Executive Director Defends Social Justice Activities

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Christian Reformed Church executive director Steven Timmermans spent part of his annual state of the church address to Synod 2017 defending the denomination’s social justice ministries.

After reviewing some facts and figures about the ministry plan, he told a story about his son Paul, who has Down syndrome. When Paul graduated from the special education system at age 21, Timmermans and his wife had to figure out next steps. They found work for Paul at a local book cafe and paid for the job coaching he needed. “What happened to all the other ‘Pauls’ who finished special education that year?” he asked. “My heart bled for parents who couldn’t hatch a plan.”

Timmermans said that when he recounted that story on Facebook, “[A] commenter wrote ‘Could we all just relax a bit? The best thing citizens can do is write letters to congressmen and pray for lawmakers and not just play political games.’”

Timmermans said he did not take kindly to that as a parent or as a leader of a Christian institution. “The person making the comment leaves it all up to individuals to write letters and pray. And this person’s words are not unlike phone calls and emails I have received this past year. This person doesn’t expect or want anything from the pulpit. This person doesn’t think the church has a role.”

Similarly, Timmermans said that some say the CRC doesn’t need an Office of Social Justice or a Centre for Public Dialogue. Or World Renew.

“I disagree vigorously,” he said. “This posture that it is just an individual matter, not a matter for the church to speak the gospel truth from the pulpit or in the public square—it’s just plain wrong. It’s the wrong posture for us as believers to take in a broken and hurting world.”

Timmermans told delegates the church must speak the gospel truth, and that will require addressing matters about which there is disagreement. “It is time we stop fussing about whether church should address a broken and hurting world, whether offering gospel words from pulpit or in the public square, or doing the gospel by our deeds.”

He said that individuals and churches must speak the saving gospel and all of the implications Christ taught, about abortion, health care for people with previous conditions, advocacy for wrongs done to First Nation peoples, and more.

“The Lord is not telling us to ‘relax a bit.’ He’s saying, ‘Speak the gospel truth, be my servants.’ We have a faithful track record of speaking the gospel in Word and in deed to a hurting and broken world. It’s not time to slow down and relax a bit.”

Synod 2017 is meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., from June 9-15. For continuous coverage, 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.

About the Author

Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.

See comments (3)


Actually, the thrust of our ED's address seems to be: (1) that we should increase OSJ's lobbying efforts, (2) that his and OSJ's political sense and expertise is better than that of any CRC member who disagrees with them, (3) that "states right" is a silly idea and should be rejected (including by the CRCNA) and that the CRCNA should lobby for all "important" rights to be guaranteed by the federal government (which of course eliminates any federal proposal for "block grants" to the states), (4) that states, like Illinois, should never be held accountable but rather the federal government should be the sole object of our (the CRCNA's) political lobbying efforts, (5) the CRCNA should lobby for whatever it deems "important," presumably as determined by OSJ and the ED.

I suspect I and my political views also do not "sit well" with my own denomination's executive director, nor does my view that CO Article 28 actually means what it says.  

Finally, our ED suggests a false dichotomy: that either we each do our political advocacy individually or resign ourselves to OSJ and the ED to speak politically for us.  If I'm not mistaken, there are a pretty large number of political organizations out there, some intentionally (Christian) faith based.  I and our ED both have the opportunity to join them and speak communally as to matters political, joining with the broader church even instead of being parochial by denomination.  

And most or all of those other political organizations hire people who have formal education and actual experience in law, political theory, economics and the like, unlike our ED's office and OSJ, who do not.  And the stated purpose for existence of these other political organizations is to politically advocate, which contrasts sharply with the started purpose for existence of the CRC, as aid pretty clearly in our Church Order (Art 28), which constrains it from acting with regard to matters "not ecclesiastical."

This ED's address was deeply disappointing to me.  If its urging is followed, the CRC will slowly but increasingly lose members who hold views different from the views of the Grand Rapids beauacracy as to matters political.  Because those members won't, as suggested by this address, "sit well" with the CRCNA's official political view gatekeepers.

Can anyone explain what the OSJ has done for young adults with disabilities or why they are uniquely qualified compared to the myriad of other organizations involved in this type of issue to craft particular policies? Of course Timmermans has invoked a rather crude and insulting deflection rather than address the substantive problems with the OSJ. Apparently this is easier than defending the partisan slant of the agency or their rather selective interest in which Synodical positions to emphasize. Not to mention their often bizzare theology: http://dojustice.crcna.org/article/what-i-learned-full-moon-ceremony

Dr. Timmermans, at the least, owes the conservative consituencies of the CRC an apology and needs to respond to address the specific criticisms of the denomination's political advocacy. If not, I suggest it may be time for him to move on.


"Timmermans told delegates the church must speak the gospel truth, and that will require addressing matters about which there is disagreement."

While I do not know Dr. Timmermans personally, based upon the content of this speech I have little doubt that he is in substantial philosophical and political agreement with the pronouncements of OSJ. It is remarkably easy to say that the church must speak when there are disagreements when you agree with everything that is being said.

It is hard for me to hear this comment as anything other than telling those of us who object to the regularly partisan positions taken by OSJ to simply shut up.