The Christian Reformed Church in North America will host the inaugural meeting of the newly formed World Communion of Reformed Churches in 2010, CRC officials announced mid-December.
The groups involved in the merger are the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC), based in Grand Rapids, Mich. The organizations have a combined membership of more than 80 million Christians.
“Together these two groups now represent a significant number of Reformed churches around the world,” said Rev. Jerry Dykstra, executive director of the CRC. “Since the CRC is one of the churches in both groups, our participation in the merger has been critical to the process.”
The meeting of the new group’s Uniting General Council, which is expected to draw more than 1,000 delegates and visitors from around the world, is scheduled for June 18-28, 2010, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.
Dykstra said the CRC will serve as one of the host churches and take a major role in coordinating the logistics of the ecumenical event.
WARC is a worldwide fellowship of 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 denominations in 107 countries. REC represents 12 million Reformed Christians in 39 denominations in 25 countries, with 27 of the denominations also belonging to WARC.
The decision to merge came after several years of discussions between WARC and REC. Meeting in Trinidad, WARC agreed to recommend to REC that the new global entity be called the World Communion of Reformed Churches. REC had already agreed to the merger at a meeting in South Africa.
“Coming together like this is an example of where the ecumenical movement is going today. It eliminates some of the visible separation and emphasizes what we can do together,” said Rev. Peter Borgdorff, executive director emeritus of the CRC and one of those who worked to help make the merger happen.
Borgdorff said he has been asked to help draft a constitution for the new organization as well as to help coordinate preparations, in West Michigan and elsewhere, for the 2010 gathering. “It is a great honor for the CRC to be asked to do this,” he said.
Executives from WARC and REC will meet in Grand Rapids early in 2008 to lay the groundwork for the event. Also at that time, the CRC hopes to bring together representatives of many area congregations to discuss ways in which they can be involved in the 2010 meeting, Borgdorff said.
Besides traditional Reformed churches, the new organization will be open to Congregational and other denominations with a Reformed heritage, he added.
Until the past few years, the ecumenical movement was characterized by churches of a like mind banding together. But Borgdorff said that is changing. “In the last 10 years, we are seeing that diversity is good. We don’t all have to be the same—as long as we realize that certain things bind us together.”
WARC general secretary Setri Nyomi said in a WARC press release that this is an historic moment. “The Reformed family has demonstrated that we have the ability to engage together in a united fellowship and overcome divisions.”
Douwe Visser, president of the REC, said in the same press release that the two organizations can have an even broader outreach together. “I have a strong feeling that this new body will be the voice of the Reformed world,” he said.
The key callings of the new Reformed body will be
- to foster Reformed confessional identity and communion among Reformed churches and unity in the whole church;
- to promote justice in the economy and the earth, and all of God’s creation, and to work for peace and reconciliation in the world;
- to encourage the renewal of Reformed worship and spiritual life as a global family of God’s people;
- to strengthen leadership development and the nurture of the covenant community;
- to promote the full participation of women and youths in all aspects of the church’s life;
- to renew a passion among Reformed Christians for God’s mission, both witness and service, in a spirit of partnership and unity;
- to interpret Reformed theology for contemporary witness and for the unity of the church.
For more information on WARC, see http://warc.jalb.de. For more information on REC, see http://rec.gospelcom.net.