Bridging the Denominational Divide

Editorial
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The privilege and responsibility of actively participating in important decisions catches our interest like nothing else.

Through my four decades of ministry in the Christian Reformed Church I have seen the gap widen considerably between congregations and our denomination. For all sorts of reasons. Many we probably cannot do much about, but some we can.

For example, this year’s synod (the annual June leadership meeting of the CRC) will have a significant opportunity to reach across that widening divide. It will be considering a report from its Task Force for Structure and Culture that may well propose a significant restructuring of the work we do together as a denomination—or not. We won’t know for sure what the Task Force recommends until the Agenda for Synod is published in April (see “Task Force Report on Structure Available in April”).

That’s too late for churches and classes to speak into its recommendations before Synod 2015 meets to act on them. Since a decision on this task force’s recommendations will set the direction for the structure of our denomination’s ministries for years, maybe decades to come, this would be a great opportunity for Synod 2015 to take a deep breath, step back, and defer a decision until Synod 2016. That would give opportunity to invite congregations and classes (regional groups of churches) to respond to the report before making any decisions. We could really use a year to pray about, discuss, and communicate our reactions to the task force’s report before Synod 2016 would decide the matter.

I believe that is a sensible approach. Denominational restructuring can wait another year until we all have had a chance to mull this over. While not exactly a scintillating subject to many people, studying and responding to this report provides our church leaders with a marvelous opportunity to narrow that gulf between churches and church.

Here’s why we need that.

On the local level, officebearers cannot begin to pay careful attention to any and all matters denominational. Given their local responsibilities, there’s just not enough time. So they filter what catches their attention from the flood of information they receive through The Banner, CRC Communications, the agencies themselves, and so on. One very important filter they use is whether they need to make a decision of some kind. So when a denominational issue requires some kind of official council input, officebearers will more often than not do due diligence and bone up on that particular issue.

Bottom line: if Synod 2015 simply goes ahead and makes a decision on the task force’s recommendations, then local church leaders won’t give it more than a passing glance. And they will not significantly “own” that decision. The gulf will remain as wide as ever.

But if Synod 2015 invites councils and classes into that decision-making process, then officebearers will give it the attention it deserves. In so doing they will be educating themselves and gaining a much better perspective on what it is that we are trying to do together as churches and they will own how we propose to do it. Those are significant plusses.

Having the privilege and responsibility of actively participating in important decisions catches our interest like nothing else. I hope Synod 2015 provides us with that opportunity.

About the Author

Bob De Moor is a retired Christian Reformed pastor living in Edmonton, Alta.

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Comments

 

Perceptive analysis that is spot on - especially for geographically dispersed classes that only meet twice per year (in September and early March). Substantive matters that appear in an April Agenda functionally turn a structural deaf ear to councils and classes who have little opportunity to prayerfully process a proposal as a community, let alone speak meaningfully into it. Thanks shedding light on this dynamic Bob!

I sense another kind of denominational divide, a congregational detachment. There seems to be a trend toward naming, or even renaming, congregations with names that do not reference the CRC in any way. Is our label, our brand, something we should be ashamed of? This seems to give the impression that such churches are non-denominational, and will reveal who they really are if/when you join them. (That may be a slight exaggeration!) Other denominations generally show their labels - Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, etc. If our brand is not well known, this will make that problem worse. The CRWRC became World Renew a year or so ago, and I understand that was partly because of difficulty in countries where Christians are a minority, but I was delighted to know that people being assisted saw my denomination's name on the service being given, and Christ's. I can't imagine an automaker marketing a vehicle without a nameplate. Of course, we the members are the ones who welcome and show Christ's love to others we worship with or assist, but CRC is the name by which we would be known.

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