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Caring for Animals

The article “. . . Also Many Animals” (April 2008) was the best thing I’ve read in The Banner in a long time. I may not be a vegetarian, but I firmly believe that God intended cows, pigs, and chickens to spend their lives on earth roaming the fields, eating grass, and nurturing their young. What must God think of the torture and misery that animals in factory farming experience?

This uneasy guilt I feel as a Christian and animal lover makes it an easy choice for me to buy more humane meat products like free-range chickens and organic beef from grass-fed cattle. Kudos to Leonard J. Vander Zee for bringing this culturally relevant topic to light.

—Michael BoermanCaledonia, Mich.

As a lifelong farmer I could not help but feel rather disappointed to read this article. I believe that farmers in general have close ties to their flocks and herds and a keen sense that “dominion means lordship, authority exercised with love and care.”

But the issue of animal care is not quite so simple as the author makes it out to be. Why was there no opportunity given to explain production methods and reasons behind choices made by farmers? I would have loved to read commentary by swine-production professors at Dordt College or even a firsthand interview with a real farmer.

Perhaps we should also discuss the demand for cheap food products and the constant pressure on agriculture to get more efficient and keep costs down without thinking of the implications in how food gets produced.

I care for my animals in the best ways that I can, and my animals are happy and contented. Please be careful not to judge a farmer until you have walked a mile in his work boots.

—Harry StamJarvis, Ontario

Testing Our Reformed Commitment

In discussing the proposed revisions to the CRC’s Form of Subscription (“Testing Our Reformed Commitment,” IMHO, April 2008), it is regrettable that neither Rev. Blacketer nor the editor of The Banner chose to respond to the Doctrinal Covenant for Officebearers in the CRCNA, which has been available online (www.crcna.org/pages/synodical.cfm) since the end of January. This covenant has carefully taken into account the responses of almost 150 churches, individuals, and institutions to the preliminary report completed in April 2007.

In its present form the covenant strongly maintains the current relevance of our Reformed confessions; encourages use of the Contemporary Testimony without in any way lowering the level of our current confessions; and maintains the obligation of all officebearers in the CRCNA not only to be governed by but also to promote our historic confessions. We urge not only delegates to synod but all church councils as well as others who are interested to read the Doctrinal Covenant online or in the 2008 Agenda for Synod.

    —for the Committee,
Rev. John Van Schepen

In addition to Rev. Blacketer’s excellent insights, I would suggest that it is no surprise that CRC officebearers sometimes misunderstand the Form of Subscription. In former times when the doctrines of the church were ever before the people through consistent catechism preaching, officebearers knew what they were signing and signed it with conviction. But for a quarter of a century since the introduction of the Bible Way curriculum, the youths of the church have not been given solid grounding on the doctrines of the Reformed faith, as they were prior to then.

Might that also contribute to our seeming lukewarm toward our church’s confessional heritage?

—Myron RauMartin, Mich.

I have signed the Form of Subscription more times than I can remember. Yet in all those times I never heard it discussed, nor was I challenged in any way to carry it out. I have come to regard it as an archaic piece of hypocrisy. Its signing was usually done in the spirit of “Oh yeah, we’ve got to do this too yet.”

Let me suggest an alternative. Let’s require all officebearers to spend a solid hour reading, discussing, and reflecting on Colossians 3:12-17, then sign a simple statement that says, “By God’s grace and with his help I pledge to do all in my power to carry out the responsibilities of my office in this way.”

—Bruce NikkelPella, Iowa

The solution is to simply change the Form of Subscription by adding these words following the officebearer’s signature: “. . . with the following exception,” then list the exception. The local church council can then accept or deny the person’s reason for exception. Disagreements with the confessions are probably minor and can be handled by the council. But when something difficult comes along, per Moses’ father-in-law, pass it up the ladder.

—Allan A. Stonehouse Jr.Kinnelon, N.J.

Staying Away from Church

I’ve been searching for a deeper faith for a long time now. My husband and I have been to quite a few churches over the years. We finally settled on a Christian Reformed church because it gave the Bible depth but still ministered within the community.

About three years ago, my husband and I prayerfully discerned that the Spirit was leading us out of the church. It was a difficult and frightening time for us both. My husband was far angrier than I was with the church, but over the past few years some of our wounds from inter-church fighting have started to heal. Through discussions with friends and people we’ve met, we’ve come to see that some very Christian people thrive outside the church. Both Barbara Brown Taylor and Fredrick Buechner are stellar examples of this. We were thankful for this article (“A Time to Stay Away . . . from Church,” March 2008); it affirmed our decision to take an indeterminate season away from the church. It gave us confidence that God is working outside its four walls.

—Marsha StuitHolland, Michigan

I can relate to the story about not going to church. From the time I left home till I turned to the Salvation Army for help, I was angry and didn’t know why. I was told as a child that God would “get me” if I didn’t go to church. I associated so much guilt and shame with the Bible that it wasn’t till I celebrated recovery that I began to pick it up again. Now I intertwine my native spirituality with my Christian faith and have learned to be honest with myself and with God.

—Wendy ShawStratford, Ontario


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