Synod 2018 (the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church) heard a request from Classis Pacific Northwest to address unresolved conflict in the CRC and how it contributes to the church’s membership decline. Detailing a 25-year decline in the denomination’s membership, this regional group of churches suggested that “a contributing cause of that change is the emotional and spiritual hurt and grief caused by the bitter conflict that remains unresolved. . . . The hurt of that conflict has become institutionalized and normalized, and is at the root of the CRCNA’s failure to thrive.”
In response, Synod 2018 agreed to urge the executive director to issue a purposeful and consistent call to the entire denomination to be intentional in prayer for reconciled relationships with special focus toward brothers and sisters who have left the CRCNA for various reasons.
It also urged all church members and assemblies to use Matthew 5:23-25 as a model, recognizing where hurt has been given and actively seeking to reconcile strained and broken relationships.
Lori Fieber, Classis B.C. North-West, said “I’m excited about all this language toward reconciliation.” She talked about her home church striving to become a gospel-centered community that incorporates restorative practice and noted that an environment that is conducive to restoration must include willingness. “Let’s continue to make overtures and offers of reconciliation toward those we are in conflict with, but be patient,” Fieber said.
Herbert Schreur, Classis Northcentral Iowa, emphatically affirmed that not acting because another party is unwilling is not an option. “We can only control one side but we are commanded to control that one side,” he said. “In the parable of the sower, 75 percent of the seed falls on bad ground. But we are not excused from sowing that seed and we are not excused from reaching out to those who aren’t going to respond.”
Diane Plug, Classis Chatham, expressed gratitude to God for healing she has experienced from past conflict. A woman advisor in 2003 and 2004, she described how the inclusion of six women in a room full of men was “very, very difficult.” Now, she said, “I want to acknowledge to this body that a lot of healing has happened.”
Synod further agreed to urge the executive director to work with the appropriate agencies and ministries to publicize existing resources addressing unresolved conflict in our history and the need for reconciliation, and to include a focus on reconciliation in the CRCNA’s next ministry plan cycle.
Roger Sparks, Classis Minkota, wondered if synod was being too general in its talk of reconciliation. While leaving room for a miracle in the power of prayer, Sparks didn’t think these actions of synod recognizing the need for reconciliation would accomplish much. Giving the example of a married couple seeking counseling, he suggested that a counselor would have them discuss the reasons for their estrangement, confess sin if it was present, and offer forgiveness.
“Pointing to resources is a good start but we actually have to get specific,” Sparks said. “We need to move toward each other and deal with the things that have divided us. I wonder if we are ready to do that?” John Medendorp, Classis Huron, agreed that the recognition of synod is just a start and pointed to the request that reconciliation become a major focus of the next ministry cycle, in much the same way as faith formation is a focus of the current cycle.
Synod closed its discussion of reconciliation with a reading of Matthew 5:23-25 and a time of prayer among the delegates.
Synod 2018 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 7-14. 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 thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases and the webcast, please visit crcna.org.