As I look back on my time as executive director of the CRCNA, it seems improbable that so much has happened in the life of our church and denomination in such a short time (February 2020 to June 2022).
The period began with a structural and organizational crisis which we had to address and navigate. There was the resignation of the former executive director and the need to restructure the CRCNA to comply with Canadian charitable law. As this work began, we soon found ourselves also in the midst of the global, COVID-19 pandemic. This triggered the cancellation of numerous ministry activities, including Synodical gatherings, for two years. These cancellations limited face-to-face conversation and exacerbated latent tensions within congregations and our various ministry bodies. In addition, our sense of peace was rocked by the re-emergence of long simmering racial tensions in our various countries.
As all of these events unfolded, by God‘s grace and his leading, we were able to respond – and I believe we did so prayerfully and effectively.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, your denominational staff reached out to virtually every congregation and solicited your input as to how we could help. Out of this contact came the implementation of the Church Engagement Fund, which gave grants to churches to assist with lost funds, and to assist with technology improvements to allow for seamless proclamation of the Gospel. We discovered that though individually we experienced loss and lack, as a community, we could experience the abundance of God together.
In the midst of our organizational stresses, the Council of Delegates, the CRCNA Canada Corporation and denominational staff collaborated to design an organizational solution that has the potential to rebuild familial relationships across the US-Canada border, as well as position and insulate a new Office of the General Secretary from falling prey to similar structural and relational fissures in the future. The new structure also has a framework to enfold new communities of diaspora churches as they may seek affiliation with the CRC. The approach incrementally unfolded as we prayerfully depended on God.
At the time that I’m writing this, Synod of 2022 has just ended. That body addressed key issues of interest to the church, including human sexuality and racism. Synod 2022 codified the 1973 traditional position on human sexuality as being confessional, and reiterated the fact that white supremacy and ongoing systemic racism are anathema to the gospel. Similar to organizational restructuring and pandemic pivoting, both of these decisions have real impact on congregations and individuals. They have the potential to create division within the church, and will require prayerful conversation and engagement for unity to be maintained.
At one point during Synod 2022 deliberations, one delegate said that these decisions are only the start of a conversation. I pray that this will come to pass and that we will continue to listen to and dialogue with each other throughout these times of transition. Our Gospel witness depends on it.
I will be retiring from my position on June 30. Before I stepped in as executive director, I spent 5 years serving as director of ministries and administration. In all these 7 1/2 years of service to the denomination, I have seen the hand of God leading us, and guiding us towards becoming a more inclusive, focused, and effective denomination.
With God’s help, we addressed the consolidation of Home Missions and World Missions into Resonate Global Mission to better prepare us for overall mission in the global diaspora that is now our reality; we joined forces with the RCA to create Vibrant Congregations, a new ministry to ensure that churches can be periodically renewed by a prayerful and contemplative process which fully engages their leadership; and we developed a new ministry plan – Our Journey 2025, which allows the entire denomination to focus on four milestones, the first of which is prayer and spiritual disciplines.
Of all the initiatives we have done, I believe that our focus on prayer and spiritual disciplines has been most critical in helping us navigate difficult times. I pray that this focus will continue well beyond my tenure.
I also recognize that as I leave this position, there are many other challenges to come for our church. Some of these are known and many are unknown. As always, we must address these issues as we have always done — on our knees before God.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).
It is only through such prayer that our denomination, congregations, ministries and agencies will be able to continue to live into the aspirational vision statement of the CRCNA.
The Christian Reformed Church is a diverse family of healthy congregations, assemblies, and ministries expressing the good news of God’s kingdom that transforms lives and communities worldwide.
To God be the glory!