On October 28, Centrepointe Community Christian Reformed Church (formerly Glad Tidings CRC) in Edmonton, Alberta, held a special service to confess and apologize to a brother and sister in Christ who were wronged 35 years ago.
Emmy and Fred Devries
Glad Tidings began as an outreach ministry in the early 1960s. In 1970, Fred Devries was hired as a ministry leader and evangelist. Under his leadership and that of his wife, Emmy, the ministries of Glad Tidings flourished. A prison ministry was started, Bible studies and Sunday services were held, and boys and girls clubs grew to include a coffeehouse as well as a teen drop-in center.
However, as more families called Glad Tidings their home church, challenges emerged. Because it was not a formally established church, Glad Tidings could not hold memberships. And because Devries was not ordained as a minister of the Word, he could not administer the sacraments.
All agree that the decision to organize as a church in 1976 was done correctly but that the issue of Devries’s role and future with the congregation was handled poorly and unjustly. There was no discussion of a possible role for an evangelist in the newly organized church and no discussion of severance.
In the spring of 1977, after a farewell party, the Devries family left for Ontario. The situation was very hurtful at the time, but Fred and Emmy said they have not harbored any ill feelings.
Meanwhile, for 35 years the actions surrounding the Devrieses’ departure remained an unsettling event for many in the church. Bill Diepeveen said, “I really felt pushed to do something. Many of the leaders at the time were getting old, some key people had already passed away, and if something meaningful was to be done, the time was long overdue.” Diepeveen was a key organizer of the reconciliation service.
Representatives from the original Glad Tidings congregation and the steering committee took part in the service. A litany of confession (see below) was read, and Devries was invited to serve communion together with Roy Berkenbosch, an ordained pastor and former Glad Tidings member. Diepeveen emphasized that “at the end of the day, it was obedience to God's prodding that brought the service to life.”
When asked how the service was for them, Emmy Devries answered, “It was an amazing experience, one in which we really sensed God’s blessing and approval. We were overwhelmed by the love, sincerity, and generosity of the church. It was, in fact, a true, God-glorifying reconciliation and celebration.”
Litany of Confession
Fred and Emmy, on behalf of what was then the Glad Tidings community, we confess that we acted in error in failing to consider the impacts of our decision on you and your family.
We confess our neglect and insensitivity and ask for your forgiveness.
Our failure to provide for you was a serious shortcoming that showed disrespect to you and a lack of appreciation for your many years of faithful service to the Calder community.
We confess our disrespect and ask for your forgiveness.
We have also sinned in that we did not observe God’s will that we “consider those who labor in preaching and teaching to be worthy of double honor.”
We confess our failure to honor you and ask forgiveness from you and from God who sent you to us.>
Fred and Emmy, we acknowledge that our actions have hurt you deeply and that that you have unfairly borne this burden alone for 35 years. Your gracious and uncomplaining acceptance of our actions highlights our failure and causes us great remorse, especially given the blessing which you were to us for the years of your service.
Before all those present here we confess our deep regret and remorse. We apologize for our actions and the pain that this has caused you and your family.
We remember with great gratitude and joy the many ways in which you both were a blessing to us: your willing spirit; your humility; your friendly engagement with the community; your encouragement of us, many of whom were so young in our faith; your easy accessibility; your generous hospitality; your faithful relationship with God; your clear and winsome evangelistic message.
For all these gifts you shared so freely with us, we thank you, Fred and Emmy. And we thank you, Triune God, Lord of the church, giver of all good gifts, for blessing us through Fred and Emmy in the early days of our life together as the Glad Tidings community.
On behalf of all those present here we offer you, very belatedly, this gift as a sign of our appreciation for you and an affirmation of your role as the founding pastor of Glad Tidings Christian Reformed Church.