I'm still wondering how the majority of CRC synod delegates could have been so oblivious as to have approved the CRC joining the WCRC. But that's another topic for another day...)

I have no idea why my previous comment is posted three times. I sent it once! In any case, my apologies.

Marian, and others,
The United Church of Christ was formed from the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches. There is therefore, certainly, a Calvinist lineage. The UCC has also become so accommodating that some more conservative congregations have left. We attended an Evangelical and Reformed Church in Pennsylvania many years ago. I worshipped at Trinity Reformed Church in Central Pennsylvania a few years ago and was told that they had left the UCC because that denomination had accepted same sex unions. They were a bit uncomfortable even talking about it.
(re-posted because of a missing word in my previous post)

As someone who left the CRC for "geographical reasons" more than 25 years ago, I see these developments in my old denomination with considerable sadness. On one hand, the increasing diversity in thought is making the CRC too liberal for some. Take, for example, the concept of women in office that has left a burr in the saddle for many and to the exodus of a significant segment of the denomination, or the debate about Creation and the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. On the other hand, the CRC is apparently still too restrictive to others, witness the departure of John Suk and others.
It seems to me that, more and more, we find that denominations (not just the CRC) cease to satisfy the needs of many of its members. Part of this may be due to a cross fertilization of ideas and part to a decrease in teaching the fundamentals of the creeds and confessions. In that context, I met a young person (non-CRC) a few years ago who considered himself a "four point Calvinist." I didn't ask him which petal of the TULIP gave him problems. Would he be welcome in the CRC?
There are then, basically two options: the CRC can address the increased diversity in thought and opinion by stretching the fabric of its tent to the point of tearing it, or move into a more liberal or conservative direction, with conservatives or liberals, respectively, leaving for - to them - greener pastures. Maybe the time has come for the CRC to bite the bullet and join the RCA, allowing the more conservative groups in both denominations to join the United Reformed Church. Alternately, the more liberal segment could up and join the UCC (Canadian or US version) and the remainder could invite the United Reformed Church back.
Finally, is it time to let go of historical baggage and look for closer communion with non-Reformed groups? Conservatives within mainline churches have to ask themselves if they are more comfortable worshipping in their own denomination or in conservative, non-Calvinist, congregations. Is, for example, the difference within the CRC more important than, say, views on the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper or discussions on infant vs. adult baptism? I'm not trying to minimize these differences but, it seems to me that, as our society becomes more and more diverse, conservative Calvinist Christians may have more in common with conservative Lutherans and, are I say it, Roman Catholics than with the more liberal segment of mainline and nominally Calvinist churches.

As someone who left the CRC for "geographical reasons" more than 25 years ago, I see these developments in my old denomination with considerable sadness. On one hand, the increasing diversity in thought is making the CRC too liberal for some. Take, for example, the concept of women in office that has left a burr in the saddle for many and to the exodus of a significant segment of the denomination, or the debate about Creation and the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. On the other hand, the CRC is apparently still too restrictive to others, witness the departure of John Suk and others.
It seems to me that, more and more, we find that denominations (not just the CRC) cease to satisfy the needs of many of its members. Part of this may be due to a cross fertilization of ideas and part to a decrease in teaching the fundamentals of the creeds and confessions. In that context, I met a young person (non-CRC) a few years ago who considered himself a "four point Calvinist." I didn't ask him which petal of the TULIP gave him problems. Would he be welcome in the CRC?
There are then, basically two options: the CRC can address the increased diversity in thought and opinion by stretching the fabric of its tent to the point of tearing it, or move into a more liberal or conservative direction, with conservatives or liberals, respectively, leaving for - to them - greener pastures. Maybe the time has come for the CRC to bite the bullet and join the RCA, allowing the more conservative groups in both denominations to join the United Reformed Church. Alternately, the more liberal segment could up and join the UCC (Canadian or US version) and the remainder could invite the United Reformed Church back.
Finally, is it time to let go of historical baggage and look for closer communion with non-Reformed groups? Conservatives within mainline churches have to ask themselves if they are more comfortable worshipping in their own denomination or in conservative, non-Calvinist, congregations. Is, for example, the difference within the CRC more important than, say, views on the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper or discussions on infant vs. adult baptism? I'm not trying to minimize these differences but, it seems to me that, as our society becomes more and more diverse, conservative Calvinist Christians may have more in common with conservative Lutherans and, are I say it, Roman Catholics than with the more liberal segment of mainline and nominally Calvinist churches.

I have no idea why my previous comment is posted three times. I sent it once! In any case, my apologies.

Marian: You can unintentionally generate multiple postings if you post, then refresh your browser page (I learned that the hard way). Refresh is again, and you'll likely get triplicate postings. :-)

Solution is to "Flag as inappropriate" and then when asked for your name, enter your name and (duplicate) after your name (no comment field is provide). Doing that causes your duplicate post to be replaced with "Comment flagged for administrator review" and adding "(duplicate" after your name when flagging allows the moderators to see that you weren't objecting to the content of the post but rather were trying to erase a duplicate.

As you can see, I've flagged the duplicates for you -- as well as one of Talle's. :-)

Doug, Thanks!

has anyone from the CRC sat down with this Man of God and heard his testamonies of where he's struggling?

Go in God's peace, my friend.

It is fascinating how our journeys have paralleled even as our lives have followed very different paths since our days together at CTS yea many years ago.

And thank you again for your most excellent book. It strengthened both my doubts and my faith.

Steve
CTS, M.Div., 1985, and now photographer and senior technical generalist

Thankfully Pasto rJohn is not leaving the ministry. Transitioning to another denomination need not be troublesome We should rejoice that God may be moving in mysterious ways. The CRC has provided a rich heritage in teaching and strong Biblical knowledge. How wonderful that Pastor John can be a real asset to the United Church. I've seen this among other members of my church who for whatever reason left to attend other churches. One classic example was re: a young man who for work related reasons ended up in a small town in Alberta. The church there was ecstatic in welcoming a person who had gone through Christian elementary, Chr. High school and a Chr.college. I could quote more examples. Let's not bemoan this reality but celebrate. I wish you well Pastor John

We will miss you, John. Stay in touch. Gold bless!

@Nell Vanturennout

I agree that "transitioning to another denomination need not be troublesome," including as a general principle (not just as to a pastor or to John Suk). The CRCNA does not equal the Holy Catholic Church. Among other things, this means that those who so much want this denomination to dramatically change in order to mirror their own personal change might consider "transitioning to another denomination."

I don't want to be misunderstood. I'm not trying to glibly say "get out of here" to anyone, but I am suggesting there is a time to decide, for those who may have so departed in agreement from a particular organization (could be church or something else), that both honesty and respect for that organization requires that they leave instead of insist that the organization changes.

The heavy cultural overlay of the CRCNA is harmful in this respect. Too many insist on staying, as if it was the only true church, because the CRCNA represents their "cultural home." And some of those insist the mountain must come to mohammed in order that they be comfortable, when they should go to another mountain.

John Suk should be commended for his honesty in the decision to leave the CRCNA. If he can no longer accept the confessions or doctrinal commitments of the church, it is only right to find another church home. There are many denominations that have abandoned their confessions. Historically,confessional commitment has weakened under leadership from individuals who no longer subscribe to the faith and practice confessed by these churches. If these individuals had been honest and forthright about their doubts and disagreements with their church bodies, they would have left instead of trying to move their churches away from orthodox truth. We should learn from the sad tale of church bodies who have given up the good news for something far less - perhaps in hopes that the world would approve. There is no reason why the CRCNA should become another mainline denomination - there are plenty of church bodies that have abandoned the gospel in favor of a social and political gospel. My prayer is that the CRC part of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ will be strengthened in its commitment to biblical doctrine and to heartfelt obedience to Christ.

What John expressed seems to be what many of us feel. I hope he will be able to find a chuch and activities that reflect Christ's teachings that the CRC has chosen to ignore.

I'm still in the dark about what exactly he's disagreeing or struggling with...thought the article was rather incomplete and left us with some vague information that allows people to jump to conclusions that may or may not be correct. I guess I'll have to buy his book.

Valerie, for starters, you could look at some of the reviews on amazon.com (enter the title of the book in the search box). I'm not going to buy the book [yet]but will see if I can it on inter-library loan through our local library. That's what some of our property taxes support. ;-)

@ Valerie,

You said you don't know exactly what he is struggling with. If you google John Suk you can find interviews and info. He is all over the map in his beliefs. Truth is subjective to him. "Not Sure" fits his beliefs. However, the one thing he is sure of is that his beliefs no longer pertain to biblical, historic christian orthodoxy.

The denomination he is transferring to ( United Church of Canada) should give us a clue as to his new found beliefs. A church where almost anything goes. Interfaith marriages, homosexuality, abortion rights for women, etc.

Doubting ones faith and contemplating other forms of beliefs are seen as a new form of openness, goodness, humility, and righteousness.

Thanks for the information. I'm not sure that not agreeing with the CRC on social issues like abortion and homosexuality and interfaith marriage make his beliefs ones that "no longer pertain to biblical, historical christian orthodoxy."

I had understood from many that his differences were doctrinal. Those are not doctrinal differences. Something's screwy here.

If doubting my beliefs and contemplating others' forms of beliefs are anathema, then heaven help us all. It is in the darkest hours of doubt that I have experienced Christ's love and comfort the most--and have grown as a Christian in immeasurable ways. It is in looking at what others believe and trying to walk in their shoes that I have learned to love and to know what real compassion is...as well as how best to minister to them.

I gather that John is in a "damned if he does and damned if he doesn't" position. If he leaves, then he's a quitter and he's given up on the CRC. If he stays, then he's trying to lead the rest of us into liberal byways. I don't know the man at all, but blessings to him on his journey of faith.

To read this story and the subsequent comments is a heartbreaker. My question is this: why would a man take such a humongous step backwards? I come from the CRC denomination and know without question that there are many issues that I too am not in agreement with. But to go from the CRC to the United Church is not a step that I would have supported; but then who am I? Could it be that God has a purpose for him in his newfound field of missionary work? Maybe time will give us the answer.

Valerie,

You said "If he leaves, then he's a quitter and he's given up on the CRC."

Is that a fair characterization given a read of the comments made to this point?

As noted above, I think we have lost a strong and needed voice.

May God bless John in his new endeavors.

My thoughts on the whole thing can be read here:

Losing Our Religion » http://pubtheologian.com/2012/05/23/losing-our-religion/

John Suk said, "Faith isn't sight, and so it can be hard to be sure."

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

"By faith we understand..., by faith Abel, by faith Enoch..., by faith Noah..., by faith Abraham..., by faith......... These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. hebrews 11:39

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