Call Me Len

Editorial
I’d like to help us honor and reclaim important marks of identity that have defined us through the years.

Let me introduce myself as The Banner’s new interim editor. Some people call me “Leonard,” but most call me “Len.” A few very old friends get to call me “Lenny,” but don’t try it. I’m married to Jeanne Logan, an artist, and we live in Grand Rapids, Mich. We have four grown children and 12 grandchildren scattered around the country.

I’ve been an ordained minister for 45 years and was privileged to serve churches in Iowa, New York, Michigan, and Indiana. Then I served seven years as editor in chief for Faith Alive, the former denominational publishing agency, before my retirement in 2013.

I love the Christian Reformed Church as my spiritual mother. Growing up in Alpine Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids (which later merged with another congregation), I was deeply formed by its hearty but solemn worship, by the hymns in the blue and red Psalter Hymnal, and (in retrospect), by the Wednesday evening catechism classes.

Of course, the CRC is a very different denomination today—with widely divergent styles of worship, greater ethnic diversity, and with new social and theological issues that need to be addressed. But I still love the CRC and feel privileged to serve it as a pastor and now as interim Banner editor.

From my recent enjoyable stint as interim pastor of Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, I learned that serving in an interim capacity can be a tricky position. As I see it, an interim’s task is not to lead a church into new paths, but to help the church rediscover its identity. Only with a strong sense of identity can a person or congregation forge a new future.

Some have observed that the CRC is going through an identity crisis. Times have changed, and we can say “good riddance” to elements of denominational identity that revolved around ethnicity or cultural sameness. But there are others that we need to think about more carefully: our theological heritage, worship, mission, denominational structure, and, of course, the moral and ethical questions swirling around us.

As interim editor, I’d like to help us see how we can honor and reclaim important marks of identity that have defined us through the years. But I also want to help find ways we can wrestle honestly and charitably with what many see as threatening new undercurrents of change.

Impossible? Well, at least difficult. But I feel called to this task at this time in my life and in the life of the denomination I love.

There are a few things you can expect:

  • I believe our worship is the single most important way in which our faith is formed. I hope to highlight the theology and practices that make for vital, formative, exuberant Reformed worship.
  • I’m concerned that we could be losing some of the rich theological heritage that characterized us over the years. It’s not enough, however, for us to simply point to our confessions like cross-stitched mottos on a wall. We need to discover creative and imaginative ways to respectfully engage the historic confessions of the church with today’s questions and concerns.
  • I’m convinced that the vitality of the mission, worship, and fellowship of our local congregations will determine the future of the CRC more than any organizational restructuring. I hope to take a look at congregations in different places and situations that might help us see who we are and offer models for our future.
  • Lots more people are accessing The Banner online. I want to move toward offering more exclusive online material, including my own thoughts, and promote the online Banner as a place for robust discussion.

With a fine, experienced staff, a legacy of excellent leadership, and a commitment to interesting, balanced, and fair news reporting, I’m looking forward to a challenging and meaningful year for The Banner. I ask for your prayers, support, and, yes, your charitable criticism as I seek to build an editorial bridge into The Banner’s future.

About the Author

Len Vander Zee is a retired CRC pastor now serving as interim minister of preaching at Church of the Servant CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.

See comments (5)

Comments

Welcome back, Len!  Hope to see you around the office now and then.  Blessings as you prepare for and begin this new chapter of your ministry life!

Welcome aboard Len.  I’m glad for your willingness to tackle such an important and challenging role within our denomination.  I look back over the many names of people who have previously served in your new capacity and know that there have been both joys and frustrations for each.  You, no doubt, will feel both in this year as interim editor.  I hope the joys far outweigh the frustrations.  I also realize that our attention can be easily drawn away from the many joys by the few who frustrate us.  So take heart.  And realize that even though some may criticize you or your staff (hopefully not too many) there are others who appreciate the freshness of looking at life and faith from a fresh and challenging perspective.  Our faith is not so thin that we cannot stand an occasional challenge.  Thanks again for the opportunity to learn from you and your staff, and may God bless you richly.

Glad to see that you continue to use your gifts in "retirement".  It appears you are retooling more than retiring.  I wish you the best as you take on another challenge.

Len, I'm excited that you sense a calling to the Interim Director position at this time in your life and where the CRC and church is. I want an open heart and mind to the Spirit as he uses you to help us have "a strong sense of identity." Praying that you will be used mightily in this season!

Let me introduce myself as Arie and I am already a little confused. You believe our worship is the single most important way in which our faith is formed. The word worship means: the worth of quality or the acknowledgement of the holiness of God, in the case of Christian worship. I can't worship any of God's attributes without the knowledge of who God is compared to my brokeness apart from Christ Jesus. The bible is the gospel because the Word became flesh. So to worship apart from true faith is impossible. A person cannot worship without a saving faith, nor can his worship increase without more knowledge of how holy our God is. Worship only increases as the Holy Spirit reveals Himself through the gospel ..... and the response is worship. Faith is not quantity it's a quality. The more qualities of God we absorb the more we become like Jesus, and the more meaningful worship becomes. I'm just an uneducated farm boy so you may need to clarify.
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