Frequently Asked Questions

Big Questions
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Ethics

Q Is it wrong to abort a fetus diagnosed with a disability or ailing condition? Should we bring a child into a life of suffering?

A I can sympathize with expectant parents who struggle through sad and scary news about their unborn child. My youngest daughter has Down Syndrome. My wife and I experienced the fears and grief that accompany such a diagnosis. And after seven years of raising her, I can also empathize with the challenges of raising a child with special needs. It is not easy.

But neither is it as hard as we had initially imagined. My daughter has brought joy to families, friends, churchgoers, and strangers alike. In her own way, she is a blessing, transforming our lives for the better. And through it all, there is always love—given and received.

We do not know what an unborn child’s future holds. We also do not know how God uses suffering. God suffered through Jesus Christ, who suffered not only on the cross but numerous times in his life, from a perilous birth and infancy to threats of stoning in his adult ministry. Christ’s lifetime of suffering was for our salvation.

We do not know whose lives will be touched and how, through our sufferings. But we know who holds the future, and that God is trustworthy, just, and loving. Shouldn't we bring a child into a relationship of love with God and with each other, even in the midst of suffering?

Expectant parents have to answer that question while under medical pressures and stressful fears within a short time period. Hence Christians should be loving and gracious to those who have made a difficult choice.

The Christian Reformed Church’s position on abortion

Shiao Chong is a chaplain at York University in Toronto, Ontario.

Church

Q In a search for a second pastor, our calling committee includes the current lead pastor. How can members openly discuss the pros and cons of the present situation that may well need some improvement? Does the Church Order even allow the current pastor—a paid employee—to serve in this capacity? 

A This question is of great interest to me because my congregation is doing exactly the same thing.

The direct answer to your question is that the Church Order's only requirements for committees of assemblies (including the council) are a "well-defined mandate" and "regular and complete reports of their work" (Article 33-a) but nothing related to membership. It leaves that issue to the discretion of the assembly and sanctified common sense.

So much for the legality. But is it wise to have him or her on this committee?
Calling (or search) committees usually propose the adoption of a church profile, a clear statement of what will be expected of a second minister, and only then, eventually, after a number of interviews, a recommendation for calling a specific person or having the congregation choose one of two. This can take a lot of time and is usually done in stages. In most congregations that I know of, the council is expected to decide on a vision for the future of the congregation and to keep that vision before the members. The minister(s) play(s) an important leadership role in this matter. There is also the issue of a good match in team ministry. To me, it is vital that he or she should be there. The key is that all members should speak their mind with absolute honesty, sincerity, and grace.

Henry De Moor is professor of church polity emeritus, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Mich. He’s the author of Christian Reformed Church Order Commentary (Faith Alive, 2011).

Relationhips

Q We have been married for over 30 years and generally have always gotten along well.  However, since becoming empty-nesters we have grown apart. There seem to be fewer and fewer reasons to stay married. I find myself fantasizing about being single again, which I know is wrong. What can I do?

A Deciding to build an intimate relationship with someone whose shortcomings and failures are already well-known to you is going to be a challenge. Familiarity does indeed breed contempt. It’s much easier to pull away from such a daunting task and begin to imagine something new and fresh—if only you were single again.

Your fantasizing is signaling you that your marriage is moving into a crisis and that you are at a crossroad. The path you take will depend on your true motivation. By nature we follow our wants much more than our “shoulds”; we are moved by what we desire much more than by our beliefs. When your beliefs and what you desire line up together, you will know what path you want to take.

The unhealthiest thing you can do is nothing—to passively accept the status quo and let your marriage slowly atrophy further. The healthiest is to confess to your spouse that you are unhappy and worried, and that the way things are now between you can’t continue.

Deciding to risk opening up to the person most familiar to you, who has also become a stranger, is not easy. Just know that if you ask the Holy Spirit for help, Jesus has promised to be with you and to guide you.

Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario.

See comments (3)

Comments

Am I to understand from the editor(s) at The Banner that within our denomination people are frequently asking about the current morality of killing their disabled child?  

As a church we ought not adopt the obfuscating language of the world.  We must speak plainly.  Abortion is murder, and a fetus is a child.  How about this slightly different version of the question:  Is it still wrong to kill a child diagnosed with a disability or ailing condition? Should we allow a child to continue in a life of suffering?  That sounds pretty shocking, and to the Christian it is exactly the same as the questions posed in this FAQ.  

To his shame, Shiao Chong never answers the question.  Actually, the only admonition given to such an astonishing question is that other Christians must be gracious to those who have had to make a difficult decision.  So now the decision whether ot not to kill our children is deemed difficult?  Consider how far the CRC has strayed from the Word of God when following the world in the consideration of child sacrifice for the sake of expediency is now considered a difficult decision (at least according to those publishing our official magazine). 

Dear Eric,

There is unfortunately a typo in my online FAQ here that was not in the printed copy of The Banner. I have just noticed this, and notified the editors to correct it.

The sentence that reads: "Should we being a child into a relationship of love with God and with each other, even in the midst of suffering?" should actually read, "SHOULDN'T we bring a child into a relationship of love with God and with each other, even in the midst of suffering?" 

Hence, it was intended as a semi-rhetorical question with the implied answer, "YES!" That would have been my answer to the question. 

Now, it may seem like I am adopting obfuscating language. I apologize if it comes across that way. Your answer is doctrinally correct, but if I may push back a little, pastorally cold. My intention was not simply to answer the question in a theoretical manner but to pastorally lead someone who is struggling so much with this question that they even dare to ask it, without any context, or the exact nature of the disability or ailing condition (is it a fatal condition?), to lead them to the same conclusion as you and me. This is a question that university Christian students had asked me when they feel safe enough to ask it. There are cases where the unborn child is diagnosed with a fatal condition that only leads to a short but painful life. These are the types of cases that some Christians struggle with - should they bring a child into a life of suffering? People who ask me this question know it is wrong to murder. But they are struggling with the underlying issues of suffering for both the child and the parents. It is these underlying issues that I am trying to address.

This is why I started by sharing my own personal experience, to address the fears of a parent facing the unknown of raising a child with disabilities. Then, I addressed the fears about suffering, trying to show that with God, suffering can be redemptive, and that experiencing God's love is worth the suffering. Much more can be said, of course, but alas, the format here is only limited to 250+ words.

My pastoral aim, therefore, is to not simply answer, "No, it is wrong to do this" but to bring the person asking the question to realize that "Yes, it is still worth bringing this child into the world." 

As for my last paragraph, I do believe that if God can forgive King David for murdering Uriah after committing adultery with Bathsheba, Christians should probably be gracious and forgiving to those who may have made the wrong decision under extreme duress. 

May God's peace be with you.

The error in the copy has now been corrected. --Ed.

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