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The Belhar

Confessions arise, as the Belhar surely has, out of the urgent need to express the gospel in very particular contexts (“Shoes,” June 2009). So it’s hard to imagine that this “shoe” will ever fit us as well as our own Contemporary Testimony, written to address issues such as secularism and individualism that threaten the gospel in our context.

The testimony’s beautiful phrasing and wide biblical scope (particularly its emphasis on creation, which so sorely needs to be heard now) includes the Belhar’s themes of unity, reconciliation, and justice. So why has this elegant, locally made “shoe” not been given confessional status? Must all our confessions bear a name far away in either time or place?

It just might be that the strongest show of solidarity with our Reformed brothers and sisters in South Africa is not the adoption of their confession but the hard work of strengthening and deepening our own.

—Wilma van der LeekSurrey, British Columbia

Thanks for drawing our attention to the Belhar Confession in your editorial. This document brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “confession of the church.” You spoke about the different context of South Africa as being a reason for hesitation. When 11 o’clock Sunday morning remains the most racially segregated hour of the week here in North America, it seems to be a more deeply human issue than a contextual one.

The Three Forms of Unity, by comparison, are much further removed from our context, as they are intended to address doctrinal disputes of the 16th century between warring factions of Christendom. This new confession may, in fact, even shed some theological light on Christian doctrinal disputes (there is a lengthy section on love and unity in the church).

I’m praying for its embrace as our denomination’s confession—alongside our still-valuable historic confessions.  It will bring a missional freshness to our “always reforming” faith.

 —Peter Schuurman
Guelph, Ontario

Tea Party

I am protesting Rev. Tyler Wagenmaker’s blatant political actions that sadly mix his political ideology with religion—thereby impugning the Christian Reformed Church.

I must and will attempt to determine if Wagenmaker’s efforts are merely an isolated aberration under the aegis of our church. If not, I am behooved to leave the CRC and seek a denomination wherein I can worship our Lord free of any and all political entanglement.

—Raymond JosephEast Lansing, Mich.

Regarding “Pastor Coordinates Tax Tea Party” (June 2009), first let’s remember that under President George W. Bush, the U.S. national debt rose from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion. A significant part of that debt was incurred fighting a war in Iraq because Iraq supposedly had weapons of mass destruction. As it turned out, there were no such weapons.

Second, as the distinguished Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” To me, one mark of a civilized society is the way persons who have special needs are treated. We have a son who has Down’s syndrome. In 1971 the citizens of Grand Rapids, Mich., approved a school millage proposal that increased taxes so that our son and others like him could be properly cared for and educated. Our family firmly believes that on that day Grand Rapids demonstrated that it was a caring, civilized community.

—Robert BoltGrand Rapids, Mich.

I find it sad that The Banner saw fit to devote nearly half a page to this article. It seems odd that in a country where millions live in abject poverty, have minimal or no health insurance, have less than adequate or no housing (the list could go on), a tax revolt, no matter how it is disguised with pretty “Christian” rhetoric, should be considered as CRC News.

—John KraltOttawa, Ontario

Mental Illness

Many thanks for publishing “Light for a Dark Path” by Rev. Tony Meyer (May 2009). I’ve experienced many episodes of depression, one forcing me off ministry responsibilities for eight weeks and another forcing me to take early retirement.

The severity and pain of mental illness calls us as a church to be informed to the extent that knowledge of the illness is available and to be “communities of compassion.” The pain of the illness was clearly seen in the three who shared their personal stories along with the article. Thank you for your courage. Thanks also to Rev. Meyer for shining a light on a very dark path. God does give healing, but sometimes we suffer relapses, as Angie Salomons shares.

Personally, I keep pinching myself to see if it’s actually me as I experience a new recovery. To God be all the praise!

—Rev. Larry Van EssenVisalia, Calif.

Bravo and AMEN! At long last an excellent article about mental illness in a Christian publication. Meyer discusses mental illness in such a profoundly truthful manner. I will definitely share this with family and friends who have had a hard time understanding and accepting my mental illness.  Also, Verna Haverhals, Angie Salomons, and the 16-year-old writer deserve medals for sharing their own experiences in such honest and candid manners. My heart and prayers go out to them and the many Christians who experience these debilitating diseases. May we become communities of the kind of love, compassion, understanding, and acceptance that Jesus showed.  

Edmonton, Alberta


Wouldn’t you know it? We mistakenly edited out the names of the only female models in our story about a recent clergy fashion show (“Retired Pastors Stage Unique Fashion Show,” June 2009, p. 14). Those models were Rev. Ruth Romeyn and Rev. Paula Vander Hoven—and they’re NOT retired. The Banner certainly regrets the errors.

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