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Ecumenical Speakers Share Stories of CRC’s Contribution to Their Ministries

Four ecumenical guests addressed Synod 2024.
Steven Herppich

Delegates to Synod 2024 got the opportunity to hear from ecumenical guests—siblings in Christ in related denominations—as they shared stories of their ministries and how the Christian Reformed Church in North America has supported their efforts.

Four speakers, three from Africa and one from the United States, addressed the delegates during the session.

Synod is the annual general assembly of the CRCNA. It is meeting June 14-20 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“We have the opportunity today to celebrate the fact that we are part of the catholic church— small letter ‘c,’” said William Koopmans, the outgoing chair who has served 18 years on the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee, a standing committee of synod. “What a delight it is to engage in ecumenical relations, what a privilege it is to welcome our ecumenical guests.”

Isaiah Jirapye Magaji, president of the Christian Reformed Church in Nigeria, thanked the CRC in North America for its support to strengthen the church in his homeland, calling it “a labor of love.”

“Thanks to God, and thank you CRC North America (and the) leadership of the synod in making all those sacrifices, sending people, sending resources, to make sure that people like us are rescued from the hand of Islam and from the hand of idolatry and idol worship,” Magaji said.

The Christian Reformed Church in Nigeria has grown to 193 local consistories in 20 classes (regional groupings of churches) with about 500,000 worshippers. The church supports one theological school, named for Johanna Veenstra, the pioneering CRC missionary who served in Nigeria from 1920 until her death in 1933. The denomination also supports schools and health care facilities throughout the country, Magaji said.

Laura Osborne, coordinator of interreligious relations for the Reformed Church in America, called the CRC her denomination’s closest ecumenical partner.

“We deeply value this partnership,” Osborne said. “We’re grateful for the excellent pastoral leadership of 22 CRCNA ministers serving RCA churches through our exchange of ministers agreement. We celebrate many local CRC and RCA churches working together to share Christ’s love with their neighbors.”

Osborne went on to speak of joint denominational-level ministries between the two denominations, such as the CRC’s Resonate Global Mission with RCA Global Mission, which work together on several shared projects, and Generation Spark, which helps churches build intergenerational relationships and helps keep young adults involved in church.

In addition, with the sale of the building that once was CRCNA headquarters in Grand Rapids, the CRC will be sharing the RCA’s Michigan regional center in Grand Rapids as temporary office space until a permanent office space is ready. “We’re temporary roommates,” Osborne said. She noted, “This proximity is already sparking new conversations and collaboration.”

Luka Ariko Ekitala, general secretary of the Reformed Church of East Africa, spoke of his denomination’s work in Kenya and neighboring countries, which includes supporting schools, health care, and community development efforts.

Ekitala said the church started schools in Kenya in the 1960s and early 1970s, but the government has since taken over its operation. So the church functions in a sponsorship role for the schools, he said.

“Sponsorship means we provide spiritual guidance … at schools and into the universities. The church plays a critical role, and we are given opportunity to proselytize and also guide students and lead them to Christ,” Ekitala said.

The Reformed Church of East Africa has about 1,200 local churches, Ekitala said.

Patrick Jok, general secretary of the Sudanese Reformed Church in South Sudan, was the final speaker. He spoke of the challenges his denomination faces in a country that has been wracked by civil war and economic hardship, and yet, he says, the church is growing there.

“When I came here last (in 2017), we had 16 congregations and three church plants and zero Christian schools,” Jok said. “Today we have 16 churches and 18 church plants. This brings the total number of our congregations to 34, and we have made a strategy of planting another 34 (churches) in the next three years. We have four Christian schools, and we have completed 70 percent of the SRC’s synod office in Juba.”

Delegates prayed after each speaker finished, praying for specific needs within each ministry.

Synod 2024 is meeting June 14-20 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at Visit for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.

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