Teaching pre-profession of faith class is a delight: a great opportunity to share, discuss, and reflect on our faith at a particularly meaningful stage in its development. We often end up getting tongue-tied, though, when we muse on the holy Trinity. How can it be that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God but in such a way that there is only one God? We’ll appeal to the traditional formulation that tries to guard us from heresy: three persons in one being. However true that is, it doesn’t really clear up the mystery. Nor does it need to. Our limited understanding doesn’t prevent us from intimately communing and walking with our God.
That is similarly true for the ongoing puzzle of how to be one church in two countries. There are very good historical and existential reasons for our binationality, as Adrien de Jong points out in his IMHO. From the earliest church plants in Canada more than a century ago to the truly amazing and visionary welcome provided by the U.S. cousins to the Reformed immigrants arriving from the Netherlands in the fifties, the CRCNA has a long history of reaching across the border with mutual respect and generosity.
That doesn’t mean our cross-border relationship is simple or clear. I’ve experienced that relationship for many years from both sides of the border (38 in Canada, 17 in the U.S.). And once I had the privilege of chairing a synodical committee tasked with going across Canada to find out how to integrate the work of the Council of Christian Reformed Churches in Canada (CCRCC) within our shared CRC ecclesiastical structures.
I’ve also witnessed firsthand many of the ongoing struggles and tensions involved with doing ministry together in two countries. We have spent many decades in a quandary of how to run Canadian agencies, ministries, and relationships and who should do so. We disagree on how much independence they should have and who has say over what. The role of the Canadian Ministries Director remains controversial. Then, of course, there are ongoing tensions about how the members of the Canadian Board of Trustees should function within the whole.
The level of frustration has convinced a few Canadians that we need to strike out on our own (see “Let Us Go” by Harry Houtman). But the large majority, and I am certainly one of them, want to see nothing of the sort. We believe that Who and what binds us together in faith, love, and ministry is so much greater than what divides us.
We need to continue to work creatively and doggedly at sorting out our differences. Like the concept of the Trinity, we may never fully understand binationality. Even so, we can keep working just fine with it and within it.
A trans-border church is an increasingly rare and important witness in our divided world—a witness to our common and much more fundamental citizenship within the kingdom of our Lord and Savior/Saviour Jesus Christ.
So on both sides of the border, let’s hang in there together, eh!
Other articles you may be interested in:
Imagining Ministry in the CRC in Canada
Why Being a Binational Church is So Important
Canadian Forum Causes Both Appreciation and Frustration
January Conference to Address Canadian Role in Binational Church
Director of Canadian Ministry Resigns
NETWORK: Forum on Denominational Structure