Rev. Stanley Jim, past director of Native American pastoral ministry in Classis Red Mesa, leader in the Christian Reformed Church’s former ethnic ministry council, and pastor at Window Rock (Ariz.) CRC is retiring as of Sept. 1. Jim is among a few Navajo members who have been ordained as Ministers of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church of North America. Once he retires, none with that distinction remain, though several exhorters and commissioned pastors still serve.
Jim was ordained in 1996 and has spent the past 27 years in various roles within the CRCNA. Jim started as staff at Maranatha Fellowship CRC in Farmington, N.M., and then became a pastor at First Navajo Christian Reformed Church in Tohatchi, N.M., serving there for four years. In 2000, he transitioned into a role with then-Home Missions agency, serving as Native American ministry leader. He later joined the Ethnic Ministry Council where he continued to focus on building relationships between the denomination and Native American communities. (Home Missions, which joined with World Missions in 2017 to become Resonate Global Mission, stopped using the ethnic leader model during the reorganization.) In 2016 Jim joined Window Rock CRC as its pastor.
Jim was delegated to synod, the CRC’s annual general assembly, several times, including to Synod 2023. He also served on the Council of Delegates, the leadership body of the CRC that works on behalf of synod in between meetings of synod.
Throughout his ministry Jim has focused on building relationships with people. He said, “In some ways, that was one of the things I maintained through my traditional (Navajo) upbringing and trying to live the life that Jesus lived.” He shared about the importance of “building a bridge with non-Navajo and Navajo people to come to a common ground where we understand the Scriptures in a certain way and understand each other.”
Jim said, “One of the great achievements that I had was helping start a leadership development network in Classis Red Mesa.” The network includes programs to teach the creeds, confessions, knowledge of Church Order, pastoral care, how to teach Bible studies and the Bible, and spiritual formation.
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Jim said that as he passes the baton to the next leaders, he intends to encourage them and “run with them for a little bit and then say, ‘you’re on your own now.’” He said, “I will always be a resource to our leaders and the churches.”
Over the years, Jim was pleased to witness development in Native American ministries in the CRCNA. He said, “The Native churches have become more organic—they don’t depend on me a lot—they’ve become independent.”
Though there are no other ordained Navajo ministers, there are a couple of commissioned pastors. Pastor John Greydanus, stated clerk of Classis Red Mesa, said, “Our Classis is hurting for leaders, and his (Jim’s) retirement, as well as that of Rev. John Dykhuis of Fellowship CRC, will certainly cause some ripples in the structure of our classis.” Window Rock CRC has not found a replacement for Jim and is in the process of putting together a search committee.
Jim said, “It saddens me that I’m stepping off and no one is stepping in.” He said the leadership development program and the commissioned pastors help, but “I wish someone would be able to have more in-depth knowledge with what the CRC is like with all its polity and how the denomination works.”
In his retirement Jim intends to take a year to relax, and then he wants to invest in church leadership with the younger generation and help people to become pastors. Jim also wants to coach leaders and become a consultant to churches.