Synod 2018 (the annual assembly) of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) designated the Christian Reformed Church in the Dominican Republic as “a church in dialogue with the CRC”—a category of ecumenical relationship used by the CRC Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee. It’s the sort of thing that synods do, and it could easily have been passed by unremarked. But for two of the delegates, it touched deep memories.
The Christian Reformed Church in the Dominican Republic (D.R.) became a Reformed church not as the result of missionary efforts but by listening to the Spanish broadcasts of the Back to God Hour—a ministry of the CRC. The members of this small church decided to call themselves Christian Reformed (Iglesia Cristiana Reformada) after the CRC, and they wrote to the offices of the Back to God Hour in the Chicago area to let them know who they were. From those small roots, they have grown into a denomination of more than 200 congregations.
For Synod 2018 president Scott Greenway, receiving this church as a partner denomination touched a memory. His father, Roger Greenway, then Latin American Secretary for CRC World Missions, took the younger Greenway on a trip to the D.R. They had received word that “there were some churches there claiming to be Christian Reformed.” When they arrived, they found a small building with “Christian Reformed” on the front. They stayed for a worship service—a long, exuberant service quite unlike anything one might have found in those days in the CRC in North America. When the service was done, Greenway asked his father, “Is that a Christian Reformed Church?” His father replied, “You bet it is.”
John Medendorp—the third in a line of John Medendorps who have served as pastors in the CRC, grew up in the D.R. He said that it had always seemed odd to him that this church, whose history is so deeply embedded in the history of the CRC, was not included in the list of churches with whom the CRC has established an official ecumenical relationship. As he spoke to the proposal to include the D.R. church among the churches with whom the CRC has family ties, tears came to his eyes and his voice faltered.
When time came to vote, the synod affirmed the ties between the two Christian Reformed Churches with an enthusiastic and unanimous “Aye.”
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