Synod Repents of Historical and Present Racism

News

Synod 2007 opened its last day with a service of repentance for personal and institutional racism, focusing particularly on a 1920 synodical decision that was motivated by racist thinking.

Synod 1920 chose China over Sudan for missions because “the intellectual spirit of the Chinese harmonizes more with the character of our people than the emotional nature of the Africa natives” (Acts of Synod 1920, p. 48ff.). That synod reasoned that Sudan’s people “are the type . . . of whom one cannot expect the most in the Kingdom of God.”

“In what we’ve done personally and as an institution, we are filled with the sin of racism,” said Rev. Jerry Dykstra, the Christian Reformed Church’s executive director. “The 1920 decision is the public example of [our racism] that is in the permanent record.”

Delegates formed a large circle around the Calvin College Fine Arts Center auditorium, sang, prayed, and listened to passages from the Belhar Confession and from Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony.

In his prayer Rev. Joel Nederhood , Classis Illiana, said, “We have set a little time aside to repent before you. We sin against our fellow man . . . and we sin against you, O God. . . . You blessed our work in China, but when we look at the decision to go there, we see that we turned our back on a continent because we considered them an inferior people. Racism is in our bones. Have mercy on us, O God. . . . Forgive us.”

Ethnic adviser Irene Bakker encouraged delegates to also rejoice that Chinese and African people are serving the CRC today. “We sit down together at the same table,” she said.

As they dispersed from the repentance service, delegates were encouraged to linger awhile as they personally sought reconciliation with one another.


About the Authors

Bob De Moor is a retired Christian Reformed pastor living in Edmonton, Alta.

Roxanne Van Farowe is a freelance writer living in North Carolina. She has reported on synod, the annual decision-making gathering of the CRC, for many years.

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