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Affirmative Action

The most damaging effect of affirmative action (“Is Affirmative Action Biblical?” April 2012) is that it assigns value to things an individual cannot control. We do not choose to be born black or white, or of Native American or Dutch descent. We should never wonder if our skin color, gender, lineage, or disability was the cause of or barrier to an opportunity. Unfortunately, as long as affirmative action exists, we must all wonder.

To bring true justice to all, it is imperative we absolutely reject any value derived from things we do not choose. For these reasons, and having no biblical sanction, affirmative action will hinder the church’s efforts to engage those around us, and will deteriorate the bonds between its members.

—Christy Olsen
Colorado Springs, Col.

Faith Formation

Regarding Syd Hielema’s reply to the question about high school-age adult immersion baptisms (“FAQs,” April 2012): John baptized by immersion persons who had earlier been circumcised (Matt. 3:6). Now they were repenting of sins in their lives.

I suggest that our churches consider giving a “John the Baptist” immersion baptism of repentance to teens and young adults of our congregations who come to a major point of repentance, recommitment to Jesus, or to their Christian walk. This immersion would be memorable.

—Vern Vander Zee
Miami, Fla.

Stewardship and the Economy

Regarding “Can Good Stewards Grow the Economy?” (Editorial, March 2012): from a biblical point of view, man is not just a social/economic being but, above all, a spiritual being. Our past and present economic policies [have] led to self-interest and indulgence. We need a new vision confronting global crisis, and would do well to reintroduce Bob Goudzwaard’s book Hope in Troubled Times.

—G. Lieuwen
Langley, British Columbia

Music and Memory

In response to “Music and Memory” (March 2012): I am a nurse who worked with dementia patients. One of my patients with dementia would repeatedly sing the first five words of a familiar hymn. I often thought that if I ever were in her situation and could sing just five words, I hope I would sing the same five words that she sang: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”

—Joyce T. Steen
Suttons Bay, Mich.

Calling

My own experience as a church musician (organist, pianist, choir director, music director) has been neither simple nor obvious (Vander Weit, “FAQs,” March 2012).

I began my vocation as a church musician as a volunteer in my local CRC, and then as paid staff at our local United Church (Canada). Both experiences were rich and beneficial to me, but I felt pulled in two directions: use [my] gifts for the church as a volunteer, or use [my] gifts as a professional for the church. Could I do both?

The CRC valued me as a musician, with the expectation of donations of time and talent; churches of other denominations valued me as musician and treated me as a professional.

I value the CRC, the upbringing I received, and I continue to keep a membership in my local church, where I volunteer my musical gifts as I am able, but I know I will continue to have employment elsewhere.

—Monica Admiral
Brantford, Ontario

Binational Church

Like a breath of fresh air! That is how the article “Why Being a Binational Church Is So Important” (March 2012) struck me. I was glad, deeply saddened, but also hopeful because of this article. If any of you, Canadians and Americans, have not read this, you better do so immediately.

—Ralph Koops
St. George, Ontario

Thank you, news editor Postma, for your comprehensive and timely coverage of the church I love and serve.

With some humility and considerable pride, I celebrate how our biblical input continues to strengthen our engagement with historic Canadian churches, with First Nations people, and with policy makers in Canada’s government.

It is time for synod to affirm regional and national initiatives, encourage the prophetic imagination of gifted young adults who are eager for Christ's universal rule, and expect that the blessing of God through his church will be evident to all.

CRC leaders need not fear the empowerment of the denomination in Canada. My 21 years of representative service are part of the testimony of our common life and witness for the King. A strong CRC in Canada will bless many dimensions of gospel ministry within our national context.

—Rev. Arie G. Van Eek
Waterdown, Ontario

The Canadian CRC concern is not an “adolescent rebellion”; it is about ministering the gospel good news in the Canadian context and [doing] so effectively. Faithful ministry that addresses principalities and powers shaping national culture is not first of all about acting independently. It is about giving witness that meets the cultural challenge and context and having the encouragement/freedom to do so.

[This] may require that we change the catchphrase “one church in two countries” to “two nations, one church.” If our focus is our mission to our unique communities rather than primarily being one church, we could change the course of our declining conversation. What we need to figure out is not “how we can be the best partners and do the most effective ministry in both national contexts” but how can we each do the most effective ministry in each national context and be the best partners.

—Pastor Jim Poelman
Sarnia, Ontario

What’s in a Name?

As a longtime supporter of CRWRC, I suggest the following four reasons why the proposed name, in my opinion, is not appropriate (“CRWRC Seeks Approval to Change Name,” April 2012):

  1. The new name does not reflect that this is God’s work. It is no longer Christian or in any way identified as God’s.
  2. Unless the CRC is planning to change its name to the World Church of Renewal, the agency’s name and logo would no longer in any way be seen to be connected to the Christian Reformed Church.
  3. The reason the CRC set up agencies was to allow our church congregations to grow and prosper by doing things together. The concept was to strengthen the churches, not to transfer the work of the churches to a strong agency.
  4. By changing the name to World Renew, the agency becomes just another charity or NGO (non-government organization) rather than an extension of the more than 200,000 members of the Christian Reformed Church.

It is time that CRWRC starts to reconsider their choice of name and logo by include a direct reference to its founding and supporting church.

—Keith Oosthoek
Kitchener Ontario

Affirmative Action

In his article (“Is Affirmative Action Biblical?” April 2012), Shiao Chong made the case that there is biblical precedent for affirmative action. His argument is based on Acts 6:1-7. I would like to show that this passage is not a precedent for affirmative action and present some reasons why diversity policies can be damaging to an organization or community.

Let’s start by looking closely at Acts 6:1-7. This story is about setting right a racial or ethnic injustice. However, it differs from affirmative action in several important ways. First, the problem in Acts is dissimilar to those we attempt to solve with affirmative action. There was no subjectivity in the matter of distributing daily servings of food to needy widows; each widow was to get one serving.

In contrast, affirmative action is invoked in matters of hiring, school admissions, and government contracting precisely because they require judgments, and the judgment of decision makers as a whole is not trusted. Think of voting rights, for example. Every citizen is entitled to one vote. When this right has been infringed, we don’t (and can’t) use affirmative action to restore it. We simply try to make sure each citizen has the chance to vote in the future.

Second, the selection of the group of men to solve the problem is not analogous to affirmative action. The apostles asked the congregations to choose seven men to oversee the serving of food. As Mr. Chong points out, all seven men were “at the very least, identifiable with, the offended cultural minority.” He likens this to affirmative action. Yet, according to the passage, this group was chosen by “the whole congregation” (v. 5), not the apostles themselves. Affirmative action is a top-down approach, never something left to the masses. If the apostles had picked the team, there might be some similarity to draw, but as it is, the twelve merely approved the seven.

Additionally, one salient feature of affirmative action is missing from the selection process in Acts: a prestated goal. The apostles asked the congregation to elect “seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom,” but gave no instructions regarding ethnicity or race. Certainly they may have indicated specific preferences in their request, but it’s not included in the text. Affirmative action requires the diversity goal or decision criteria to be prestated. Without a priori guidance, the outcome cannot be the result of affirmative action.

Ultimately, I do not think Acts 6 establishes any precedent for affirmative action. Moreover, affirmative action brings with it unavoidable negative consequences. Regardless of intentions or implementation, affirmative action isdiscrimination. It dictates that skin color, lineage, or gender be used to make decisions. No organization that has a stated diversity goal can truthfully say, “We do not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or ethnicity.” We may attempt to justify our discrimination, but we must still be honest about doing it.

The most damaging effect of affirmative action is that it assigns value to things an individual cannot control. We do not choose to be born black or white, or of Native American or Dutch descent. We should never wonder if our skin color, gender, lineage, or disability was the cause for or barrier to an opportunity in life. Unfortunately, as long as affirmative action exists, we must all wonder.

To bring true justice to all, it is imperative we absolutely reject any value derived from things we do not choose. For these reasons, and having no biblical sanction, affirmative action will hinder the church’s efforts to engage those around us, and will deteriorate the bonds between its members.

—Christy Olsen
Colorado Springs, Col.

Binational Church

Like a breath of fresh air! That is how the article “Why Being a Binational Church Is So Important” (March 2012) struck me. I was glad, deeply saddened, but also hopeful because of this article. If any of you, Canadians and Americans, have not read this, you better do so immediately.

I have been supportive of and involved with the Council of Christian Reformed Churches in Canada from the start. The Council met every few years with delegates from each Canadian classis. Before the Council meeting, we would have a conference.

At the first one in 1979, Rev. H. Van Andel set forth an analysis of the CRC in Canada. These were great forums which united the churches in Canada. As Gayla Postma writes, the Council flourished but was generally ignored by the American CRC as well as by synods. Then synod adopted a proposed structure change for Canada. Later, the proposed U.S. structure change was defeated and left Canadians hanging and angered.

The whole church should be fully supportive of the CRC in Canada, which seeks to witness and contribute to our Canadian culture. I am convinced that unless we address the culture of our time from out of the riches of the gospel, we continue to fight a losing battle. Then the church is marginalized to a small sacred island in a secular sea. The conferences we had need to be revived before it is too late. Too many congregations do their own little thing with little Reformed emphasis.

The Canadian Story of the CRC: Its First Century (2004) by Rev. Tymen E. Hofman is a must-read for CRC members in Canada and in the U.S., as it gives a true picture of the Canadian branch of the CRC. This book also has a chapter on the ministry of the Council of the Christian Reformed Churches in Canada. Without reading this book, how will anyone understand us? I do not aim for a separate Canadian CRC, but neither do I want to lose the Calvinistic Reformed emphasis which our parents and grandparents brought here. The revival of Council is the need of the hour.

—Ralph Koops
St. George, Ontario

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