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Urban Ministry

Brian Walsh’s visionary and prophetic story (“Urban Ministry: Looking for a Place to Call Home,” May 2012) offers a blueprint of relevant ministry for almost any church, not just those in the cities. Sometimes I wonder, were Jesus on earth today, would he on a Sunday morning don his best suit to join my church community, or would he be found among the broken humanity of Vancouver’s downtown east side? Walsh, correctly, holds that seeking renewal for what is broken in our culture is a path toward the church’s internal renewal.

—Nick Loenen
Richmond, British Columbia

Confessions

I was surprised and somewhat disappointed by the editorial on the Reformed confessions (“Which Line to Toe?” May 2012), especially by your reference to people having to “hold their nose” when signing the Form of Subscription. This suggested to me that you think there is something musty or even rotten in our confessions.

In over thirty years of teaching the confessions at the college and seminary level, I have found that when students are given the opportunity to study these documents in their historical contexts, they often develop a deep appreciation for them. They come to see them as beautiful summaries, explanations, and defenses of basic biblical truths.

If the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort are no longer functioning as living documents in the CRC, I suspect that the fault lies not so much with the confessions themselves as with those of us whom the church has entrusted to teach them.

—Lyle Bierma
Grand Rapids, Mich.

I appreciated the informative and insightful article of Karin Maag (“Confessions: Past, Present, and Future,” May 2012). However, her conclusions miss some of the major differences that exist between the Belhar and our current three Forms of Unity. Having confessions with cultural roots does not, in itself, give every cultural- and issue-specific document confessional status.

—Ken Krause
Big Rapids, Mich.

How blessed we are that in all this unsettling turmoil there are still eloquent voices of hope and encouragement such as those of Julian R. Hudson (“The Belhar: Social Gospel or Confession?” March 2012). He convincingly identifies with clarity and simplicity that the Belhar is not a confession and did not arise out of any concern for the gospel as do the existing historical creeds. Were it that such clarity, simplicity and biblical foundation existed at Synod for this and all issues.

—Ralph L. De Groot
Peterborough, Ontario

Blessing

I fully agree with Richard Vandezande (“IMHO: The Blessing,” May 2012). We have two wonderful pastors. Our senior pastor is ordained, our associate pastor is not.

After an inspiring service and the parting blessing, I often think, Please stretch out your arms and bless us!

—J. Huizinga
Brighton, Ontario

Why Did Jesus Die?

I write to express my deep thanks for the article by Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat (“Why Did Jesus Die?” April 2012). It is a model of careful biblical study and warm devotion. My mind and heart were blessed by reading it.

—Dale Cooper
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Music and Memory

It thrilled me to realize that my experience with music and Alzheimer’s is not unique (“Music and Memory,” March 2012).

Alzheimer’s took away the father we knew and loved. The one thing he was still able to enjoy was his love for music.

Toward the end, we sang his favorite hymns. We hoped this would make his transition to the next world easier. It also brought us great comfort.

My father is now singing in the courts of heaven. I’m sure the music there is more beautiful than anyone could imagine!

—Suzette Lootsma
Whitby, Ontario

Climate Change

I fully agree with “Synod 2012 Asked to Make Climate Change Declarations” (News, May 2012), provided synod asks that we start with cleaning up our own backyard by making all our premises smoke-free. Was/is that not part of “the biblical mandate for humans to be God’s caretakers of creation”? Was/is that not a “moral, ethical, and religious issue”?

—Jake Prins
Grand Rapids, Mich.

To state that there is no ambiguity within the scientific community that “human activity is responsible for the increase” [of global warming] removes the credibility of the Creation Stewardship Task Force’s claim. Climate change is a complex subject involving many variables and modeling techniques—all of which are subject to ongoing debates by the scientific community.

I believe for Synod 2012 to affirm the task force’s position is unwise at this time, just as having adopted the popular claim of the 1970s that the planet was heading into the next Ice Age would have been foolish.

Let’s let the scientific community do the job without taking sides and spending money when the jury is still out.

—Steve Wiley
Byron Center, Mich.

Pentecost Dreaming

What an unfortunate graphic was used as illustration for “Pentecost Dreaming” (May 2012). As an artist I’m very conscious of the connotations of images. I hope that this image was used as a negative counterpoint to Mary’s wonderful article.

If all we can think of and dream about is a larger house (or cottage or car), then the spirit of materialism inspires us more than the Holy Spirit.

—George Langbroek
St. Catharines, Ontario

Still Confessional?

I am confused. As I grew up in the CRC and attended Christian schools, a Christian college, and Calvin Seminary, I had the distinct impression that the CRC was a “confessional church.” In fact, when I became a pastor I was required to sign a document which states that our confessions “fully agree with the Word of God,” and I promised to teach and defend these doctrines and not contradict them in my “preaching, teaching, or writing.”

But now, it would seem, a new wind is blowing: the editor of The Banner (“Which Line to Toe?” May 2012), quoting a distinguished CRC pastor, suggests that we only need to “honor” the confessions (sounds postmodern: great idea but what exactly does that mean?) and that we “need to make the Contemporary Testimony what we sign on to instead of the historic confessions.” Maybe someone, or a group of people (the BOT?, Synod?), could let me and others know: is the CRC still a confessional church or not?

—Jo Schouten
Burnaby, British Columbia

[Editor Bob DeMoor] wants to reduce the confessions to simply “historical documents.” Yesterday’s newspaper is an “historical document.” Obviously, the confessions were produced in a particular historical time frame. The real question is—Are they true? Are they a faithful and accurate reflection of what the Bible teaches? If in fact they are, and someone needs to hold their nose when they are asked to sign the form of subscription as an officebearer or professor or delegate to synod, perhaps that person should exercise some integrity and not sign. Let others gladly sign and give the confessions the “honor” they deserve.

—Richard J. Blauw
Saint John, Ind.

Changing the World

There is much to like about “Changing the World—One Creative Act at a Time” (March 2012). But the table of contents line, presumably meant to capture the essence of the article, is a little troubling for me: “God can cause us to redeem the world, one creative act at a time.”

You see, it is not we who are redeeming, no matter how God-caused our actions. It is God who redeems. We may, and indeed must, live as redeemed people, as citizens of another kingdom, and creative acts are certainly important in this. No doubt God can and will use such in his redemptive work. But again, it is God who redeems and not we.

This distinction might seem to be inconsequential, but there is too little modesty today about the extent to which Christians can affect the culture. The result is that we become overconfident when we see what we think are good results, and too despairing when we see what we think is failure. We must focus on process rather than results. Relying on the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, we live as we are called to live, directing the world to Jesus. And we leave the outcome to God, who alone has the power and gets the credit for redemption.

—Duane Nieuwsma
Byron Center, Mich.

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