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Neland Avenue CRC
A Council of Delegates letter expressing disappointment with the Neland Avenue congregation for “breaking covenant” assumes the denomination’s unity is based on adherence to a code of conduct, with all its pitfalls of legalism and hypocrisy (“Council of Delegates Discusses Neland Avenue CRC,” November 2020). The early church dealt with conformity of conduct related to food, keeping holy days, and circumcision. Very big issues in those days. Paul says the unity of the church is not found in a common code of conduct; it is found in our common love for Jesus (Romans 14; Galatians). If Paul could proclaim such freedom in Christ 2,000 years ago, what is wrong with us today? Paul says what you do matters not if you do it unto the Lord. We are not held together by conformity to a code of conduct, but by our love for Jesus, manifested in a rainbow variety of different behaviors.
Nick Loenen // Ladner, B.C.
In regard to Neland Avenue CRC’s position on installing a woman in a same-sex marriage as a deacon, I agree with their Mr. Koster that it was “shocking” that accepting a person in a same-sex relationship would not be against denominational policy. Annetta VanderLugt, a member of Neland, says, “I think an issue like this isn’t going to change in the denomination unless someone pushes a little, just like what happened with women in office.” VanderLugt should be reminded that that decision pushed tens of thousands of people out of our denomination. I agree with Neland member Michelle Dykstra, who said, “I think that unfortunately our church is following cultural norms and listening to the ways of the world.” Years ago, the CRC’s denominational objective was 300,000 members by the year 2000. If Synod approves (of) the Neland CRC decision, I predict we will have fewer than 200,000 by 2030. It will also have a negative effect on applications to our denominational university.
John L. Steen // Franklin Lakes, N.J.
The November 2020 Banner, speaking about same-sex relationships, had a loving concern for (those with) same-sex orientation (Same-Sex Relationships and the CRC). However, Jesus’ definition of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 did not come out clearly. In this passage, Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24, telling us that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. This is a creation ordinance. Creation ordinance is part of our Reformed thinking. … Further, we have the responsibility to think biblically, not existentially. Existential thinking can cause wrong understandings of Scripture. We must, as in the Reformation, let the Word of God stand. What the Bible says, not what we feel, must guide our thinking. ... Let us not harbor thinking that would cause God to remove our denomination’s lampstand from its place. Let us find ways to show love and care for our same-sex-oriented (brothers and sisters) while not crossing the biblical line.
Calvin Hoogstra // Holland, Mich.
The two sides of the argument are driven by either staunch adherence to the commands of God-breathed Scripture or by the influence of a progressive cultural movement toward love and acceptance despite what is written in Scripture. To illustrate this point, I quote from one of the pieces shared in the article by Fred Heerema: “I would urge the CRC to stop thinking that the Bible alone has the answer.” This brings to question, then: Are those who are eloping with this school of thought victims of blind naiveté, kidnapped by claims of “love” being the golden answer? Or is this an instance of willful ignorance, where one has read the Bible, heard what God has to say, and hardened one’s heart towards God’s commands? I fear for what the future holds, but take comfort in knowing no matter how compromised this church becomes by the secular world, we can always turn to the Scripture for truth and guidance.
Anna Zeerip // Wyoming, Mich.
Abortion and Voting
In his response to the question “Is abortion a non-negotiable factor in a Christian’s voting?” (“Big Questions,” November 2020), Prof. Barkman answers that question in the affirmative. But it’s not that simple. The real question politically is whether enacting legislation that punishes folks for abortions really saves lives—including the lives of babies and mothers—or ruins them. For example, when Canada dropped its abortion laws, both sides of the political divide could now cooperate to prevent abortions by educating, counseling, and supporting those who see this to be their only option. So it’s not so clear that we should vote for a government that levels threats of prosecution, criminalization, and punishment over one that opts for prevention through openness, education, help, hope, and healing. ... Here is a (rare) case where imposing a seemingly just law might actually destroy more human beings than it saves, which defeats its very purpose.
Bob De Moor // Edmonton, Alta.
This is a good article (“A Theology of Listening,” December 2020). The author is in a good position to write on this subject well. What I see is having a child with Down syndrome is a blessing. They have so much to teach us. It is refreshing to be reminded we need to slow down, put aside our personal agendas and practice the art of listening. That is one love language, I think. People need to feel they are valued and worth listening to. The best gift is the gift of time spent with another for each other’s personal growth.
Chris Kredit // online comment
Striving for Unity
This is a well-thought-out piece and is timely as well (“Striving for Unity as We Pastor Through a Pandemic,” November 2020). The turmoil caused by the current pandemic will have all kinds of unintended consequences that are almost impossible to oversee or anticipate. In this climate, the CRCNA has a member church (possibly others) that is (are) challenging the biblical interpretation of marriage. ... For years I have wondered why those who are not happy with the CRC positions cannot muster the integrity to follow their conscience and find a church that has already dealt with this (or other) issue(s).
Harry Boessenkool // online comment