CRC to Hold Consultation About Ecumenical Faith Declarations

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The Christian Reformed Church will hold an Ecumenical Faith Declaration Consultation in early 2014 to discuss the category into which the CRC has placed the Belhar Confession.

Along with the Reformed Church in America and the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), the CRC is inviting representatives from a multitude of Reformed denominations to the consultation.

About 50 people are expected to attend the event at Calvin College, said Rev. Peter Borgdorff, deputy executive director of the CRC.

The goal will be to help churches determine what an ecumenical faith declaration is and how they are to interpret and use it as a statement of belief and worship.

Synod 2012 had been asked to make the Belhar a fourth confession of the Christian Reformed Church, putting it on a par with the other three historic confessional statements of belief.

Instead synod created the new category “ecumenical faith declaration” and placed the Belhar into it.

After Synod 2012 created the ecumenical faith declaration category, people in the CRC began to ask what exactly that entails. With questions remaining, the issue went before Synod 2013.

Synod 2013 decided not to take on the task of outlining specific criteria for the category. It voted instead to hold more discussion about the criteria within the denomination and with partner churches around the globe.

The World Communion of Reformed Churches will meet, also at the Prince Center, following the ecumenical gathering. The WCRC will discuss how it has been doing since it was formed in 2010 and look at what “communion” means in light of  its development.

About the Author

Chris Meehan is news and media relations manager for CRC Communications, and a member of Coit Community Church.

See comments (3)


Are they going to invite, perhaps, any of those in the denomination who proposed the category to explain what they had in mind?  How about people who are not in the least enamored of the Belhar?  As it stands, this "consultation" looks like little more than a group of Belhar partisans getting together to say "Rah! Rah! Rah! Yeah us!"  I hope I'm wrong, but that's what this report makes it look like.

The category of "Ecumenical Faith Declaration" basically establishes a category that is in the same relative position to the three forms of unity that the apocryphal books are in relative to the Bible.  It is useful.  You can learn from it.  But it is not binding and no point of doctrine can be settled solely on the basis of the Belhar - at least, not in the CRC.  The "ecumenical" part is essentially saying, "We can understand why other denominations may wish to assert the Belhar more forcefully in their respective contexts and the fact that we decline to do so should not be taken as a pejorative judgment."

It seems like there has been a big push from members of the CRC excutive committee to instate the Belhar as the "holy grail" of the modern church.

"What if the conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause? What if we systematically misunderstand that cause? And what if, as a result, we sytematically perpetute the very problems we think we are trying to solve?"

The report above says:  "The goal [of the Ecumenical Faith Declaration Consultation] will be to help churches determine what an ecumenical faith declaration is and how they are to interpret and use it as a statement of belief and worship."  In other words, the CRC did not fully know what an ecumenical faith declaration was when they decided to create the category and to say the Belhar was in the category.

Moreover, the CRC is inviting others churches, some of whom had taken a stance on the Belhar that the CRC decided not to agree with, to help the CRC decide what the CRC means by the category the CRC chose instead.

This seems to me to say that the choice of putting the Belhar into a new category was not thought out well.  If that category is to remain, then Eric Verhulst's definition of the category seems like the appropriate one.  The comparison to the apocrypha also seems fitting, because the books of the apocrypha are not all reliable, and neither are all parts of the Belhar; it must be made clear that declarations in this category are not to be taken as reliable (in contrast to the confessions), but parts of them may be useful to quote from at times.