Rev. Peter Borgdorff, former executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, died early Monday, May 21, in Grand Rapids, Mich. He had been diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this spring.
Borgdorff dedicated his career to the CRC, its administration and its ministries. He spent many years trying to break down silos between CRC ministries and promoting inter-agency cooperation. Just prior to retirement, after having served as the Executive Director of Ministries, he served for one year as the denomination’s first Executive Director, from 2005 to 2006.
Steve Timmermans, current executive director of the CRCNA, said in much of what Borgdorff did, it was his hope for the future, reflected in the resurrection of Christ, that drove him.
“Peter served faithfully in CRC leadership, always holding before us the needs of the world, the task of the church, and the gifts with which the denomination has been blessed — with both balance and boldness," said Timmermans.
Borgdorff helped to form the World Communion of Reformed Churches in 2010. He understood his calling as a pastor and administrator to serve in whatever ways he could to help the world reflect the reality of what God wants for it.
“I believe what binds us together as followers of Jesus Christ is commitment to the Reformed faith, which is much greater than anything that divides us,” Borgdorff said in an interview with a South African journalist in 2011.
“The unity we seek is not to be of our own making, no matter how hard we seek it,” he further explained in a devotional he wrote for Today. “The unity of the church globally and for all ages is rooted in the fact that together all Christians form one body and confess the same Lord.”
One friend said Borgdorff was the type of church executive who respected everyone. At the same time, he could be tough and forceful, especially in church meetings, defending those who needed defending and rebuking those who needed to be rebuked.
Borgdorff was a man of strong faith and, when asked, was willing to accept a task to serve the church “even when it took a toll on him” -- and “emotionally at least, it frequently did,” said Rev. Joel Boot, who asked Borgdorff to serve as the CRCNA’s deputy executive director in 2011 while Boot served as interim executive director.
“Peter was a man of God and a servant of the church,” said Boot. “His philosophy, his faith, was ‘I can do all things through him who gives me strength.’ To the very end, which Peter in his faith believed was just the beginning, he lived with that conviction.”
In his passing, the CRCNA and churches across the world have lost “a giant,” said Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary emeritus of the Reformed Church in America.
The two were good friends and worked together often to support the cause of unity in the church, including in the lead-up to the 2014 joint meeting of the CRC synod and the RCA’s general synod on the campus of Central College in Pella, Iowa.
At that meeting, the church passed a joint resolution, affectionately called the “Pella Accord,” in which the churches pledged to work together in ministry whenever and wherever possible.
That accord has helped to build the framework and connections that will lead to another joint meeting of the denominational synods this coming June at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.
Borgdorff served on many boards, including that of the social justice ministry Sojourners, in Washington, D.C.
Borgdorff is mourned by these many organizations, his friends, and his family, including his wife of 55 years, Janet (Kuperus), and their children Marcia Deck Borgdorff and Todd Bennane, Nicholas and Jonna Franz Borgdorff, Arlene and Dan DeKam, Trish Borgdorff, and Suzi and Andy Bos. Borgdorff was predeceased by his eldest son Leonard in 2012.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, May 25, at 10:30 a.m. at Shawnee Park CRC.
Editor's note: This story was published by CRC Communications, who permitted it to appear here, edited for length. Please watch for the July/August print edition of The Banner for an In Memoriam including Peter Borgdorff’s legacy in CRC leadership.