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CRCNA in the News
It was a bad day. Two news sources we regularly read featured stories of the Christian Reformed Church. The first reported the public pro-abortion position of a deacon running for political office, while the second reported (the) Calvin University board of trustees’ decision allowing faculty members’ dissent on so-called LGBTQ matters (“Calvin’s Board Votes to Retain Faculty Members Dissenting From Synodical Decisions,” December 2022). Differences of opinion can be respected. However, the official denominational status of those holding positions contrary to the church’s doctrinal declarations is inappropriate. I’ve learned, in a wide variety of ministry settings both inside and outside the CRC, the catastrophic effect of compromise with the world. Let it not be so!
Rev. Don Belanus, Ph.D. // Gainesville, Va.
Listening to Pastors
A major source of divisions in our congregations is surely the lockdown as it stopped us from having our usual conversations, and we all had to develop opinions on our own. But I take issue with the article expressing the matter as a question of trust in authority (“And Still,” October 2022). “Social distancing was necessary” is not in the Bible; the creeds don’t advocate “it is not safe to gather in person,” the catechism doesn’t tell us “wearing masks saves lives.” So it doesn’t make sense for pastors to put this out as authoritative words from them. It’s not their domain of expertise. It’s not their mission. Pastors should teach about how God calls us to respond to the government. They should teach about love and caring and respect for one another. They should teach about the grace of God and bringing that grace to each other. These matters pertain to how we should behave toward each other and relative to government mandates. But that is not how the article expressed the matter, and insomuch as pastors did or did not speak likewise, this is part of the problem.
Alan Baljeu // Windsor, Ont.
Response to Synod 2022
In the wake of synod, I have had several members and officebearers complain to me about or express disappointment with some of the coverage and commentary on this past synod from The Banner. Thus when I read Aaron Vriesman's latest submission (“Synod 2022 Did the Loving Thing,” online), it felt to me like a healthy and kind corrective voice. While I know many of the "As I Was Saying" articles do not usually make the print edition (which is all at least three of my commenters read), I think it would be very important, help some feel heard, and give a sense of balance to find space for "Synod 2022 Did The Loving Thing" in the next print edition of The Banner.
Rev. Lloyd Hemstreet // Coopersville, Mich.
In the recent article “Synod 2022 Did the Loving Thing,” Rev. Aaron Vriesman seems to misunderstand the actual stance on homosexuality that the denomination held before Synod 2022: that of a position statement. Pastors and officebearers were taught that we must respect the official position statements of the church, but that we could disagree with them. … The shift from position statements to confessionality is a shift away from love. The status of position statement was one of trust—trust that officebearers would respect the position statement, trust that they were doing their best in their own ministry situations to speak the gospel into the realm of sexuality with truth and love and creativity. Now, instead, we have distrust. … So there is a difference in the understanding of love between Vriesman and me, and many others. We see trust and respect as essential to love, and Synod 2022 has loved us very poorly indeed.
Rev. Nicholas Baas // Grand Rapids, Mich.
Thank you, Shiao Chong, for your service to all of us in the CRC as editor of The Banner. I am sorry that it has to be so hard and admire your ability to find hope in the midst of division. Please continue to challenge us, because none of us is free from pride, fear, bad habits, and even cruelty. I know I need constant wake-up calls to reflect on what I am doing and why, and I will never be too old or too knowledgeable to not need thoughtful and direct counsel on how to live the gospel, as a person and as the church.
Bev Harkema // Hudsonville, Mich.
The intentionality we, the pastoral committee of Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alta., see throughout The Banner each month to make the history, stories, and doctrinal issues of the CRC more understandable to a wider and increasingly diverse population is deeply appreciated. The insight you bring as editor to the struggles in our denomination and the Spirit-filled wisdom in your approach to difficult and tension-erupting subjects make us members ponder our stances and attitudes toward those members who think differently than us. You encourage us to listen to others, breathe deeply, recognize our “opponents” as fellow citizens in the kingdom, and pray earnestly for the church.
Evelyn Martin // Edmonton, Alta.
The Upside of Failure
I recently read “The Upside of Failure” in the June 2022 Banner. I have never written a letter to the editor before, but this article was so excellent that I wanted to commend the author, Michael Schuitema, for such an honest view of what happened in his life and also the spiritual lesson he gleaned from it. My late husband was an addiction medicine physician, and he educated so many people about the disease. I felt this article did that and more. The reminder that failure can be used by God to draw us to him was so important.
Judy Doot // Oak Brook, Ill.