For the first time ever, the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) held a joint session of their respective synods Thursday afternoon.
Timing was perfect for the event because the RCA synod began as the CRC synod wrapped up, and both met at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“Steps have been slowly coming together since first we went apart,” said Rev. James Dekker, president of the CRC synod. The RCA and the CRC separated in 1857 but in recent years have been working together in several ways.
The joint session began with the two denominational directors sitting down together for what they called an “informal chat.”
Delegates process to the Calvin College chapel for combined worship.
Photo: Karen Huttenga
“This is like a family reunion at long last,” said Rev. Joel Boot, interim director of the CRC. “We celebrate the fact that we are closer now than we have been since 1857. For the glory of God and the good of the church and the world, I give thanks to God.”
Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, retiring general secretary of the RCA, pointed out a few distinctions between the denominations: “You [the CRC] are really a bi-national church in a full way. . . . You’re very cohesive—you put your mind to something and get it done. . . . The RCA is more diverse and has a deep ecumenical involvement.”
Delegates from both synods heard several examples of the two denominations’ work together.
Church planters Revs. Nate and Andrea DeWard spoke about the Kingdom Enterprise Zone, a joint church multiplication endeavor the denominations share.
“We know that we are on the same team,” said Andrea DeWard. “We’re bringing together the best of our resources. We’re coming together to be a witness to Christ’s unity.”
Mark Rice, director of Faith Alive Christian Resources, the CRC’s publishing house, spoke about the shared publishing work of the denominations. He said the partnership works because the denominations have “kindred hearts.”
The delegates of the two synods together adopted new translations of the Reformed confessions, a project shared by the two denominations. The translations had been approved earlier by each synod individually. Ratification of the proposal came by way singing together a hearty chorus of “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”
Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, gave closing remarks.
“The world is hungry for models of healing and reconciliation,” Nyomi said. “We pray that the RCA and the CRC will be one so that the world may believe the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we all serve.”
Delegates then filed in a procession to the college chapel for a joint worship service that included a communion celebration.