We just got back from another date. This time it was longer and more involved, but we also gave each other plenty of room for time apart.
I’m talking, of course, about the meeting on Calvin College’s campus of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America and the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. What has come to be referred to as the “Pella Accord” drew us together again on the same campus with a number of joint activities.
The future-focused section of the “Pella Accord,” approved by both synods in 2014, is this:
We declare that the principle that guides us, and the intention that motivates us, is to “act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel us to act separately.”
And so, we participated together in worship, in workshops, and in combined assemblies. We dined together, walked together, and had countless opportunities to develop personal relationships.
We also worked together in joint committees. These committees tackled four topics: Interfaith Engagement, Congregational Renewal and Transformation, the Future of CRC and RCA Collaboration, and the Future of CRC and RCA via New Creations.
Although no specific actions resulted from the work of these committees, at least two of them provided context for new joint steps.
The two synods approved a joint Interfaith/Interreligious committee to guide the interfaith efforts of our denominations. I trust that this goal identified in 2009 will continue as core to our effort: “The goal of interfaith dialogue is to foster better understanding between persons of different faiths and to enhance channels of communication that build community cooperation and peacemaking.”
Also, it seems likely that we will continue weaving together our efforts at congregational renewal and transformation, making discernment a key component while refining a compelling, biblically-based vision that will not just combine current efforts, but will produce fresh approaches and life-giving results.
Yet the nagging question remains: Where will all this lead?
I hope we can live faithfully with ambiguity, for there’s no detailed road map. What John Calvin said, and what guides us in our Church Order, about church practices and change seems to speak to both the CRC and the RCA:
“But because [our Lord] did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do (because he foresaw that this depended upon the state of the times, and he did not deem one form suitable for all ages), here we must take refuge in those general rules which he has given, that whatever the necessity of the church will require for order and decorum should be tested against these. Lastly, because he has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accommodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones. Indeed, I admit that we ought not to charge into innovation rashly, suddenly, for insufficient cause. But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe (Institutes, IV.X.30).”
All will be safe, if we let love be our guide.