Classes Debate Infant Dedication in CRC

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Last fall Neerlandia (Alta.) Christian Reformed Church asked its classis (regional grouping of churches) to declare infant dedication contrary to the confessional standards of the CRC. The Christian Reformed Church practices infant baptism as one of its sacraments.

The overture also called for officebearers who practice or endorse infant dedication be declared in “serious and substantial violation of the Form of Subscription.” That is the form by which officebearers promise to uphold the doctrinal standards of the church.

Classis Alberta North decided not to act right away, allowing time for a study committee to look into the matter. As a result of that study, Classis Alberta North is now asking Synod 2007 to take a closer look at how churches respond to members who request infant dedication.

Rev. Walt Brouwer, who pastors Bethel Community CRC in Edmonton, Alberta, was one of three authors of the report presented to delegates at Alberta North’s recent meeting.

“We discovered that the practice of infant dedication was more widespread in the CRC than we had anticipated,” Brouwer said. “Among those who publicly dedicate infants include both emerging and established churches, including large established churches on both sides of the border.”

Classis Eastern Canada also recently dealt with the issue. At its March meeting, Gayla Postma, a member of Community CRC of Dixon’s Corners, Ontario (and The Banner’s news editor), appealed to the classis to admonish her church’s council for holding a “baby blessing” service. Classis Eastern Canada sustained the appeal.

Brouwer isn’t surprised to hear that the matter is one other classes are confronting head on. “This is an issue the denomination faces, not just our own classis,” says Brouwer. Alberta North’s overture focuses on the pastoral implications of the issue, asking synod to look at “how churches can pastorally respond to those Christians among them who cannot in good conscience subscribe to infant baptism, and who seek recourse in infant dedication.”

Though Brouwer is pleased that synod is being asked to give direction on the issue, he hopes it will not result in division. “I believe the CRC has an opportunity here to serve the church well by putting together a theologically competent, pastorally sensitive study committee,” he says.

About the Author

Rachel Boehm Van Harmelen is a writer and consultant specializing in communications for nonprofit organizations. She and her husband, Peter, have four children and live in Fall River, Nova Scotia, where they attend All Nations Christian Reformed Church

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