What Really Counts?

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In Acts 2, as the Pentecost story concludes, we’re told that “about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41). And in Acts 11:24, speaking of the diverse church in Antioch, we’re told “a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”

In between these verses are stories of conflict and strife, much of it having to do with elitism, ethnic pride, and an unwillingness to live into authentic unity. The early church had a hard time truly buying into God’s plan for diversity. Recall Peter’s speech of confession in Acts 10: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts people from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). Recall the difficulty the first church council in Jerusalem had in understanding God’s design (Acts 15).

What does this have to do with us and with our 2020 candidates? Well, let’s note that our denomination began as a monolithic group of people, immigrants from one country. As recently as 40 years ago, our Acts of Synod noted that just 1% of the Christian Reformed Church in North America was ethnic minority (Acts of Synod 1980, p. 374). This statement was offered in a tone of rejoicing in progress made. In the year 2000, just 20 years ago, synod approved 34 candidates, 27 of whom were white males, the vast majority having Dutch surnames. Of the other seven, three were female and four were people of color.

This year, 2020, is the first year in our history where over 50% of our candidates are “minority” by previous definitions. The minority has become the majority. The following pages picture 15 people of color (four of whom are female) and four other females outnumbering the 17 white males, a number of whom do not have Dutch surnames. This makes 36 people approved this year to serve the church in ordained pastoral ministry. Each of them counts and is precious in the sight of God. Yet their diversity as a group is noteworthy.

They face a context with struggles similar to those faced by the church in Acts. In a diverse world, the church is still learning how to deal with diversity. In our North American setting, prophetic calls for justice and righteousness are so easily politicized. The tasks of ministry these 36 people will face are as diverse as they are. These candidates are gifts of God to facilitate our call to live into the diverse and unified kingdom of God.

I invite you to rejoice in these candidates and to pray for them. And I invite you to give yourself fully to the vision of Revelation 7, where we behold “a great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9).

For contact information, biographical information, eligibility status, and testimonies from each candidate, visit the candidacy committee website at crcna.org/candidacy.

About the Author

Rev. David Koll Director of Candidacy for the Candidacy Committee of the CRC and the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary

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