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Separation and Sin

During a visit with friends in Seattle, the article of Rev. Palmer (“Is Separation Always a Sin?” September 2010) came to my attention. As a retired minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa and one of the original signers of the Belhar Confession in 1986, I am upset and concerned.

The cause for my alarm is that Rev. Palmer misses the whole message of the Belhar Confession, because he seems to be arguing from a position where prevalent culture and ethnic traditions are normative for the ordering of society—the same ideology that caused untold suffering in South Africa and countless communities in similar situations all over the world. Rev. Palmer warns against importation of confessions from “a different political and cultural context.” I would point out that all three of our other confessions and even Scripture itself originated in cultures distinctly different from our own.

I agree with him that “it is beautiful when Christians from different ethnic groups worship together,” provided, of course, that it is practiced in such a manner that it does not obstruct the God-given unity of the body of Christ. But, I would ask, is it not exceedingly more beautiful if we worship all together in spite of our cultural differences so that the words of Jesus are fulfilled: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another?” (John 13:35).

—Rev. Anton Doyer Ohrigstad, South Africa

Thank you for publishing Rev. Palmer’s brief, timely, and refreshing piece in September’s Banner. Far too much of the denomination-wide conversation concerning the Belhar has focused on the universally appreciable themes of unity, justice, and reconciliation rather than the text of the Belhar Confession itself. We would all do well to read the Belhar carefully with Rev. Palmer and weigh it on the basis of what it says, which in places is indeed questionable.

—Rev. Nicholas Davelaar Hospers, Iowa

In suggesting that “it is risky to import a confession from a different political and cultural context,” I want to suggest that it is equally risky, if not dangerous, to import and use the modern concept of race and ethnic purity, which have been creations of the worst of 20th-century ideology. I say there is only one race—the human race; a reading of the gospels and Acts would second that, I think.

—Henk Smidstra Surrey, British Columbia


I was disappointed with Judy Cook’s answer in the FAQs section (September 2010) regarding how to respond to a son and daughter-in-law’s plan to homeschool their children rather than follow in the family footsteps of Christian day school. What is truly important is that the children receive an excellent Christ-centered education that thoroughly prepares them to go forth for Christ. Many families today find that homeschooling is just as effective or, in some cases, even more effective than Christian day school in academics, extracurricular activities, and spiritual formation. Christian parents who homeschool generally do so out of a deep commitment to their children’s education and spiritual health.

—Sallie Borrink Grand Rapids, Mich.

The grandparents’ concern over the possibility of their grandchild being homeschooled is unfounded and should not be seen as a put-down of their dedicated careers in Christian education. They should be excited that their daughter-in-law is choosing to follow in their footsteps in becoming the primary teacher to their grandchild. Education begins at birth, and it can be a natural progression for the parents to continue this process. What a blessing for their grandchild to receive a Christian education from his or her mother, to develop a closer relationship with his parents during his education, and to receive a personalized, mentor-type education. Many studies show that homeschooling students are very successful. Homeschooling also honors our denomination’s support of the beauty of Christian education.

—Dick and Renee Van Eck Yorba Linda, Calif.

Yes, We Have No Water Buffaloes

While we enjoy the “Just for Kids” pages in The Banner each month, we take exception to the comment of the one crow to the other crow in the September issue. We don’t think the crow should be saying, “Everybody has a water buffalo” when, in fact, not everyone has a water buffalo. We fear The Banner will be overflowing with letters and emails saying, “Where’s my water buffalo? Why don’t I have a water buffalo?” Is The Banner prepared to deal with that? I don’t think so! With apologies to Archie Asparagus,

—Peter Beimers Norwich, Ontario

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