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From time to time, readers bring up questions, theological criticisms, or other issues with articles in The Banner.

I thought a response to some recent criticisms might make a helpful post, particularly for newer readers or those who might be exploring the Christian Reformed Church as a home, in order to point out a few things that might not be known, or might have been forgotten, about The Banner.

1. If you have a question or criticism, you don’t need to go off on social media. The Banner has a "Reply All" section where readers can convey responses to articles to the editorial team. Anyone can write to We appreciate readers digging into the implications of articles and raising another point of view. The Banner doesn't shy away from sharing readers' thoughts when we've missed the mark on something. For example, a letter writer in the March 2023 issue pointed out the importance of truthful language when speaking about abortion: "I agree that our views on abortion should take a back seat in our ministry toward the abortion vulnerable, which is why I read your article with my head nodding—until I got to the part about both sides agreeing that it would be wonderful if terminating a pregnancy was never necessary or desired. The words we use when ‘going low’ and speaking to those who are abortion vulnerable are very important and should be truthful. … So your narrative about abortion being the termination of a pregnancy is hardly the whole story. ... An abortion is a premature termination of a pregnancy, causing the demise of a child. That’s what should be included in our life-affirming narrative. » Emily DeKorte // Tempe, Ariz."

2. Different parts of The Banner have different purposes. I recently read some criticism about one of our Discover columns, calling it “silly and useless.” The critiquer might not have known that Discover is intended for younger audiences and "explores nature, science, and God's amazing, good world." We've heard from some readers who share this with their grandchildren, and other adult readers who appreciate learning interesting facts and the spiritual truths revealed through creation. Synodical guidelines for The Banner include accommodating content particularly geared to children. The Discover column is a way for all readers to discover something they might not have known about God's creation. Other regular columns, such as Faith Matters, Big Questions, and the apologetics column Cross Examination, are more concerned with exploring doctrine and laying out Scripture-focused responses, like in this recent example: If God loves the world (John 3:16), why are we told not to love the world (1 John 2:15)?

3. Another part of The Banner, "Our Shared Ministry," is a section written and edited by the CRCNA's communication team, separate from the editorially independent news, columns, or features in The Banner. Here, the ministries of the CRCNA contribute stories that convey things about their work that they think will be of interest. Critiques of stories from this section sometimes question what’s missing from a story; for example, an online comment about a Resonate Global Ministry piece said: "the need for diversity and new ways of doing things are lauded, but orthodoxy is never mentioned."

Discerning what to focus on and what can reasonably be assumed—such as orthodoxy here, since the article is discussing denomination-planted churches by ordained commissioned pastors or Ministers of the Word—is the choice of ministry staff. Questions about stories in Our Shared Ministry can be directed to that section’s editor, the CRCNA’s Director of Communications and Marketing Kristen deRoo VanderBerg,

In this case, the focus of the article was the blessings found in "a few of the denomination’s newer churches and how they reflect that diversity in culture and ways of approaching ministry." A quote from a Korean-American pastor in New Jersey proffered a reason why diverse churches are needed: "There are not enough churches of various sizes and expressions that can reach every person. ... New Jersey is too diverse ethnically, culturally, socioeconomically, and spiritually to have one ‘expression of the church.’ New church plants with various expressions give us the broadest ability to reach people” (underlining mine).

The CRCNA does have guidelines and a framework for fostering diversity while respecting orthodoxy. Synod 1996 recommended the report, God's Diverse and Unified Family (English, Spanish, Korean) and adopted 12 Biblical and Theological Principles for the Development of a Racially and Ethnically Diverse and Unified Family of God (Acts of Synod 1996, pp. 512-513).

4. Some of The Banner’s storytelling is to share one’s heart. Like for the Discover column, I’ve read online criticism about "The Other 6," which The Banner defines as "stories of discipleship, challenges, and how life experiences shape our faith." This tends to be a column of first-person accounts relaying how faith is lived out Monday to Saturday. A scrutinized story was "The Wise Woman," where a pastor reminisces about an instance of wisdom displayed by a widow that has "stayed with me all these years." Criticism suggesting "readers have not been given any of the information necessary to determine if (the recounted story) is correct," as one blogger wrote, isn’t necessarily fair for a first-person account. The interaction was meaningful to this pastor and that's what was conveyed in the column, an appreciation for the way "Mrs. Wise'' dealt with a man she felt needed correcting. And the pastor is gracious to all parties in recounting the story: "The wise woman did not mock, embarrass, or belittle the man. She waited for the right time to express her opinion to him. She disagreed with him, believing his words were foolish, but she also did not want him to be regarded as foolish," (underlining mine).

5. In general, The Banner, as the CRCNA’s denominational magazine, acts as both a mirror and a forum. It mirrors to its audience—largely Christian Reformed members, though we’re also read by other Reformed folk who no longer have their own denominational magazines—what and who they are (particularly in the news, Faith Matters, and Cross Examination sections). And it provides space for an airing of ideas, while welcoming feedback to those ideas, and embracing as wide of a readership as possible—from appreciators of the Discover column to those wanting to chew on the Big Questions.

We hope our readers will engage with us: Send us questions, suggest media to review, offer news tips, and write to the editor. And we hope you’ll read with grace, understanding that we’re a small team making an effort to reflect the many faces of the CRCNA and foster a forum in which to share.

If you’re not getting The Banner yet, find our free app, subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter, or request the monthly print edition. We’d love to have you as a reader.

Many thanks,

Alissa, News Editor

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