Shiao Chong, 48, is the nominee to be the new editor of The Banner. The Board of Trustees interviewed him on May 5 and is recommending him for appointment by Synod 2016. The Banner is the official publication of the CRC.
“My long-term vision is that The Banner become known as a voice of wisdom and shalom, that the average CRC reader would choose it as their magazine of choice,” he said, noting the increasing polarization in the CRC. “I’m not sure it is right now for all CRC members. I’ve heard there are some people who never read it, who throw it in the recycle bin.”
He told the board that it is no revelation that same-sex issues are a very polarizing issue right now, as well as issues of faith and science. “Underlying some of these things is how we engage culture as a whole,” he said. He said that people on both sides of issues have to ask themselves how they can be Christ to the other person, and how they can allow the other person to be Christ to them. “We can be drawn into ‘us and them,’” he said, “but if we ask the questions, we bring it back to Christ.”
In the midst of polarization, Chong said he feels called to the middle as a peacemaker, a shalom-maker, which can be “a dangerous and vulnerable position because everyone is firing at you.”
In the short term, he hopes to bring more voices to the conversation, those of young people, those from various cultural backgrounds, those with disabilities.
Chong told the board of his journey from Malaysia, where he was born to Chinese parents, to Canada as a young man. He said that his journey from east to west, both culturally and spiritually, gives him empathy for people both cross-culturally and cross-theologically.
The youngest of six children, Chong came to Christ through the ministry of a church in his hometown at age 14. After moving to Canada at age 20 to study English literature at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, he suffered a major depression in his second year of university, eventually seeking out help from CRC campus chaplain Tom Oosterhuis. “Part of [the depression] was a faith crisis. All kinds of new philosophies were coming out. The narrow, rigid faith I had didn’t equip me to deal with this intellectual wrestling,” he said. “God used the Plymouth Brethren church to bring me into faith. God used the CRC and campus ministry to save my faith. The Reformed world and life view equipped me to deal with the questions that came up in my studies.”
It was also through campus ministry that he met his wife, Martha Schreiber. They have three daughters, ages 9 through 17. Chong told board members that his youngest daughter has Down syndrome, which introduced a new spiritual dimension in his family. Admitting that he has a tendency to be overly intellectual, he said the fact that his daughter has cognitive delays is a reminder that worthiness and imagebearing of God is not dependent on his mind.
Chong has been a contributor to The Banner for nearly 20 years, including writing for the FAQ column on ethics. He has a Master of Arts degree in English literature. A commissioned pastor, he has been a CRC campus pastor at York University in the Toronto area for 15 years. He and his family are members of Rehoboth Fellowship CRC in Toronto.
Chong will be interviewed by delegates to Synod 2016 for appointment.
Delegates will convene for Synod 2016 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 10-17. The Banner will post articles on its website throughout the week and keep readers updated via Twitter (hashtag #crcsynod) and Facebook. There will also be a live webcast, live blogging, and press releases from CRC Communications. The July/August 2016 print issue of The Banner will include a round-up of news from Synod 2016.