Letters to the Editor

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Making Room

While I appreciate much of what is written in the editorial “Making Room,” it does not accurately convey what synod decided regarding the reports submitted by the Committee to Provide Pastoral Guidance re Same-sex Marriage. As the reporter for the advisory committee that dealt with this matter at synod, I believe it is important to clarify what synod actually decided.

It is not correct that synod "adopted the recommendations of the committee's minority report." The precise wording of synod's decision was to "receive the majority and minority reports for information and recommend to the churches the pastoral guidance of the minority report." While it is true that the recommendations synod approved include prohibiting officebearers from solemnizing same-sex marriages, on the subject of what participating in a same-sex wedding might entail, synod simply affirmed the minority report's "cautions about involvement of officebearers in such ceremonies."

Thus, in this matter synod did not so much adopt formal policy (with the prospect that church discipline might be administered to those deemed to have strayed from such policy) as it recommended pastoral guidance.

The editorial commendably identifies the need for pastoral sensitivity when discussing the subjects of same-sex attraction and same-sex marriage in our churches, and I hope that this clarification will help this pastoral sensitivity to flourish.

—Peter Hoytema
Strathroy, Ont.

Doctrine of Discovery

I can well imagine the discussions, meetings, correspondence, and concerns that prompted the writing of the article “Rehoboth, Zuni Churches Criticize Doctrine of Discovery Synodical Report.” I too think it is unfair to criticize former missionaries who worked under the same CRC church empowered by the same Holy Spirit. We all made/make mistakes but did our best to be obedient to the call we were given.

Classis Red Mesa asked appropriately that synod not adopt the report until further study. We do not live in the shoes, culture, government of bygone decades. We do our best to rectify mistakes of the past, but the next generation will likely look upon present-day reports and shake their heads at mistakes being made today too. We need to appreciate with the Navajo and Zuni people that God allowed the CRC to be present on the reservation and be thankful for many good and fair decisions. God has blessed the efforts.

—Eunice (Post) Hop
Baldwin, Wis.

Re “Synodical Committee Rejects Doctrine of Discovery, Criticizes CRC Ministry to Navajo:” First, I do not defend the Doctrine of Discovery as it was practiced by colonial nations. Nor would I deny the sad fact that missionaries in history have been guilty of teaching and imposing cultural mores when the real goal should have been to teach about Jesus.

However, I disagree strongly with the opinion of the CRC Task Force “that the CRC and the entire body of Christ in North America ‘drinks downstream’ from that historical reality.” This broad assertion completely ignores how many missionaries have gone to live among different people groups, showing sacrificial love and, at the same time, acceptance of cultural differences. If we are “drinking downstream” from the Doctrine of Discovery, we must also be “drinking downstream” from the heritage of those who have cared deeply for those to whom they have carried the name of Jesus.

—Stephen M. Boer
Kent, Wash.

Something Is Missing

Thanks for your editorial concerning the frequency of celebrating the Lord’s Supper (“Something Is Missing.” Do you think it might be possible to assemble some worldwide data on this subject? It would be interesting to know how often the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in the Americas, China, Africa, South Korea, etc.

Keep up your good work!

—John Slager
Hoover, Ala.

I am 88 years old and a lifelong member of the Christian Reformed Church. We always had communion and also the Ten Commandments (“Something Is Missing”). The commandments were read at every service, but not anymore. I believe we need the Ten Commandments to start our day every day. None of us is perfect so we need them to remind us how to live. We must try to keep the commandments with God’s help. I miss this practice in worship and am going to ask our pastor why we don’t hear them regularly. Please write an article on the Ten Commandments and why we need them to be read at every service.

—Marlys Wilts
Holland, Iowa

Invite Me for Coffee

The article “Why I Want You to Invite Me Out for Coffee” certainly makes one stop and think. Every person, regardless of age or status in life, needs and wants to know that somebody cares. With the constant chatter of TV and handheld devices we are losing the personal eye contact we need to fill our lives with love and a sense of belonging. Thanks, Hannah Biggs, for a job well done.

—Esther M. Rayburn
Battle Creek, Mich.

Sol de Valle Ministry

The news story “California Community Center Helps Church Reach Out” incorrectly portrayed the Sol del Valle Community Center as having been started by Bethel, Sun Valley CRC. In reality it was begun by Home Missions’ Sol del Valle ministry. In 1987 the “amnesty” law was passed and the Center responded to the need to assist Hispanic immigrants with legalization documentation. Over 600 people were helped; this led to ESL and job training classes. The Sol del Valle church disbanded in 2012, but before then a Bethel Church member took the initiative to fund and direct the Center. Only a couple of years ago, an agreement was reached with Bethel Church to define the working relationship between the Center and the church. Many former Sol del Valle members and some recipients of Community Center services are now attending Bethel as members and leaders. There are valuable lessons to be learned from 30 years of complex strategy issues.

—Lou Wagenveld
Escondido, Calif.

Slowing Up

I deeply appreciated the poem “Slowing Up.” Please print more poems if possible. The May issue was one of the best! The articles were pertinent to every family and great for discussion.

—Carol Kok
Randolph, Wisc.

Genesis

I’ve been wrestling with “The Fabric of Creation: Understanding Genesis.” I was happy to have someone take seriously the study of Scripture by delving into the historical context and literary form. But reflecting further on this idea of “requirements” to unlocking the mystery of Scripture, I was disturbed by the thought that those “extras” make Scripture inaccessible to the nonacademic person.
I would argue that evolution and creationism are mutually exclusive because of the character of God revealed in Scripture, and that we should not teach that there are barriers between God’s people and what his Spirit reveals to us in his Word. God does not share his glory with anything or anyone else, and so all of creation is not testifying about evolution but is praising the one true creator, the God of the Bible.

—Matthew McClure
Prairie City, Iowa

All Things

I have read Scott Hoezee’s article “All Things!,” seen the movie The Tree of Life, and read reviews by O. Scott of the New York Times and Roger Ebert.

Neither of them comments about the scene near the beginning of the movie where God asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4).

The film has many scenes of earthquakes, storms, and other cosmic activity and gives the impression that they happened as part of creation when God was turning the chaos of the universe into the cosmos of our world.

Is there room in our theology for such thoughts? Can we stretch the length of the creation days to longer periods to make room for the activity described in the movie?

If you haven’t read the article, I suggest you do, and then see the movie.

—Peter Kamp
Palos Heights, Ill.

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Comments

I appreciate Peter Hoytema’s clarification (to the article, Making Room), that Synod merely recommended the pastoral advice of the minority report rather than adopting the pastoral advice of the minority report as formal policy.  That pretty much means that churches can now do as they please in regard to the homosexual issue and same sex marriage.  There is a big difference between “recommending” and “legislating” a course of direction.  This should be good news for the churches which were hoping for a more open policy in regard to the homosexual issue.  Thanks for the clarification.

Marlys Wilts believes we need to start each day reading the Ten Commandments to remind us how to live.  Actually the Decalogue was given to the ancient Israelites through Moses to show them no one can meet God's standard of perfection and holiness. That they desperately needed a Savior.  The Ten Commandments reflected old covenant legalism. Under the new covenant Christians are under grace not law. Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf. The more we appreciate Christ's finished work the more we want to love God and neighbor,as Jesus taught us. The Law of Christ is etched on our hearts not on tablets of stone.  

Interesting take, Joe, on the ten commandments. The Jewish religion was a very prohibitive religion and by the time it had reached Jesus’ day, it had become even more prohibitive. The ten commandments when applied to daily living entailed thousands of further legalisms and prohibitions.  And this is what Jesus saw as his mission, to criticize and rebel against such a religion that thrived mainly on prohibitions.   When Jesus was asked to identify the greatest of the commandments, instead of identifying any of the commandments (even from the ten commandments), he said the greatest is to love God and neighbor.  Instead of living according to a list of prohibitions, Jesus sanctioned a life of compassion.  Live by the golden rule, of doing for others, Instead of living by the rules, which meant stoning the woman caught in adultery, show compassion for her and offer forgiveness.  Instead of passing by the man dying alongside of the road (which the Jewish law sanctioned), show compassion for him whatever it might take.  And as you live such a life of compassion for others, you at the same time show love for God and win his approval, both, now and in eternity (as you have done it unto one of the least of these you have done it unto me).  Jesus endorsed a life of love and compassion, in place of prohibitive religion.  It doesn’t take love or compassion to live by the rules, even the ten commandments.  So today, when I hear someone wanting to hear the ten commandments on a weekly basis, I hear a cry for the old Reformed prohibitive religion.  Rule keeping doesn’t require love, anyone can live by the rules, but it won’t meet with the approval of Jesus.

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