Drastic Changes Ahead for Faith Alive

The Christian Reformed Church will continue to publish curriculum and resources for congregations under the brand name Faith Alive, but the task of doing that will likely be realigned with other ministries as part of further advancing the work done by the denomination's Faith Formation Committee over the past several years. 

Last week, the Board of Trustees of the CRC approved a direction for that realignment that is very likely to include dissolving the board of Faith Alive Christian Resources effective June 30. All decisions are subject to the approval of Synod 2013, the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church.

The direction for realignment was also endorsed last week by the board of Faith Alive.

“It was a difficult and somber meeting for us,” said Wilma Wiersma, chair of the Faith Alive board. “It felt a little like stepping off the edge of a map into uncharted waters. But sticking with business as usual was not really an option.”

The proposed changes to Faith Alive are just one piece of much broader work being done by the Task Force to Review Structure and Culture appointed by Synod 2010. That task force is looking at options for restructuring and realigning several agencies and ministries of the denomination as a result of what the proposal refers to as “a convergence of events.”

One of those events is that Faith Alive, in its current state, will be out of cash by June 30.

“Faith Alive’s difficulties coincide with the emerging emphasis on the need to significantly focus on faith formation as the motif for denominational ministries,” wrote Peter Borgdorff in his report to the Board of Trustees. Borgdorff is the CRC’s deputy executive director.

Recognizing that Faith Alive provides valuable educational and other resources for the CRC and the Reformed Church in America, the denomination will look at how to preserve the most critical functions while finding a way for the work to become financially sustainable.

The brand name Faith Alive Christian Resources and the corporate entity by the same name will be retained and will most likely be temporarily placed under the governance of the Board of Trustees of the CRC.

Asked about the financial implications, Borgdorff said that in May there will be a recommendation that an additional 2 percent of ministry shares (approximately $500,000 or $6.52 per professing member) be requested to support the overall faith formation initiative that will include some of the critical functions of Faith Alive and the specialized ministries. (Ministry shares are the funds paid by church members to support denominational ministries; the amount per member is set each year by synod.)

The new initiative will also absorb the ministry shares currently allocated to Faith Alive, which were increased from $12.49 per member to $21.99 by last year’s synod in an effort to shore up Faith Alive’s finances.

In endorsing this new direction, the Faith Alive board noted several items that need to be addressed in further detail, among them the future of World Literature Ministries, the foreign language publishing ministry, and how to preserve the editorial freedom of The Banner, which is housed administratively in Faith Alive.

In a statement to the Board of Trustees, The Banner’s editorial council communicated “its strong concern that The Banner remains a robust, independent voice within any new denominational structures that are taking shape.” The editorial council is made up of members of the Faith Alive board and members of the Board of Trustees.

“We are praying that reorganization will allow the excellent work of Faith Alive’s staff to continue,” Wiersma said. “We believe God calls us to provide resources for the church’s changing cultural context, but with a uniquely Reformed viewpoint. By exchanging a bottom-line driven business model for a more directly ministry-focused model, Faith Alive might even be freed to provide resources to a broader audience at a lower cost.”

The denomination has provided Sunday school materials in some form for more than 100 years. Faith Alive as an agency was organized 45 years ago under the name Board of Publications, later re-named CRC Publications before it came to be called Faith Alive Christian Resources.

A more detailed plan for realignment will come to the Board of Trustees in May for approval, and from there it will go on to Synod 2013, which will meet in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 7-14.

About the Author

Gayla Postma is news editor for The Banner.

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