In late January, the Christian Reformed Church hosted representatives from several Reformed churches that are part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) to talk about the role of doctrinal confessions in the life of the church and as a witness in the world.
The consultation grew out of the actions of Synod 2012 (the annual leadership meeting of the CRC). That was the year synod was asked to adopt the Belhar Confession as a fourth confession of the CRC. The CRC currently has three confessions: The Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort, along with a contemporary testimony, “Our World Belongs to God.”
Synod 2012 adopted the Belhar but not as a full confession. Rather, it created a new category called Ecumenical Faith Declarations. However, it did not define the criteria or process by which other documents might be adopted into that category. It asked the denomination’s Ecumenical and Interchurch Relations Committee (EIRC) to work on that definition.
As part of that work, the CRC convened the meeting to talk about the role of confessions and whether a category like Ecumenical Faith Declarations would be useful. In the end, participants expressed appreciation for the consultation but did not endorse such a category.
Rev. William Koopmans is the CRC’s Canadian ecumenical officer and also serves as advisor to the executive of the WCRC. “It was a very engaging conversation,” he said of the meeting. He said that Jerry Pillay, president of WCRC, and Setri Nyomi, the WCRC’s general secretary, expressed deep appreciation for the consultation. He added that it creates continued momentum for further discussion about the role of confessions.
However, Koopmans said, for a variety of reasons the participants at the consultation were not enthusiastic about the creation of a new category.
“If the CRC wishes to continue with the Ecumenical Faith Declaration category, criteria still needs to be developed,” he said. “At least . . . we operated in a transparent way with a gesture of partnership toward other churches. That serves as a model for how these kinds of issues can be discussed, the kind of spirit that ought to prevail.”