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Failure to Create Safe Churches

“How We Fail to Create Safe Churches” (IMHO, May 2009) suggests that churches and councils are not doing enough to hold abusers accountable even after receiving a report from a Safe Church Team advisory panel.

In some cases the abuse-response function of the church may be a victim’s worst enemy. As a former elder, I witnessed a Safe Church Team and the denominational abuse-response function violate defined rules governing evidence, engagement, process, and the confidentiality of both the accused and the accuser. As a result of those violations, innocent people were harmed significantly.

If faced with evidence of abuse by a Christian Reformed church leader, I would much sooner engage civil authority than the current CRC abuse-response process. I hope we can spend as much time working to improve our internal systems as we do imploring others to wake up.

—Scott Vander KooyGrand Rapids, Mich.

The “unknown story” behind the opening of the Abuse Prevention office (see February and May issues of The Banner) is not so much about “a study” as it is about a certain CRC pastor’s concern of how another CRC pastor hurt a woman within a short time of being at a congregation.

This concerned pastor saw firsthand how uneducated and ill-equipped our churches and classes are in understanding abuse and knowing how to respond to it. This concerned pastor not only advocated for the victim, but spent countless hours addressing the issues with the church, and with members of that classis, and then went through all the hoops to get synod to hear that our denomination has a great need: abuse is happening in our churches and we need help.

Abuse is sin. God hates abuse. But half of us don’t believe it.

—Judy De WitMinneapolis, Minn.

Politically Speaking

Thanks for including the excellent question “Should churches get involved in politics?” (FAQs, May 2009). Helen Sterk’s answer was helpful, with one note of clarification: churches are not, by law, prohibited from advocating political positions. They are prohibited from endorsing a particular candidate or political party. But churches can (and should!) use their voices to speak into the political process on issues. . . . It’s unfortunate that certain justice issues often become associated with one political party or another, but that association shouldn’t stop churches from following God’s call to “speak for those who cannot speak” (Prov. 31:8-9).

—Peter Vander MeulenCoordinator, CRC Office of Social Justice

Our Valuable Graduate School

Thank you for your timely and insightful observations regarding the valuable contribution of the Institute for Christian Studies over the years (“Who Teaches the Profs?” April 2009). I hope many readers will take your words to heart to the benefit of ICS.

—C. Van Egmond

Brampton, Ontario

Without a doubt ICS has made a major contribution to the Christian university movement throughout the world. Ironically, we received the April Banner in our church mailboxes on the day we had a special offering for ICS. Even more ironically, in that evening’s worship service we heard a former resident of Taiwan, now a professor at Simon Fraser University and a Christian Reformed church member, speak on Buddhism. He told us that Buddhists in Taiwan have opened no less than four Buddhist universities in the past five years—all of them thriving. You can’t help but wonder why it is that in North America Christians are unable to maintain a fully accredited Christian university. I believe the main reason is that none of the major religions allow for the concept of secularism, except Christianity. There is no word for secular in any of the other major religions. Christians speak of a world-and-life view but do not practice it.

—Simon WolfertSurrey, British Columbia

Mental Illness

I’d like to make a couple comments regarding “Light for a Dark Path” (May 2009). First, I sometimes hear it said that “mental illness is just like any other illness”—

I suppose with the intent to reduce the perceived stigma. Trouble is, there is a sense in which that is very much not the case. Diabetes or cancer or losing a limb or whatnot rarely changes a personality. Mental illness will, by its nature, change how a person interacts with others. It’s not that person’s fault, but it is a fact.

Second, mental illness can profoundly affect the family of the sufferer. Too often all the attention is on the sick person, and no one seems to be aware of what those around that loved one are going through.

I’ll just say I’ve been there and done that. My spouse is mildly schizophrenic, which is now thankfully controlled by medication.

—Name Withheld

Corrections

The Banner is happy to report that Celebration Fellowship is not “the only Christian Reformed church located entirely within a prison” (“Getting to Church by Way of Prison,” May 2009). There is at least one other: Cornerstone Prison Church has been meeting for four years in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. Obviously, The Banner regrets the error.

Also, the John Calvin bobblehead would like to apologize for claiming that John Deere is “the only righteous choice for Reformed farmers” (March 2009). It was his first time on a tractor, and he got a little carried away.

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