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.