When Shiao Chong was interviewed by Synod 2016 to become the new editor of The Banner, he was quick to exhibit his penchant for precise wording—and his sense of humor. The Banner is the official publication of the Christian Reformed Church.
“I prefer to be called Chong,” he told delegates. “My first name, Shiao, and my middle name together mean ‘little wisdom.’ It’s a good thing I didn’t translate that on my resume.”
Chong grew up in Malaysia, the youngest of six children, in what he called a “diaspora Chinese family,” with Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. Some of his siblings became Christians, and after one of his brothers took him to a Plymouth Brethren church in his early teens, he made a decision to follow Christ. After he came to Canada as a young adult to study at the University of Alberta, he fell into a depression as he struggled with culture shock and spiritual upheaval. A Christian Reformed campus chaplain there guided him in his faith journey and introduced him to great Reformed thinkers.
That was where he connected to the CRC and where he met his wife, Martha Schreiber. They and their three daughters are members of Rehoboth Fellowship CRC in Etobicoke, Ont. Since 2001, Chong has been a CRC campus pastor at York University in Toronto, Ont.
Revealing himself to be a storyteller, Chong created vivid pictures as he answered questions. To explain how he will navigate wide differences of opinion as Banner editor, he told a story of groups of Jewish students and middle Eastern students holding opposing demonstrations. Two students quietly wedged themselves into the middle of the conflict, each holding a simple homemade sign reading “Peace.”
“It was like a parable,” Chong explained. “God was telling me to be in the middle, this is my ministry. I’m supposed to go in the middle and proclaim God’s peace. That’s what I have tried to do ever since, to be a bridge builder.”
He acknowledged that it won’t be easy to be in the middle as the CRC faces tough issues. “I feel that that’s where I’m supposed to be. Not that I relish it. I’d be lying if I say that I’m not afraid. In the middle of everyone’s slings and bullets, most likely you’ll get hurt, but I have to follow what I believe God is calling me to do. I’m going to call people to remember our unity in Christ. Whether we like it or not, Christ has united us. That’s a gift of God, and we are accountable to that.”
Chong spoke of the CRC as a denominational house in which The Banner is the kitchen table. He wants to bring more voices to the table, he said, including those of young people, various ethnicities, and women. “The confessions make up the shape of the house,” he added. “As a CRC pastor, that’s something that I’m committed and accountable to.”
“The Bible needs to anchor that discussion,” Chong continued. “We think of authority as a hammer. I prefer to see Biblical authority as life-giving authority. When biblical truths are articulated well and explained well, I believe it goes inside us and sparks life in us. That’s where we make biblical truth our own. The trick is, how do we articulate biblical truth well, so that it will get into our hearts?”
Following the interview, delegates enthusiastically approved his appointment.
Synod president Paul DeVries prayed, saying,“[Lord,] you can take the little things of this world and do great works. Thank you for drawing Chong to yourself by your spirit. Thank you for bringing him into the circle of the CRC.”
Synod 2016 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 10-17. 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 thebanner.org several times daily. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.