To celebrate a strengthening sisterhood that blurs historical boundaries, two classes (groups of churches) in the western United States held a joint meeting in March. Both are named Rocky Mountain, but one classis belongs to the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and the other belongs to the Reformed Church in America (RCA).
The sister classes met March 10 and 11 in Denver, Colo., with delegates representing about 45 churches from Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas.
“It took a lot of pushing things together to make [the meeting] work,” said Rev. Mark Hilbelink, the stated clerk for the CRC’s Classis Rocky Mountain. “But both parties were very interested in making it work.”
These Rocky Mountain extensions of the RCA and the CRC need each other, Hilbelink said. “When you’re on the periphery, far from Grand Rapids geographically and culturally, a lot of differences get laid down a lot faster.” (Both denominations have strong representation and leadership in Grand Rapids, Michigan.)
Church planting is the number one way these classes cooperate – because it is their first order of business, according to Hilbelink. These are exciting times for his classis, he said, with “a glut of church plants in the last five years in Denver, Houston, and Austin [Texas].”
The joint worship service was the highlight of the shared meetings, Hilbelink said. The service included lament for “places where the church is still segregating itself along race, denominational, and class lines” and celebration that “we’ve come this far – this is a jumping off point.”
The church of the southwest is becoming increasingly diverse, according to Hilbelink. “There are six languages spoken in our classis. That’s the coming change and something that we’re all celebrating. We’re celebrating that things are interchanging and growing and breaking out of denominational lines.”
The Christian Reformed Church separated from the Reformed Church in America in 1857. In celebration of recent growing ties between the two denominations, a 2014 joint synod (denominational leadership meeting) resolved to “act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel [us] to act separately.”