God’s shalom seemed to be at work when people on both sides of a thorny issue met face to face.
Delegates from Classis Minnkota and Classis Columbia sat down for lunch with employees of the Christian Reformed Church’s social justice agencies.
Minnkota and Columbia made overtures (requests) to Synod 2018 objecting to various aspects of the agencies’ justice work.
But an informal chat begun at coffee time led to a longer lunchtime conversation—a conversation everyone at the table described positively.
“We felt they were listening well, hearing our concerns, and responding well,” said Rob Toornstra of Classis Columbia.
“This conversation felt better at a table,” said Mike Hogeterp, director of Canada’s Centre for Public Dialogue. “It felt like a faithful way of engaging. Way better than Facebook.”
“We had a wonderful conversation which built on our conversation last February,” Sparks said. Last February, Classis Minnkota delegates met with agency staff over the same issue at the instruction of Synod 2017. “We shared with them that advocacy goes over better with our constituents than actual lobbying.”
“Given the polarization here in the United States, this kind of face-to-face communication is really important,” said Kate Kooyman, justice education team member for the Office of Social Justice.
While at lunch, they talked about removing a Do Justice blog post in response to concerns raised at last year’s synod. “[Removing the blog] was not an easy decision for us,” said Hogeterp. But in the end they removed it “because it was an obstacle to meaningful conversation.”
“[That helped us know that] they were really listening to us,” said Roger Sparks of Classis Minnkota.
The two parties discussed justice-related overtures from those classes, which have not yet been discussed by synod.
“Our goal is not to say justice doesn’t matter or to get rid of the Office of Social Justice but to say, ‘How can we do this well?” said Toornstra.
Both groups acknowledged that tensions remain in their relationship, but added that addressing their differences openly was helpful.
“We invited them to come back to continue the conversation,” said Toornstra. “We need to be challenged in the area of what it means to do justice.”
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.
About the Author
Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who claims both Canadian and American citizenship and grew up in the Christian Reformed Church. She is a member of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham, North Carolina.