Cornerstone Christian Reformed Church, located inside the South Dakota State Penitentiary, took a big step in September when it became a full-fledged congregation with its own church council.
Eight years ago, Rev. Steve Moerman and his wife, Diane, began a church inside the penitentiary with a congregation of inmates who were excited to continue or begin a relationship with God. Classis Iakota, the regional group of churches, supported the ministry as an emerging church in the CRC.
On September 17, Classis Iakota unanimously voted to allow Cornerstone to become an “organized” church, one that has its own council rather than being under the care of a neighboring congregation.
Moerman noted that the church has both inmate officebearers as well as non-inmate. He said, “We hope to maintain two elders and one deacon who live outside of the prison.” These men, along with their inmate counterparts, will attend classis meetings with Moerman, and they will be members of Cornerstone as they serve their terms. “Those who are living on the outside are making a big commitment, as they will transfer their church memberships to Cornerstone Prison Church while they serve, Moerman explained.
This change will affect the church’s relationship with classis as well. The congregation will be weaning itself from direct classis financial support and develop other forms of financing its work.
Moerman said the move to organized status means the congregation has come of age. “It means that the outside church has entrusted the church behind the walls to stand on its own and handle its own affairs. It helps the men to see their place in the kingdom and gives a true sense of purpose, a true sense of ownership,” he said. “For those who often have little or no status in the world, this means a lot.”
See here for a recent video about this ministry.