Despite cold temperatures outside, Center Grove Church found a warm welcome into the Christian Reformed Church mid-February by Classis Chicago South (a regional group of churches) after it decided to break ties with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The congregation considered four options as part of its decision to leave the PCUSA, said Rick Veen, a current member and past elder of Center Grove Church. They decided that the CRC was the best fit, in part because of their mission orientation.
“We believe [it] is our most effective way to proclaim God’s presence,” Veen said, “and we wanted to join a denomination that seemed to have a compatible philosophy.”
Center Grove had been part of the Whitewater Valley Presbytery since 1982, growing to more than 400 members prior to 2008, with just under 200 attending as of last year. They will remain in their building in Greenwood, Ind., but must search for a new senior pastor since theirs decided to not transition to the CRC.
“We found out that they are part of our ‘family’ even though we’d never met them before,” said Bryce Mensink, stated clerk for Classis South. “That is, after several visits between leaders of the church and leaders of the classis, both sides discovered a remarkable similarity in beliefs and practices. If the Christian Reformed denomination has been growing from a branch on God's family tree, Center Grove Church has been springing from that same branch too.”
Because the stance of Classis Chicago South on women in ministry is similar to that of Center Grove—welcoming and seating any woman elder or pastor as a delegate from the church—they will be part of this classis as opposed to the more geographically aligned Classis Illiana.
“We are excited to be part of a denomination that enthusiastically goes out into the world to make it better and acquaint people with their Savior,” Veen said. “We are nervous, because we are leaving what we know, and accepting a financial burden to do so. We are hanging, because we don’t have a pastor as we take this very large step. We believe, however, that wherever this adventure goes, we are acting in accordance with God’s will.”
For now, the churches of Classis Chicago South will share the responsibility of sending a guest minister of the Word one Sunday each month, ordinarily to lead their monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Mensink said.
“It is our understanding that it is highly unusual for our classes to welcome an entire congregation like Center Grove,” Mensink said. “We are thankful for this opportunity and pray that Center Grove Church will thrive, in part, because Classis Chicago South is an encouragement to them.”