Remembering, Reaffirming, and Reinvigorating: the Challenge of Global Poverty

| |

Synod 2017, the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), affirmed again the denomination’s commitment to the poor and the hungry.

Synod 2016 had instructed the executive director of the CRC, Steven Timmermans, to “prioritize goals and assign resources for . . . justice and mercy.”

To fulfill that directive, the CRC’s Justice, Inclusion, Mercy, and Advocacy collaboration group produced a study entitled, “Remembering, Reaffirming, and Reinvigorating Our Response to Global Humanitarian Challenges.”

The report retrieved a long list of statements and initiatives made by the CRC, beginning with a report on world hunger from 1978. It celebrated the considerable progress made in alleviating hunger and poverty in the world, noting that the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015, among other encouraging statistics. It also brought to the attention of synod that great need remains, including at present 65 million displaced persons.

In the light of the many synodical statements of support for justice ministries, synod urged “CRC members, congregations, and agencies to remember and renew [the] passion to serve God by serving the poor and oppressed in ministries of relief, development, proclamation, and advocacy for justice.” Synod delegates also reaffirmed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the past CRC reports on the causes of hunger.

Some delegates wished for more emphasis on the gospel in these commitments. Doug Alderink, Classis Wisconsin, said that justice work must always revolve around an “intentional expression of the gospel.” In contrast, Phillip Leo of Classis Chicago South, said what had impressed him as he walked in a climate justice demonstration was how the gospel emerged naturally from a concern about justice. He reminded the synod that “our world belongs to God.”

With the long-term denominational commitment to justice in mind, synod endorsed the creation of “a renewed and revised multiple agency collaborative program that would build on existing ministry capacities.” The goals are to educate the denomination on the causes of poverty and hunger and work to increase the effectiveness of current denomination ministries for people who are suffering from drought, famine, war, climate change, trafficking, and persecution.   

To these initiatives the synod attached a long list of supporting grounds citing past decisions, effective ministry directions already taken by the denomination, and ecumenical commitments. 

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 several times daily. For CRC Communications releases and the webcast, please visit Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.

About the Author

Clayton Libolt was the long time pastor of River Terrace Church in East Lansing, Mich. Since his retirement, he has served in a variety of interim positions. He is presently serving as the interim senior pastor of Sonlight Community CRC in Lynden, Wash.

See comments (1)


I respectfully disagree that "the gospel emerges naturally from a concern about justice," at least if we are talking about the Christian gospel.

I live in a part of the country where few who hold the reigns of political power, and justice, are Christian.  But they talk constantly about "justice" (popular word these days).  If the institutional church cannot or declines to articulate the reason it is involved in justice, we are in a sad place, including for those folks where I live who hold the reigns of power and talk so constantly about justice.

In other words, one's faith will -- should at least -- affect one's definition of, sense for, what justice actually is.  If we don't think that, if we think justice is defined identically in the world, regardless of worldview, we have lost the saltiness in our church.