World Renew Changes Bylaws

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The Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church approved revised bylaws for World Renew, the relief and development agency of the CRC.

Some changes affect only World Renew-Canada, and are intended to bring it into compliance with Canadian legislation regarding not-for-profit organizations. “The government of Canada expects us to direct and control our activities and resources,” said Jim Joosse, president of World Renew-Canada. “We are not only beneficiaries of donations but also of funds from the government of Canada, acting as its agent.”

The board also approved revisions that allow World Renew to have members of its partner organizations on its governing board.

All members must ascribe to World Renew’s statement of faith, which includes the CRC’s creeds and confessions and also the Belhar Confession.

Although World Renew delegates can be drawn from partner organizations, all members will have to be nominated by the World Renew board and approved by synod (the annual leadership meeting of the CRC).

Additionally, at least three-quarters of the membership of the board of directors, which is elected from among the delegates, must be members of a CRC congregation.

About the Author

Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.

See comments (15)


"The board also approved revisions that allow World Renew to have members of its partner organizations on its governing board." Who are all the partner organizations?

These changes should be a concern to all of us. This is one world government and religion in the the works.

"All members must ascribe to World Renew’s statement of faith, which includes the CRC’s creeds and confessions and also the Belhar Confession."  Since the Belhar is not a confession of the CRCNA does this mean only some of the CRC's membership would be allowed to serve on the World Renew board (those who would subscribe to the Belhar)?

"Ascribe" is a mushy word.  What is the actual language of the by-laws?  Does anyone have it?  If "ascribe" means to accept the Belhar as an Ecumenical Faith Declaration, as synod has decided, all is well.  If "ascribe" means to "subscribe" in the full doctrinal sense, I agree that World Renew has gone well beyond the synodical decision and is cutting a significant porion of the CRCNA membership from serving on the board.  If someone has it, please post the actual by-law language.

Bill - I do agree that "ascribe" is a mushy word.  But since the Belhar is not included in our "Covenant for Office-Bearers," no member or office-bearer is required to make any ascription or commitment to the Belhar.  Sure, we as a denomination have placed it in a special category and identified that it has a value, but we have required no personal commitment to it.  Even at Synod 2013, the BOT had proposed adding it to the Synod's declaration, but it was taken out deliberately by Synod itself.

Here is the relevant section from the bylaws:

The Corporation hereby adopts the following Statement of Faith which must be subscribed to by every Member, Director, the Joint Ministry Council, officer, missionary and other worker of the Corporation:


WE BELIEVE that the Scriptures, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, are God’s infallible written Word.  We believe that it was uniquely, verbally and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it is the supreme and final authority in all matters on which it speaks.  We subscribe to the following three creeds:  The Apostles` Creed, The Athanasian Creed, and the Nicene Creed.

We subscribe to the Contemporary Testimony “Our World Belongs to God`

We subscribe to the Ecumenical Faith Declaration “The Belhar Confession”


Each Member, Director or officer shall execute and subscribe to the Statement of Faith:

         at the time of admission, election or appointment as a Member, Director, or                                                                        officer, as applicable; and


          annually at the time of re-election or re-appointment, as applicable.


Any Member, Director or officer who ceases to subscribe to the Statement of Faith shall automatically cease to hold office as hereinafter provided in this By-law.



I used to get email noification when new comments were posted in a thread I had commented on, so I didn't realize Gayla had posted the new language.  The new language is very troubling.  It would require that I "subscribe" to two different documents that the old Form of Subscription and the new Covenant for Officebearers do not require subscription to (the Contemporary Testimony and Belhar) but do not mention the three confessions that we must subscribe to (the Heidelberg, Belgic and Canons).  Why are two subsidiary documents raised to subscription level and the three confession eliminated?

Remember when they told us the name change would not mean a substantive change in their relationship to the denomination?

It seems they didn't mean it.

One of the seminal issues facing the CRCNA is the collapse of trust between leadership and led, and it is precisely this kind of decision that leads to that collapse.

Here is the official response which I am forwarding from World Renew:

As a newly-hired employee of World Renew (and former Board president), I can assure you that World Renew has not attempted to lie or deceive in any way with regards to its name change or bylaws. World Renew is a committed and grateful agency of the CRCNA, faithfully working with you for our Lord in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our world. As with the name change our bylaws are subject to approval by the Christian Reformed denomination and are being proposed, discussed, and accepted following standard CRCNA procedures. The proposed bylaw changes were recently approved by the CRCNA Board of Trustees whose decisions are subject to review by Synod. 

You might also be interested in noting that the proposed changes to World Renew's bylaws are specific to the Canadian portion of World Renew's board, not the full bi-national board.  Your main concern seems to be about the statement of faith.  This section remains almost entirely unchanged from previous versions, with the exception that the Belhar Confession is now added.  World Renew staff and board feel that this confession is an eloquent articulation of the church's passion for standing with those who suffer from injustice.  Since it is also a synodically approved "Ecumenical faith declaration" of the CRCNA we felt it was important to include. 

I want to thank you for the passion that you have for World Renew that is evident from your strong reaction to this proposed bylaw change.  People like you are what make World Renew's work possible.  I would encourage you to continue dialoguing with us about how we can best work on behalf of the CRC to meet the needs of disaster survivors and those in poverty around the world.  I would urge anyone who has concerns about these bylaws to use standard CRCNA processes or one-on-one conversations with our directors, not by withholding funding for essential programs and services from the world's poor and vulnerable.


Peter Bulthuis

I encourage you to contact our office if you have further questions.

US: 1-800-552-7972
Canada: 1-800-730-3490

Thanks for posting their response, Wendy.

I'd only say, we have a Covenant for Office Bearers in the CRCNA.  World Renew should not be writing its own, particularly in a way that is more restrictive than that for office bearers in general.  If they wished to convey the same meaning, they should have mirrored the language of that Covenant - language hashed out over much discussion, argument, and extensive efforts at building a consensus for the denomination. By using the word "subscribe" in their revised bylaws, World Renew is effectively bypassing the Covenant for Office Bearers and putting that hard-won consensus at risk.

I pray it was merely a poorly thought out use of words.  I am afraid the issue goes somewhat deeper.

World Renew should publish the new Canadian bylaws. Like they say, "follow the money folks, follow the money." There is no question that World Renew is working as an NGO for the government, not the CRC. Sustainable Development sounds nice, but it's world government that will end up controlling you and your religion in the name of the poor. Taking away peoples freedom.

It's important to recognize that this does not serve the same purpose as a covenant for office bearers. I believe they are working to revise the language in the bylaws to make that clearer. I encourage you to contact Andy Ryskamp for the exact details.

You can contact the Canadian office for a copy of the bylaws. And in the world of community development, sustainable develoment refers to something that will have long term effects, as opposed to handouts or short term fixes. Again, I encourage you to contact the office and speak with someone directly as opposed to reading into things that may or may not be the complete story and are produced in a different context.

As Wendy says, it would be much more helpful to dialogue about your concerns.  I would like to understand how a conclusion can be made that World Renew is working as an NGO for the government when we are having clear values stated in both the current and proposed version of our bylaws about working for God to extend His mercy and justice to those who live in poverty, disaster and injustice?  Is there an assumption being made that the governments are now willing to follow biblical truths as well as the creeds and confessions of the CRCNA?  And if we follow the money, why would we be working for the government when sources of direct government funding (if you refer to the 2012 Annual Ministry Report of World Renew) was only $1,012,222 or less than 3% out of the total gifts we received of $44,768,312?  There seem to be some fears here that are much better addressed in personal conversation.  The word "subscribe" has been noted as a poor choice of words which the board will review in its December meeting and revise to something more appropriate such as "affirm".  The potential partners include denominations and Christians that work with us so also follow God's Word and truths.  So how would that lead to a world government leading to control of us and our faith?  We would love to understand more how you come to such conclusions which I think a personal conversation would help to do.  Our office contact is on the website so let us know how to reach you.  

Wendy, it is disingenuous to say it doesn't serve the same purpose as the Covenant for Office Bearers (CfOB).  To be sure, it does not apply to Church officers, but it does apply to World Renew officials (and employees, missionaries, etc. - anyone who might in some way, shape, or form speak for the organization).  It is intended to instill a uniformity of message as well as a common foundation for the work.  In other words, it serves precisely the same function as the CfOB, except for World Renew rather than the denomination.

That it serves this function is obvious in part from its use of the same language, particularly the use of the word "subscribe."  That word means something quite specific in a CRC context.  It was the objection to using that word with regard to the Belhar and Contemporary Testimony that had the denomination roiled for the last 2-3 years.  I cannot believe the leadership of World Renew is oblivious to that debate and discussion.

And by using that word with regards to those two documents - the Belhar and Contemporary Testimony - World Renew has essentially placed doctrinal requirements on its officials that a significant portion of the CRCNA is now in a situation their consciences will not permit them to agree to those bylaws and thus cannot serve with World Renew in any substantial capacity.

Ida, I hear you.  I am dialoguing about my concerns - here and elsewhere.  But allow me to suggest World Renew would have been far better served if (a) they had sought broader dialogue before making this move; and/or (b) accepting the decision of Synod after denomination-wide dialogue on the subject of subscription to the Belhar and Contemporary Testimony by using language similar to that of the CfOB.

While I do not believe there is a conspiracy - there is not active, secretive collusion - it is nevertheless clear that too many in the leadership of this denomination are trying to force the Belhar on us despite Synod's decision in 2012 (witness the attempt to foist it on delegates to last year's Synod) and this is, rightly or wrongly, nevertheless understandably seen as of a piece with that.