A new director. A new agency. A new—and surprising—name.
Synod 2017, the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church, approved the authorizing language to make the new mission agency official, ending a process of combining what were historically two separate agencies, CRC World Missions and CRC Home Missions. The shift, two years in coming, brings to a close the histories of two of the longest-standing agencies of the CRC. World Missions, in particular, has been in existence for 137 years.
The new director was received enthusiastically.
But what to call it? In the end, it was the name that occasioned most of the discussion.
Amy Schenkel of Home Missions and Joel Huyser of World Missions presented some of the reasons for bringing the two agencies together. Huyser said that we live in a new world in which people we thought we would meet on the mission field have come to live next door to us. “The joining of Home Missions and World Missions is not first of all a structural change,” he said. “It’s about facing the challenge and also the opportunities of this new world.”
Schenkel said that there is a one in four chance that the person living next door has no church experience at all. Churches, she said, are feeling disconnected. “Even though what we’re doing on Sunday is good . . . we need to learn missionary habits that help us to love our communities.”
In order to meet the challenges of doing mission in this new context, Home Missions and World Missions were brought together into a single agency. But it couldn’t continue to be called the “New Missions Agency.”
The name that emerged from the combined boards’ new mission agency board—after a lengthy branding discussion—was, well, surprising to many: Resonate Global Mission. A double tagline is added: “Engaging people, embracing Christ. A ministry of the Christian Reformed Church.”
The co-chairs of the temporary board for the new missions agency, Joy Engelsman and Carel Geleynse, walked the synod through the process of selecting the name. The board wanted the name to characterize an agency that would be “courageous, resourceful, and innovative.” They wanted the name to be metaphorical, more like Apple than, say, General Motors. They wanted it to be the sort of name that led people to ask about it rather than a name that was explicit about what it named. They wanted it to translate well into other languages. They wanted it to be a name that would work in societies that are not open to the gospel. And they wanted it to have, well, resonance.
John Dykhuis, Classis Red Mesa, struck what was to become a theme in the subsequent discussion. He said that his first thought on hearing the new name was, “What were they thinking?” But as he considered it and heard the reasoning behind it, he came to favor the name.
Debra Mead, Classis Holland, extended the metaphor of resonance. She said that her son had recently cast a bronze bell. Bronze, she noted, is made of copper and tin. It is stronger than the two elements individually, and makes a strong and clear bell. To her, this process resembles the two mission agencies being brought together stronger and clearer. She ended her analogy with the appeal, “Let the gospel resonate in the world.”
Paul De Weerd, Classis Huron quoted a dictionary that defined “resonate” as “to produce a deep clear sound that goes on for a long time.” Daryl Meijer, Classis Chatham, was also of a mind to probe the word for its metaphorical possibilities. He said that “resonate” picks up on the deep meaning of an older word, “catechism.” At the heart of “catechism” in the Greek is “echo.” He said, “As Christ’s word goes out, people resonate.”
Not everyone was taken with the name. Mark Vande Zande, Classis Heartland, expressed his concern that Christ was nowhere in the name and that “Christian Reformed” appears only in the tagline: “If we put CRC in the tagline, we are losing our identity.”
Don Draayer, Classis Lake Superior, said, “God sometimes has a sense of humor,” noting that he was about to disagree with VandeZande. “Let the name settle in,” he said. “If it doesn’t ‘resonate,’ we can change it.”
Joelle Wilhelm, a young adult representative expressed also enthusiasm for the name after initial misgivings: “I was not for this when I first heard. [But now] I love the name. I’m confident that this name will be a fantastic one.” She added, “We have to stop being afraid of change.”
Synod 2017 was not afraid to affirm the new name, voting strongly in favor of it.
Synod 2017 is meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., from June 9-15. For continuous coverage while synod is in session, download the Banner app on your mobile device or 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. For CRC Communications releases and the webcast, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.