Six West Michigan pastors—all in their 30s—are leading an effort to unite people who hope for a redirection of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
Convinced that the CRC has lost its scriptural bearings, the group held a “Returning Church” conference in September, attracting about 450 leaders and laypeople.
“There are many who feel that the denomination no longer benefits from careful attention to the Scriptures and an enthusiastic recognition of the value of its confessional treasure,” the organizers wrote about the conference. “This evening’s meeting is the beginning of an exploration of ways that the Lord may be pleased to bring renewal to our denomination.”
Both Rev. Joel Nederhood, former voice of the CRC’s “Back to God Hour” radio program, and Rev. Gerard Dykstra, executive director of the CRC, were invited to speak at the conference, and both men later took questions from the audience. “I am very pleased that [conference organizers] are seeking ways to work within the Christian Reformed Church to encourage the church with their ideas,” Dykstra said. “They are a part of the denomination that also needs a voice and needs to be heard.”
The crowd was an “interesting mix” of 20- to 30-somethings and people over 50 years old, with few people in the middle age group, said organizer Rev. Chad Steenwyk of Central Avenue CRC, Holland, Mich.
Those involved with the Returning Church event expressed their affinity with the Christian Reformed Church and their unwillingness to leave its fold.
Since the meeting, pastors from across North America have expressed their support, and some Midwest pastors have tentative plans to hold a similar meeting.
“We’re seeing if this should become something more organized to give conservative churches a place to belong in the CRC,” said Steenwyk.
Rev. Richard Zekveld of Transcona CRC in Winnipeg, Manitoba, left a message on the group’s Web-log site. “I was very excited, very encouraged to know that there were many around the denomination who share my concerns about the direction of the CRC and have a heart to work within it for renewal,” he said.
“I would like to see the CRC return to a more unembarrassed testimony to the Reformed faith,” said Rev. LeRoy Christoffels of Worthington ( Minn.) CRC, who plans to initiate a Midwest gathering. “Sometimes . . . we end up sounding a lot like the culture around us.”
At a follow-up leadership meeting, the six pastors decided to create “position papers” for their congregations—statements of belief on issues such as women in office and use of the confessions in worship.
These are necessary “because the CRC no longer has a united position on things,” said Rev. C.J. den Dulk of Trinity CRC, Sparta, Mich.