Pastor Joe Groeneveld was at a conference in 2017 when he came across a copy of the just-published The New City Catechism.
Edited by Collin Hansen and put together with help from Pastor Tim Keller, The New City Catechism is based on John Calvin's Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism. Intended for all ages, it contains 52 questions and answers. Each question is followed by a Bible verse, commentary, and a prayer.
“I appreciated that it has short, simple questions and answers, and it struck me that it was on a level younger people and people just coming to the faith might be able to learn from,” Groeneveld said. “I thought it could be a document that might fit into being a contemporary testimony for the church.”
A special category created by the synod of the Christian Reformed Church of North America, contemporary testimonies are defined on the denominational website as “statements of faith that serve the CRCNA—its congregations and members—and speak to essential matters in a given time period.” Currently, the denomination has two contemporary testimonies: Our World Belongs to God and The Belhar Confession.
With the backing of his church council at Williamsburg CRC in Williamsburg, Ont., Groeneveld wrote an overture to Synod 2019 asking synod to consider making the New City Catechism a contemporary testimony.
He wrote in the overture: “The New City Catechism is a great resource for the CRCNA that will assist in the instruction of its members, especially children and youth. … (It) speaks to essential matters in our society and will be useful for study, faith formation, teaching, and worship.”
Synod decided not to make it a contemporary testimony and referred it to Faith Formation Ministries for curriculum review and potential use by churches.
That review was completed and a report sent to the Council of Delegates in May. In addition to offering an overall assessment of the catechism’s strengths and weaknesses, FFM asked the COD to send the catechism to churches to review, with their reactions then compiled and sent to synod.
“The place in which we landed was not a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’” said Chris Schoon, director of Faith Formation Ministries. “We looked at how we can engage with it and asked that churches help to enter into a conversation about it.”