Ecumenical guests—siblings in Christ in related denominations and shared Christian fellowship groups—shared updates and words of encouragement to delegates at Synod 2023.
William Koopmans, chair of the Christian Reformed Church’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee, said that committee seeks “to foster relationships and nurture relationships with other denominations and organizations.”
“We are deeply grateful and delighted for the three guests who are here in person, and the two video communications,” said Koopmans. Though several guests were invited, Koopmans said that visa and travel restraints, along with other mitigation factors prevented more people from attending.
Laura Osborne, coordinator for Interreligious Relations from the Reformed Church in America joined synod in person. “The Reformed Church in America is going through a season of change and restructure,” Osborne said, noting a focus on “sustained spiritual and organizational health (and) anticipating a smaller denomination moving forward.” The call for restructuring came at the RCA’s October 2021 general synod. This included an exit plan for churches and pastors seeking a different denominational home.
Since the October 2021 decision, Osborne said “roughly a quarter of our churches have chosen to leave the RCA, accounting for 41% of our membership.” Despite the challenging times, they are “seeing great signs of God at work.” She noted that the denomination is becoming “multicultural” and “multiracial.” She shared a bit about the growth that some classes are experiencing and the hope that the denomination still has.
Marlin Lomi, chairman of the executive board of the Synod Gereja Kristen Sumba Assembly, a Christian community church in Sumba, Indonesia, sent a video greeting. She said, “We appreciate the commitment of the CRCNA” and commented on how the partnership has existed since 1974. She concluded her video inviting the CRCNA to visit Sumba.
Cullen Rodgers-Gates, director of development and membership with the National Association of Evangelicals, attended Synod 2023 from Durham, N.C. Rodgers-Gates shared a few highlights from the past year, including the first Flourish conference hosted by the NAE last fall. The conference was a safe space for evangelical leaders and pastors to have “meaningful conversations and difficult conversations.”
Rodgers-Gates also noted a few of the initiatives under NAE president Walter Kim’s leadership, including a focus on mental health in the church, efforts toward racial justice and reconciliation, and a video teaching series relating biblical foundations to core societal issues.
President Moses Jawara from the Christian Reformed Church in Sierra Leone shared an update including details of leadership transitions. He also expressed the CRC in Sierra Leone’s deep gratitude for the “ecumenical relationship with Resonate.”
Monica Schaap Pierce, executive director of Christian Churches Together, pre-recorded a video that was played for the delegates. She shared about Christian Churches Together’s intentional focus on building relationships and mutual understanding.
Christian Churches Together is anticipating its annual forum in Savannah, Ga., in October. There will be dialogue and prayer around the theme “Water that Unites and Water that Divides: Baptism and the Journey to Unity and Reconciliation.”
Concluding her message, she said, “It is my prayer for you that during your week together as the CRCNA that you too will listen well to each other, look for Christ in each other, and boldly follow the spirits leading to whatever surprising place God leads you.”
Ecumenical Relationship Change
As part of its ecumenical work, Synod formally recognized the Alliance of Reformed Churches as a “church in cooperation,” working toward being a “church in communion.” The ARC denomination was formed in 2021 by a group of churches that broke away from the Reformed Church in America. By way of exception, Synod allowed ARC churches or ARC officebearers with previous dual CRC-RCA credentials to maintain their CRC affiliation. Synod directed the Office of General Secretary to appoint a team of staff and experts to work with ARC on its communion status, orderly exchange of officebearers, and other related matters.
The committee is also looking at reconsidering the issue of CRCNA membership in the World Council of Churches. It included a report on this matter to Synod 2023, noting “that a formal recommendation regarding membership will come to a subsequent synod.”
Synod 2023 is meeting June 9-15 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod. Visit crcna.org/synod for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.