Anniversary Conference Faces Denomination’s Future

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Facing the future of the Christian Reformed Church was the topic that brought 250 people to a conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., in September. The three-day conference, “Assessing the Past, Facing the Future”, was held in conjunction with the denomination’s 150th anniversary.

Author and Dordt College professor James Schaap suggested the CRC should be less concerned about what part of it will die than what part of it should live on. Schaap noted the CRC contributes a unique view of life “that begins in a commitment to the Lord but doesn’t stop there; [it] includes, in fact, just as strong a commitment to this world.”

Schaap called fundamentalism and materialism the CRC’s greatest threats and observed that as the CRC’s ethnic glue gives way it will need to work at nurturing a sense of denominational identity. “It likely needs to be more intentional about that task,” said Schaap, noting that many CRC people are unsure what it means to be Reformed.

Rev. Stanley Jim of Fort Wingate, New Mexico, a CRC Home Missions Native American ministry team leader, said he has hope for the future of the CRC but only if its foundation is in Christ and not in its Dutch ethnicity. “The makeup of the church is diverse, but do I belong as a Native American in the CRC? If God is the foundation, then I belong.”

Conferees agreed that the CRC must widen the denominational circle. Margaret Hummelman, a Calvin Theological Seminary student from British Columbia, is hopeful about the future of the CRC. “I feel the doors are opening. Diversity is happening and with that, inevitably, change will come,” she said. Hannah Lodewyks, a 21-year-old Redeemer University College student from Ancaster, Ontario, stressed the importance of the CRC being a missional church. “We have to speak the language of the culture,” said Lodewyks.

Recalling the words of Reformed forefather Abraham Kuyper, who instructed his followers to claim every square inch of creation for Christ, Rev. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, urged his listeners to go into the world to be present to its pain and to learn from those who suffer. “We must occupy the square inches of suffering,” he said. He challenged the CRC “to continue to follow the Lamb wherever he goes.”

Booklets containing all the conference speeches may be purchased from Faith Alive Christian Resources: 1-800-333-8300, faithaliveresources.org.

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