In his last “state of the church” address as executive director of the Christian Reformed Church, Rev. Joel Boot lifted up the image of a child with a rare disease held in God’s loving arms.
With a projected image of cradled arms behind him, Boot told of his 7-year-old granddaughter, Addison Post fighting rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments since birth. For a fund-raiser’s T-shirt she chose the quote Boot invoked in his first and final sermons as her pastor at Ridgewood CRC in Jenison: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).
Boot urged delegates to Synod 2014 to keep Addison’s faith in mind as they face a world of pain and need.
“We do well each moment to put these hands, ours, into those hands, God’s,” Boot told delegates Monday night. “And realize the everlasting arms are beneath us, and there we must work together.”
In an emotional 32-minute speech, Boot both celebrated the church’s progress during his three-year tenure and challenged it to do more. He was appointed interim executive director in 2011 and extended his stay last year after a nominee withdrew. Following his address, synod interviewed and appointed Steve Timmermans to the CRC’s top administrative post.
Boot placed the arduous search for a new executive director in divine context as well: “While we looked, God led. And though patience sometimes wore thin, and hope was frequently wounded along the way, the wait was worth it, and we are better for it.”
Boot wiped away tears as delegates gave him an extended standing ovation at the end of his talk. Synod president Rev. Scott Greenway fought tears of his own as he praised Boot’s handling of a difficult transition after the previous executive director stepped down.
“You have served well,” Greenway said. “You have sought to be transparent and you have always been honest. It’s just been a joy watching you serve.”
Boot admitted he had misgivings after being appointed, asking himself, “What have I done?” But he added, “Now I can much more clearly stand amazed and say, thank God for what he has done and continues to do.”
Praising the “upheaval” God has brought to the CRC in the past three years, Boot talked of the church’s widening engagements: closer collaboration with the Reformed Church in America, membership in the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and unsteady but sure progress toward becoming a binational church.
“We are truly leaning into the future, not waiting for it to come,” Boot said. “We are people on a journey.”
He also pointed to progress toward inclusion, with the CRC employing 20 percent people of color and 20 percent women in upper leadership positions. But he said much remains to be done there and in the church’s response to problems such as climate change and illegal immigration.
“In a broken world filled with broken people, the initial stance must be a broken heart, and not an argument about a broken law,” he said.
And while acknowledging membership losses and shortfalls in ministry shares, Boot urged churches to spread the good news beyond their walls and place their trust in God.
“God can do nothing for me until I get to the limit of the possible,” Boot said. “So right here, at the limit of the possible, I remind us all that the eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Synod 2014 is meeting at Central College in Pella, Iowa, from June 13-19. For continuous Banner coverage, please follow The Banner on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at www.thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit www.crcna.org/synod. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.