Christian Reformed Church representatives to the General Council meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) took away several highlights from the gathering that ran from June 29 to July 7 in Leipzig, Germany.
Delegates from more than 200 churches from around the globe took part in the meeting, which coincided with commemorating the 500th anniversary of the 16th century Reformation when Martin Luther and others, including John Calvin, called for reform in the Roman Catholic Church.
“The General Council ended on a high note with the election of a new executive board to guide WCRC for the next seven years,” said Peter Borgdorff, who just finished his term as a member of the executive committee.
Borgdorff, former executive director of the CRCNA, said the most significant issues addressed at the conference were the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and the Wittenberg Witness, both of “which nudge all of us one step closer to a more vibrant ecumenical engagement.”
The declaration on justification relates to the doctrine that declares people are justified through faith in Jesus Christ. The Wittenberg Witness commits the WCRC and the Lutheran World Federation to work more closely together.
On July 5, CRC participants and others visited the Berlin City Mission, Kreuzberg Congregation, where Mary Buyten, a Christian Reformed representative at the council, and her husband, David Kromminga, work with refugees. Both serve with Resonate Global Mission.
She remarked to those who came to the church that some of the refugees who worship there also work to help refugees.
“My Congolese colleague knows the hardships firsthand that are driving refugees from their homelands; my Greek colleague works with the refugees in their early, chaotic days on European soil; and David and I work with them here as they attempt to grow roots in a new culture.”
Emmett Harrison, a CRC pastor from Grand Rapids, Mich., and a CRC representative to the council, found the morning Bible studies especially beneficial.
In one, a Palestinian theologian spoke of the need to continue the countercultural spirit of the Reformation in doing ministry today by connecting spirituality and the message of Scripture to address issues of social justice.
William Koopmans, who served for the last seven years on WCRC’s executive committee, said the chance to spend time with people from so many churches was a highlight, especially when he connected with members of a church in Myanmar.
“It was a particular blessing for me to meet and fellowship with the delegates from the Christian Reformed Church in Myanmar, in part because our congregation of Grace CRC in Chatham, Ont., includes a couple of dear families from Myanmar that are of refugee background,” he said.
Anthony Elenbaas, another CRC representative, said attending special worship services and participating in discussions—just as he experienced seven years ago at WCRC’s first General Council in Grand Rapids, Mich.—gave him a glimpse of what the unified Christian church can be.
Calvin College student Ahee Kim, who was a steward at the meeting helping to serve the needs of representatives, said she appreciated seeing up-close what it takes to build ecumenical relations.
“Diverse languages and cultures often become more like challenges than something we appreciate,” said Kim. “But when I acknowledge that it is God who called us to this place, I find peace and begin to appreciate others’ strengths and qualities.”