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Synod 2015 Urges Churches to Engage with the Belhar Confession


After a contentious discussion, Synod 2015 (the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church) encouraged CRC congregations “to study and incorporate [the Belhar Confession’s] themes into their discipling and liturgical ministries.”

Rev. Steve Bussis, Classis Zeeland, opposed the move, saying that Synod 2012 already said what —needed to be said. In 2012, synod discussed the Belhar Confession and decided not to adopt it as a confessional standard but rather as an ecumenical faith declaration.

Rev. Jose Rayas, Classis Arizona, said, “If I recall, the reason we put this document in a different category was because it was not to become a fourth confessional standard. It’s up to the churches to use it or not.”
Rev. Michael Bentley, Classis Hudson, agreed. “I believe we have studied it. At what point will it be considered beneficial—when it is accepted as a binding confession?”

Elder Karen Walker, Classis Hackensack, said she was saddened by those comments. “I attend a very multiethnic church,” she said. “I’m hurt that there seems be a lack of sensitivity to how the lack of adoption [of the Belhar] has impacted our African American brothers and sisters. Members in our church seriously talked about ‘is this where I belong?’ I think it does need to be brought up again and again.”

Rev. John Hoekwater, Classis Northern Illinois, also spoke in favor. “I’m in favor of repeating and engaging in our study of the Belhar. We’re aware of news across the nation of racial profiling. We have not yet learned how to live together and we’d do well to lead the way as the CRC to understand how to live together.”

In a vote of 96 to 79, synod decided to encourage the churches to continue to engage with the Belhar.

Synod also noted that the CRC’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee has learned through feedback from ecumenical partners that the category Ecumenical Faith Declarations is problematic.


Synod 2015 is meeting at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, from June 12-18. For continuous Banner coverage, please follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.

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