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Jesus is entirely and completely our Kinsman Redeemer. He not only paid the debt of sin, but went one step further and paid the bridal expenses, so that we could never lose our inheritance or run the risk of becoming destitute.

April 20, 2017 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Calvin Seminary professor Matthew Tuininga has beautifully summarized Scripture and Reformed theology's view relative to the treatment of the poor.

March 24, 2017 0 2 comments
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With the recent influx of refugees into Canada, the Classis Huron Safe Church Team gathered to ask some questions about the intersection of refugee sponsorship and safe church. 

March 22, 2017 2 2 comments
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When ISIS kidnapped and murdered 21 men in early 2015, all but one of them were Coptic Christians from Egypt. Read about the ways that Christians in North America can support Christians in Syria and Iraq.

March 17, 2017 0 1 comments
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Liz is always encouraging young people who are interested in God’s heart for justice—she lights up in conversations with young people about truth and reconciliation, refugees, stewardship, human trafficking.

March 10, 2017 1 0 comments
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Here are worship resources and prayers for refugees and immigrants that have been culled from the archives of Reformed Worship

March 9, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Responding to the moral challenge of climate change presents an opportunity for Christians to love God and our neighbor more deeply, and an opportunity for the United States to lead the clean energy revolution already underway around the world.

March 8, 2017 1 1 comments
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You may have heard about some changes in the Office of Social Justice and the Office of Race Relations. We’re excited for the possibilities these changes create! Questions? Here are our responses.

March 6, 2017 1 2 comments
Resource, Lesson or Study

This year we want to invite you to practice confession, lament, and doing justice during Lent. On the Do Justice blog, you'll find an introduction to those disciplines and a weekly Lent plan to incorporate them.  

February 23, 2017 0 0 comments
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To stand in solidarity with refugees and immigrants is not to politicize the church. It is to fulfill the exhortation of Christ in Matthew 25:45, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for me.”

February 13, 2017 4 31 comments
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It sometimes feels like an unlikely fit, but my journey has God’s hand all over it!

February 3, 2017 2 1 comments
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I’m not a political activist and was even a little nervous. But grieving with my Muslim neighbours and taking a stand for peace and justice was important for me in living out my faith. 

February 1, 2017 3 2 comments
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Sundays are about justice, not just us. That's something hard to say and harder to swallow. Sunday justice is about living differently and being a blessing to those around us. 

January 26, 2017 2 1 comments
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My deepest regret during my service as an Elder is that I did not advocate more for, nor amplify the voices of, marginalized and ostracized minorities while in office.

January 12, 2017 1 2 comments
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To eliminate the Affordable Care Act without simultaneously replacing it with an alternative jeopardizes its recognized progress and puts ongoing access to comprehensive, affordable coverage for people with disabilities at risk.

January 11, 2017 5 3 comments
Blog

Cindy Stover has just started working part-time as Justice Mobilizer for the CRC in Canada. So without further ado, here’s a little Q & A between Cindy Stover and Do Justice editor Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan.

January 9, 2017 1 1 comments
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During our week of learning, one of the most powerful experiences we shared every year was an Anointing Service. Yes, our Christian Reformed church hosted an Anointing Service! 

January 4, 2017 0 0 comments
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"Can you recommend a good devotional?" I suspect this is a question that pastors are frequently asked (I know it's one I receive fairly often). In response, here are 12 resources I've used and would recommend. 

December 22, 2016 2 3 comments
Resource, Devotional

In a world that has nuclear weapons and drones and a myriad of other weapons, it takes strong faith, hope, and love to engage in peacemaking.

December 8, 2016 1 0 comments
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I lost my apartment in a fire and it has been tough. Tough to think about anything else. Tough to start again. . .again. But there has been this amazing group of people who have held me up. 

December 5, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Website

It's been 58 days since my daughter Eloise went to be with Jesus. We pray her life inspires others and serves as a reminder about the value and beauty of every life, which is why we're sharing her story on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

November 22, 2016 6 2 comments
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This past June, the Christian Reformed Church declared the Doctrine of Christian Discovery to be a heresy. What does this mean? And how should it affect the way we live? 

November 18, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Lesson or Study

For the Love Of explores the journey of four worship artists to Paris for COP21 to learn about how climate change is affecting the world's most impoverished people. The Climate Witness Project developed a study to accompany the film.

November 15, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Devotional

This year's Advent devotional series by World Renew and the Office of Social Justice focuses on stories about the things that make for peace. 

November 14, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

The freedom to worship and serve God is a God-given right. And yet there is a growing epidemic of persecution of religious minorities around the world. Get involved in working for change. 

October 24, 2016 0 0 comments

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"Whatever conclusions we come to with respect to particular policy approaches (and we should be humble here), we should be agreed that health care for the poor is not merely a matter of charity. It is a matter of justice. Our representatives should know that this is where the Christian tradition stands." A direct quote from Tuininga's article.

Governments all over the world have taken over the responsibility for the healthy, the ill and the poor. In the case of conflicts, procreation and euthanasia with startling and unexpected consequences. 

How we deal with these issues at an educational institution or a think tank is one thing. 

Here is where VandeGriend's last comment makes sense to me.  The CRCNA has just joined two of its "ministry" organizations together that might have been better privatized. Then they could much easier speak on behalf of their supporters and make a positive position known to governments. In Canada we have an organization called Cardus (and there are probably others) that do a very good job speaking to governments with considerable expertise supported by research.

 

I agree. I thought Tuininga's article was quite good indeed, including its restraint.  That is, he clearly states there will be differences among those who hold to his basic premise about how to accomplish it, and that the institutional church is not competent in making those decisions.

I don't there is much difference in opinion, inside or even outside the church, that one obligation of the institution of government is to provide a "safety net" for all, which includes food, water, shelter, basic education, freedom from force applied by others, and basic medical care (and perhaps more).  What is less agreed upon is: (1) how government might most effectively and efficiently do this, (2) how government might do this without itself causing injury (help without hurting), (3) how government might do this without injustice to others (who government will ultimately force to do it, via taxes or other mandates).

As to these other "devil is in the details" questions, the institutional church (the CRCNA in particular) ought not pretend expertise or moral authority in behalf of its members.

That would be wonderful to get some of these resources posted. Most of the resources that Safe Church offers have been gathered and/or created by way of congregations facing these issues. Safe Church is happy to be a part of gathering and sharing information that can help all of us in our various ministries.

This sounds great! I'd love to hear more about what you learned so that we can share it with other churches. Maybe some of this could end up as a resource on the Safe Church Ministry site so that other ministries and churches can share it? 

HI Shannon, 

Thank you for your post! I appreciate all of your points. 

 

Paul 

If this persuades congress to enact more stringent clean energy standards it would also mean higher energy costs. from a social justice perspective wouldn't this be a hardship and added burden to the working poor and those on fixed incomes?  I think we should encourage stewardship of Gods creation but not mandate it through the government, as with all the commands in the Bible it should come from the heart not a law.

I'm so excited to see how God will continue to use both of these ministries for His Kingdom.  My prayers are with you, Reggie, as you take on this new role.  I pray that God will give you wisdom and discernment as you juggle the mandates of both offices and as you work to integrate them when appropriate.  My prayers are also with all of your staff.  Change - even good change - is always tricky during the time of transition.

What I hope, and pray, is that under new leadership, political lobbying and other political spoutings off about what government is doing, as opposed to what we are doing, becomes a much, much lower priority for OSJ.  After all, it is not the case that CRC members are in lockstep as to their theories of the role of government, economics and international relationships, and it is the case that the CRC has Article 28 in its Church Order.

How this institutional church (CRC) and its members might respond to those suffering from injustice, hungry, and in need of mercy is beyond a big enough task for us to take on.  We don't need to also take on political lobbying, as if there is nothing else that we can uniquely do (because there is lots of that) or as if we haven't covenanted together to be an ecclesiastical, and not a political, institution (because we have, see CO Art. 28).

Larry I think you have given a good and agreeable reply in terms of the meaning of these words.  But without your explanation, these words are often misunderstood.  

The problem is that in many ways, capitalism is rather ruthless.  If you don't pay your loans, your property may be sold.  If you lose money at what you do, you may sell your business at a loss.  Larger entities usually buy up and absorb smaller ones, because they have the equity to do so.  A successful new business may end up putting other older businesses out of business.  

Yet, that does not mean that capitalists are necessarily ruthless at heart.  I understand there is a group of billionaires challenged to donate half or more of their income... is Warren Buffet or Bill Gates included in this?  

Materialism as a philosophical concept is certainly anti-Christian.  But most people do not understand it as a philosophical ideal, but simply as a part of reality, of common sense.  God created material, and he created us to live in the material world.  Material and goods are not evil, and even wealth has purpose.  It is very difficult for poor people to emply others or provide others with income.  

 

Anyway, thanks for your clarification.  

Larry: Just as to your #1, abstract concepts ("ruthless capitalism") don't violate commandments, even if people do.  "Capitalism" literally and merely refers to the idea that if one does not consume all that one earns but saves some to invest, that "capital" will generally increase future return, proportionate to the amount invested and not consumed.  (Many poor people have used that methodology to become not poor -- I did, having literally nothing when entering my adult life).

OK sure, there are all kinds of other imprecise definitions of "capitalism," but those definitions are just political rants or epithets being thrown about.   A "free market economy," a phrased that many would syntactically equate with "capitalism," ruthless or otherwise, and one I would prefer to use instead of word "capitalism," means that the government declines to use the power of the sword to force its citizens to "not be selfish."  I think I ought not be selfish, that being selfish violates God's law, but yet I don't think government should restrain me (or others) if I (or others) choose to be selfish, by pointing a gun (or sword) at my head, even if government should restrain me from entering the home of another and taking his money.

This is the difficulty of preaching about broadly labeled political ideas.  It can be done, but ...
 

Dear Ed,

I'll try to answer your questions in the order they appear in your post.

1.  Ruthless capitalism is capitalism that violates the 8th commandment as defined by Lord's day 42 of the H.C.

2.  Materialism is the kind of materialism that precludes people from heaven because their first love is money rather than Jesus.

3. Irresponsible socialism is a socialism that ignores loving your neighbor as yourself, "working faithfully so that I may share with those in need." Q&A 111 0f H.C.  It also violates the sixth commandment as described by the H.C Lord's Day 40.

4.  I think that the pulpit should never bully except through the power of the preached word.  It may make me uncomfortable but then I need to ask is it my defiance of the Word or my obedience to God's word at bottom of this.

5.  Amen to Christlikeness.

Larry

 

Thanks, Larry

Yes, you are overlooking the ones I am referring to. They are the endorsement through the Office of Social Justice and the drumbeat in the Banner of a one sided approach to Global Warming, Fossil Fuels, Open borders, Sanctuary Cities, etc. Recently, Rex Tillotsen, our new Secretary of State made the observation that the best way to lift a country out of poverty is a reliable flow of electricity and the best way to get that is through the use of fossil fuels. But you will not find that perspective in the Banner or in the Office of Social Justice.

When you feel the need to preach against "ruthless capitalism" just how is that defined? Have you, like many of us and our children, watched a business in which you invested your life and your life savings go into bankruptcy because you were not ruthless enough? Just drive through the thousands of shuttered stores in strip malls across the country and try to imagine the heartbreak behind those covered windows. Or is ruthless capitalism just another name for success? Was King David a ruthless capitalist? How about Abraham?

And what is this "materialism" of which you speak? Materialism employs people to make the material. Money always goes somewhere. What may look to you as squandering, may be an intentional and loving way to provide employment to others. Perhaps you remember the 1986 Tax Act. In it, a tax of 10% was levied on all luxury yachts. In this misguided assault on materialism, Chris Craft in Holland, Michigan went out of business and threw a lot of highly skilled Christian workers out of work. 

And "irresponsible socialism" needs a whole lot of explanation. To me the Office of Social Justice is irresponsible socialism.

I resent the use of the pulpit as a bullying position because members of the congregation may have a completely different motivation or set of facts than the pastor may suspect, but they have no opportunity to respond. I resent the use of my ministry shares to advocate for or against social policies closely aligned with one political party. To be sure, there will always be differences between a "tough love" vs "gushing love" approach to helping. But from the pulpit, I want to hear the part about "love" rather than one kind or another. Then I can find those who are committed to working to help as I am convinced Christ would have me work.

In short, I want a church that equips me to be Christlike, not a church that assumes it has the answers, especially when those answers are divisive, or in my mind often wrong.

Thanks for asking.

 

 

Number wise the crcna would certainly be better off if she had not debated women in office for 25 years.  The result was a kind of compromise that said both ways of interpretation of God's word were appropriate. However the compromise did not work.  We ended up with the URC with nearly 20,000 give or take leaving the CRC.  It would have been hard not to talk about it since each year we elect new elders and deacons.

If I hear you correctly you imply that there were other divisive positions the CRCNA has taken.  May I ask what they were: capital punishment, abortion, marriage and divorce, peace and war,maybe I'm overlooking theone(s) you are thinking about.  Help me out here, Ed.

Thanks

 

 

 

Please be a bit careful when you list those things you feel you must preach about, Larry. You see, 81.5% of evangelical Christians who voted, voted for a president who advocates controlling the border, enthusiastic capitalism, a degree of materialism and individual responsibility. And he was supported by a great number of evangelical pastors. Apparently you have a better insight into what scripture teaches, or you are a lot smarter than them, or you have a different bible.

Sure, you can preach on some of these topics, but I can just as easily walk out of your church never to return. Sure, you can ostracize another third of the denomination, but then do not cry when the denominational offices are starving and on the road to extinction. You have reduced your potential market to a very small percent of the population that needs the love of our Lord. You only have a message that resonates with guilt ridden liberals. You have made salvation contingent upon political views. That is the problem when you bully the institutional church, either a local congregation or the denomination, into taking a stand on social issues.

If, instead you focus your preaching on salvation through the blood of our Lord, individual Christians are allowed the freedom to respond to social issues as an expression of their love for our Lord rather than as a duty to the institutional church. I am convinced that this individual expression offers a far richer blessing.

Respectfully Larry, I think you are failing to distinguish between biblical admonitions to people and biblical admonitions to governments.  I am obliged to be a good neighbor even to those who have committed crimes like theft or drug dealing or even rape or murder.  Notwithstanding my obligation to those, government's obligation to those same persons is different.  Government  is obliged to curb those evils, which may often mean prosecuting and incarcerating those people.  

Your and my roles are often quite different than government's role.  We may be required to turn the other cheek, but government couldn't do what God would have government do if its policy is turn-the-other-cheek based.

I'm not saying I know that the current administration's policy on this immigration time-out is good policy, but I am saying its duties, responsibilities and obligations are not correctly understood by applying the lesson of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Again, this doesn't mean the administration's policy is good policy, but, as I have suggested, neither you nor I nor the institutional church (nor even the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals frankly), are privy to the information required to in order to determine the wisdom of the administration on this policy.  Congress gave this power, and the right to have the information, to the executive branch.  Some in Congress have the right to the information, and to oversight, but you don't, I don't, and the institutional church doesn't.

Beyond that, there are plenty of neighbors that we can be good Samaritans too.  There is no lack there I don't think.

I want to thank everyone who has expressed themselves on this topic, especially Matthew for starting it.

Larry

Jesus parable applied to a man who was left behind by robbers.  His parable could also have included a robber waiting in ambush to attack anyone who might choose to help.  His parable could have included or been about a robber pretending to be hurt and robbed so that he could attack unwary helpers.  But his parable wasn't about that.  It is important not to conflate or blur the distinctions.  

It seems you are arguing and preaching to the converted, those who want to help refugees who truly need it.  But you are ignoring all the other real issues and thus your preaching will simply allienate those who are concerned about protection of the innocent.

All that I meant by referring to the parable of the good Samaritan is that Just as the priest and Levite must have had "good" reasons not to give practical help to the one robbed so it seems we are finding " good reasons" why a temporary ban on certain refugees is acceptable.  But Jesus did not see it that way.  He asked which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?  The expert in the law said "the one who had mercy on him"  Jesus told him "Go and do likewise"

Perhaps I'm wrong.  You might be a good samaritan every day of your life but why can you not be a good samaritan toward Syrian refugees right now.  Is there ever a time someone in trouble is not our neighbor?

I'm not following Larry.  How is it that someone has said or otherwise suggested "we cannot be good samaritans in our world"?  I see that being done all the time by Christians.  I practice it quite regularly.  I advocate it.

I think the priest and the levite in the parable of the good Samaritan would have been comfortably at home in your world of logic. Too bad that we cannot be good samaritans in our world.

You are taking some logic leaps there Larry but I assume you know that.  In case you don't, I can't imagine how exactly you can make the case that any kind of ban on Syrian refugees by a sovereign nation for a finite period of time for whatever reason is unbiblical.  Too much nuanced knowledge is required, and there are too many variables that potentially come into play, in my view at least, to be able to responsibly declare the scripture will always be violated when such a ban is implemented by a particular sovereign nation.

And I can't follow you when you say you must preach about all the things you list, BUT on the other hand, I think you certainly can preach on topics than involve greedy capitalism, irresponsible socialism, materialism, etc.  It might take some degree of in-depth knowledge about the subject matters to have the sermon come off as "credible" and not a cheap political pitch, but sure, these subjects are, or their component parts at least are, the object of scriptural admonitions.

Doug,

You have greatly relieved my mind.  I thought you and the others did not want me or others to preach or teach that a ban on Syrian Refugees was unbiblical.  Now I understand you as saying the institutional church may preach against all things that are contrary to scripture such as banning refugees, immigrants, racism, sexism, ruthless capitalism, irresponsible socialism, materialism etc.  So we agree ministers in the CRCNA must preach the Word of God on all these matters and let the chips fall where they may. 

Larry

 

But Larry, the CRCNA already opposes "slavery, apartheid, racism and sexism."  No one opposes that institutional "speaking out" because such speaking out is ecclesiastical (CO Art. 28), just as is speaking about about homosexuality or the human obligation to be a steward of creation.

But it would seem you want the CRCNA to be a political lobbyist as well, as if there is no distinction between pronouncing, as an ecclesiastical matter, that racism is sinful and lobbying congress to pass certain legislation that, say, deals with nuances of voter registration requirements.  There is a difference and even the IRS knows the difference.

To plumb the specifics of your posture on this, would you also want the CRCNA to train paramilitary forces just in case a Hitler-like despot takes over, so that the CRCNA can not only oppose this "Hitler" in words but also with deed?  If not, why not?  

Or to ask another way, just what are your jurisdictional limits, if any, for the CRCNA?  What should Church Order Article 28 allow the CRC assemblies to take up beyond "ecclesiastical matters" (the present church order imposed jurisdictional boundary)?

 

It sounds to me like Doug, John, and others would approve, like the church in Germany once did when they refused to speak up against Hitler, of such ethical issues as slavery, apartheid, racism, sexism.  I do not buy it. Do you really mean the institutional church has no obligation to officially speak out against such evils?

Your easy distinction between individual Christians and the church as institute is tidy but it denies the church of being salt and light in the real world of evil.  If fellow Christians cannot accept speaking out against such evils I suggest they should take it up with God.

Just how much should the Church [in this case the CRC] get involved with anything or everything?

     It appears that a number of comments, including an allusion in my previous post, touch on the fact that a church, in this case the CRC, needs to prioritize its engagements. I wonder at times, if this is one of its greatest challenges, especially when it holds to the idea of "every square inch" is Christ's. It appears that idea, is then taken to mean, that the CRC should get involved in "every square inch" of engagement on this planet. 

    A while ago Palmer Robertson penned an article entitled "Toward a Reformational View of Total Christian Involvement" in two parts, and  suggested the following:

 Sadly the church today has assumed that all the labors of the Messianic kingdom must be funneled through its assemblies. Sadly the church has taken upon itself a role too great for its resources. Sadly the assembled form of Christ's people has lost faith in the working of Christ outside its own assembly halls. The result of this tragic assumption by the church of all that which rightly belongs to the Messianic kingdom is two-fold: first, the most essential task of the church, which is to concern itself with that particular revelation embodied in Christ and incorporated in Scripture has been neglected; and, secondly, by wrestling from the kingdom members their initiative in every realm of human existence, the church has robbed kingdom members of their proper and effective role among the world today......

Receiving its impetus and direction from the church, working individually and in groups as servants of the Lord Christ, the kingdom of Christ assaults every structure and seeks to bring every thought of man into sub-mission to Christ. Christian political organizations direct their efforts toward bringing the secular state into conformity with God's intention for the state. Christian social group strain their efforts to seek social justice among men. Christian educational organizations demand that every philosophy be brought into submission to the lordship of Christ......

So long as the church assumes to itself all the prerogatives which belong to these various ways of God's working in the world, its central task and calling, its unique mission to the world shall be dissipated.

....more later...enough said, other than he sketches out three positions in part 2 of his paper, and here he echoes what has been expressed in some of the posts above:

.....the liberal expands the church so that it engulfs the kingdom. As a result, the church is forced into involvements too deep for its competence. The church usurps those areas of concern which belong rightly to Christians in their vocations, and at the same time neglects its distinctive responsibility of expounding Scriptural truth to its people. The result is that kingdom members lack the theological depth necessary for accurate and significant action, while the church issues ineffective decrees on subjects beyond its competence.

Hope that helps.

John

 

 

Hi Larry,

I think in order to answer that question meaningfully, several words need to be parsed.  What exactly is involved in "caring" and which of the "refugees" are we referring to?  Caring can involve anything from prayer, taking of offerings for relief organizations, volunteering in refugee camps overseas, individual sponsorship, offering a job, serving in the armed forces attempting to bring peace and stability to war-torn areas, or if you subscribe to the theory of Cataclysmic Anthropomorphic Climate Change, something as mundane as changing a light bulb, installing weather stripping on windows, or forgoing that spring vacation with your family.  As for refugees, which of the millions of refugees worldwide is this mandate for care referring to?  All of them?  If not all of them, which ones, and how do some get excluded?  If "caring" automatically means advocating for the admittance of a certain number of international refugees, my question is "Why do you hate the rest of the refugees so much?"  Which level of care is mandated in Scripture and how do you arrive at that conclusion?  Do you have the expertise and inside knowledge to dictate a certain level of refugee admittance or a certain protocol for refugee screening to the government? 

Without exploring these types of questions, I don't think we can come to solid conclusions.  Barring that exploration, I would encourage you to individually do what your conscience convicts you to do along that continuum of care of all the people God brings into your life (including refugees).  And likewise, as is preached from many pulpits every Sunday, the rest of God's people should also be exhorted to love their neighbor as themselves.  The particulars of what that love looks like begin in the heart and will look different from person to person and situation to situation.  If we begin to dicatate to one another the only acceptable versions of care and love, I fear we will resemble the Pharisees as they laid heavy burdens on the people with their minute parsings of what it meant to live out a particular command.

 

I don't think you are understanding John's comment correctly, Danielle.  Or maybe I'm not, but here's my take on what John suggests (and Ed for that matter), which would be mine as well.

First, there are two questions here, perhaps three, and if you don't understand the questions to be two (or three), and not one, you won't understand John's comment or what I think.

Question #1 is this: What should government do in terms of setting laws and policies that allow or disallow refugees from entering the country (US or Canada)?

Question #2 is this: What should we, folks in this country (US or Canada) -- whether as individuals or local churches or even denominations -- do when there are refugees that our government's laws and policies will be entering this country?

Here's the possible Question #3:  What should we, folks in this country (US or Canada) -- whether as individuals or local churches or even denomination -- do when there are refugees but in other countries as opposed to ours? 

So the answer to Question #1: As to the institutional church, it should simply allow the government to do its job.  In terms of those of us who hold the "office of voter," we should exercise that office (hopefully with intelligence and discernment) but certainly, it is not the jurisdiction of the pastor of a local church (or its council, or synod, or the executive director of the denomination) to lobby the federal government in behalf of church members in favor or against one possible government policy or another.

My suggested answer to Question #2: As to individuals and the local and denominational institutional church, we should consider what individual ("love mercy") or communal ("deaconal") responsibility we might have to directly act, working with government but not lobbying it, knowing that refugees may be coming to where we live, and then actually act according to that responsibility (e.g., sponsor refugees -- my church did this in the 1970's/1980's, sponsoring Vietnamese and Loation families).

My suggested answer to Question #3: As to individuals and local and denominational institutional church, we should consider what individual ("love mercy") or communal ("deaconal") responsibility we might have to directly act, knowing that refugees that exist in other countries, and then act according to that responsibility, which might take the form of supporting organizations like World Renew, or possibly by (an individual) deciding to physically going to those other countries to help out.

You may be correct in pointing out, Danielle, that if the government isn't letting refugees in, or so many of them, then we (individuals or local churches, etc) can't enfold those refugees.  But there is lots of other work to do it the world.  We could address other issues needing addressing (and we won't run out of issues needing addresses).  And hey, those of us individuals who hold the office of "voter" can get into the politics of it.  But the key point is that it is not the jurisdiction of the institutional church, local or denominational, whether via pastor, council, synod, or ED, to be the political lobbyist for all of us, even if the institutional church, at whatever level, should act in its deaconal role (which does not include being political lobbyist for all member as to government policy).

Hi John, just to clarify how refugee systems work: it is impossible for individual citizens to sponsor refugees without working with the government. It's not quite as simple as putting the responsibility on individual citizens. As we've seen with the recent mass layoffs at World Relief, government decisions to limit the number of refugees coming into the country directly and immediately affect the ability of churches to welcome refugees. The CRC has a long history of churches welcoming refugees, on both sides of the border, and we can't do that without working with the U.S. and Canadian governments. 

Confusing caring for people with condoning their illegal activities is a non-starter.  We care for people in prison, but do not suggest that the courts were wrong in putting them in prison.  If a nation decides in its interest to delay approval of refugees, or to deny them entrance, or to screen them and put conditions on entry, can a minister legitimately contravene that policy?  Under what conditions?  Is a right for a minister (or any christian) to protest a war, or to protest taxes, or to protest unpaved streets, or to protest global trade?  Is he doing this as a minister, or as an individual private christian with his own opinions on these matters.  

As a minister, he should focus on the gospel unto salvation.  Not put himself into a box of social activism which may end up biting him in the butt when he gets more information in five years.  

Caring for the poor does not mean putting the responsibility on the government, but picking up the task at home with your own hands. 

 

Let me suggest three things that we all must do because we believe that scripture teaches caring for refugees.

1 Recognize that ISIS promised to seed the refugees with hardened terrorists.

2 Put a value on the lives of those who will be blown up when these terrorists strike.

3 Give the President the benefit of the doubt when he asks for a 90 day halt to figure out ways to identify and cull these terrorists before reopening the door to refugees.

This seems to be a responsible and biblical way to balance love for our fellow human beings and their safety with our responsibility to care for the refugees.

What must a minister do when he believes scripture teaches caring for refugees. Period . 

 

Where this article "gets it very right" is when it divides two questions: (1) what should the institutional church proclaim about government policy on immigration?; and (2) what should "we" do when there are people in need that come to our lives?

As to #1, the answer is nothing.

As to #2, the answer is to show them love, regard them as the Good Samaritan regarded the injured man on the road.

These two answers are not contradictory, and perhaps that is where factions in the CRC disagree.

Where I cringed when reading this article was where the author, after expressing appropriate concern about politicizing the institutional church, then purports to be an expert on this administration's immigration policy, citing a source at an embedded links which did not effectively support his claim of expertise in any way.

I'm not claiming that expertise myself.  What I would suggest, though, is that it is extremely difficult (even impossible) even for persons who very seriously track these issues to formulate meaningful opinions about what governmental policy on these issues should or should not be. Why?  For the simple reason that we lack information.  We don't get the briefings from the CIA or the NSA or Homeland Security or the FBI or from closed door sessions of certain House or Senate committees or subcommittees.  And for good reasons.

Which means the best we can usually do is guess about what good government policy should or should not specifically be.  

In contrast, I can analyze the Ninth Circuit's recent ruling denying a stay on the federal District Court Judge's order granting the State of Washington's motion for a TRO as to the President's recently issued Executive Order.  Why?  Because the District Judge's decision and order are public, the Ninth Circuit's decision and opinion are public, the President's EO is public, and I happen to have the occupational training and experience to meaningfully read them and analyze them.  But with all of that, I still have to say "I frankly don't know" in answer to the question, "was the President's EO wise or at least warranty, and good public policy?," again because I don't know that underlying facts, again because I simply cannot (will not be allowed to) know them.

Nor can the author of this article know these necessary facts, which is why I applaud his suggestion to not politicize the institutional church but then cringe when he suggests he has more ability to conclude about the President's wisdom in creating these executive orders than he possibly can. 

Amen and amen. I have nothing to add except thank you for writing this. 

To address the question in the title, the Christian Reformed Church should not respond at all.

Individual Christians may respond or not as part of their expression of gratitude, but every time one group or another convinces Synod to endorse their point of view on a political or social issue, another schism is created, members leave and communion of the saints is destroyed. There will never be complete consensus on any social or political issue. Failure to see this means we are comfortable ostracizing those whose Christian commitment has lead them to a different conclusion. One has only to look at the divisive public statements of the leadership of our denomination to see that one needs to be a Democrat to enjoy communion of the saints in the CRC. If true, there is no point in local missions efforts until we determine the political leanings of any prospective members. That is wrong.

We do not belong in global warming, open borders, tax reform, health care, advocacy of candidates or any of a hundred other social issues as a denomination. We have a much higher calling around which we can and must unify. And if, as a result of that higher calling, individuals feel the need to advocate on behalf of one issue or another, they should join with others who are like minded outside of the church structure and endorsement. In fact, it is in this environment that they may find a greater opportunity to witness to the joy of our salvation.

Please stop this divisive social advocacy before there is another split and a Republican Christian Reformed Church emerges.

Kent. I read your Think Christian article and commented (negatively) on it.  I pretty much agreed with most points in this article.  I didn't see the articles as similar.

Please see my blog on this subject in the Back to God Ministries' "Think Christian."  Commentary.  I stand with you on this subject, but most of the readers of that blog have responded negatively. 

 

Thank you for sharing! Human trafficking is horrendous and infuriating. Thank you for doing something about it.

Very Good Matthew.  While it may not be appropriate or wise to allow immigration and refugee conversation in the pulpit we need to also affirm that it is not illegal nor should other evangelical Christians have to carry the water while CRC clergy play it cool.  Many evangelical pastors have spoken against the present ban on certain immigrants and refugees.  Imagine how the story of Ruth in the bible would be changed if Israel had a ban on refugees and immigrants especially the Moabites. 

Well said, Matthew.  And John Span's response is also a good response.  I think what this proposed ban will do is to illuminate us more about what the real facts are.  Many people have the same idea as Trump, which is why he implimented it.  Searching out the real and relative risks is an important process, as well as becoming more aware of the vetting process that already exists.  I think comparing terrorist damage to typical murders etc often forgets the apparent randomness of the terrorist violence.  Most murders are domestic, or drug related, or crime related, so many people feel quite secure that they will not be victims.  They do not feel secure when it comes to terrorism.... such as a soldier suddenly randomly shooting other soldiers, or a couple in California planning a bombing or shooting scenario.  Nevertheless, the risk must be put into perspective, and into the context of what is already being done to examine potential refugee immigrants.  

Greetings:

      Matthew you raise many important points. Here are a few areas in which I can wholeheartedly agree:

1. Governments should be allowed to set policies.

2. Christians should be charitable.

3. Christians should utilise prophetic voices in the face of injustice.

4. When one part of the body suffers, then the rest suffers.

Each of these, categories can be subject to category confusion and manipulation, if not treated with discernment. Let me explain.

1. I lived in North Africa. A new president with a lot of resolve came into power. He worked hard to ensure that the day to day lives of people had a sense of security and stability. This was accomplished in part by jailing people who were implicated in causing insecurity, but not necessarily guilty. From the local people's stance, they saw this as the cost of having a largely stable country. That is to say, there was a certain amount of collateral damage. Sounds cold, but they saw this as part of the cost of being at war against the forces that would cause instabillty. Guess what the reaction of some journalists from the West was? They cried injustice, unfair, heavy-handedness and the like. What they were doing was imposing a certain idealistic view on a situation that was not their lived experience. Thus, it would have been convenient for even churches who expressed a lot of sentimental humanitarianism to join forces with the Western journalists and call for the ousting of the president. It would have made good press, but some of the realities on the ground called for other responses.

2. Christians should be charitable. Absolutely. But that needs to be with eyes wide open. That is to say, we need to understand the motivations and means of any group according to their own statements, their own declared intents and their own actions. If a talking snake says that it has a declared intent to topple all of the values and Judeo-Christian ethic in a hen-house, then one must ask if it is prudent to invite the snake into the henhouse under the guise of charity.henhouse under the guise of charity.

To focus Christian charity on Christian refugees and groups that are systemically targeted i.e. the Yazidis, is, as you mentioned, a necessary duty. Just yesterday, I signed a petition asking the government to help with those Pakistani refugees stuck in Thailand, and between a rock and a hard place. In some way their plight is more pitiful yet than some from the Middle-East. They don't get much press, because the press is highly selective especially with stories that can invoke an emotional reaction, such as drowned children etc. Of course, one can be accused of being hard-hearted here, but we need to avoid both sentimental humanitarianism and indifference to the fate of others--both of which are questionable.

3. Christians should speak prophetically against injustice. Absolutely. I agree with you, that should be even when it is politically incorrect. However, recall liberation theology and its advocacy for the poor. On the surface this was great. What actually happened though, was the inclusion of Marxist-Leninist views into this so-called 'prophetic speaking' and it became a tool for socialist leaning governments to co-opt the church. The same can be said of the temporary ban on visas issue to certain passport holders. The church could get co-opted. Not saying it will, but the tendency is easy, especially when righteous anger with a touch of sanctimony sells sermons and print. Sounds callous, but most of the work of Old Testament prophets came with a lot of weeping in quiet for injustice and wrestling with God. Didn't seem to be the stuff of "look how prophetic I am, and look at what a wonderful advocate against injustice I am.' Should concerned Christians address the authorities? Absolutely. With eyes wide open.

4. When one part of the body suffers the rest suffers. Absolutely. Yet, we need to tease apart a few categories. America is not paradise. All Christians in the world are not called to come to the Americas. Some will remain in countries where their witness is vital. They might be abused, be poor, and even die. I have seen this first hand in another country in Africa where I lived. Guess what? Many would not trade in all of the trinkets from the West for the ability and privilege to suffer. They taught me how to pray. Let's drop the notion that we are the solution.

 Secondly, some suffering is more newsworthy than others. It is more 'sexy' to highlight the suffering of someone in the West Bank--perhaps with a political agenda behind it--than someone from, say NGoroland. That is why it is prudent for the church to do her homework, as to which sufferings are the most un-noticed, and which should and could be alleviated. Anything that causes the church to receive undue good press for its noble efforts, might be looked at carefully. It might also cause us to ask serious questions about our motivations. 

In conclusion:

   A while back, we met with what we called "the most powerful woman in __________" Eyes lit up. You met with the First Lady? Actually not. She was the second wife of her husband, now taking care of her five children while he had his fling with his new wife. She walked to work. Sang all day. Came to work tired sometimes because she had been at an all-night prayer meeting. She knows the Living God. For her. Trump? Who is that? 

 

Blessings in Christ

JS   

 On Facebook this past week I have read about how civil servants working in American airports handcuffed a five-year-old boy because he was Muslim; separated a woman from her two children and detained her for about 48 hours without food or water ALSO because she was Muslim; and detained another woman for 20 hours ALSO without food or water and ALSO because she was a Muslim.  How do Americans who say they are Christians countenance such atrocities?  What does it do to your witness to your Mulsim neighbors, if you let your government get away with treating people who are seeking refuge like that just because they belong to a certain religion and come from certain countries that were not even the ones from which terrorists who attacked your country came from anyway?  Why didn't Republicans target Saudi Arabia, for example in their list of countries from which people are banned?  How do you think you will convince Muslims to even consider Christianity when people who claim to be Christians behave that way and enact such inhumane policies that go against our Lord's teachings and commandments?  Obviously, the people in power in Washington don't care about that, and if they say they do despite ample proof to the contrary, you can call them liars to their faces, but if you do care, what are you going to do about it?  As a Canadian I can sign petitions until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, it's your country and your government.  According to your political system, you are the ones who have to hold those politicians accountable for the laws they pass, especially when they're immoral.

posted in: Sunday Justice

  

      Stay Strong David ! Muslims are my friends also !....Dean Koldenhoven Palos Heights, IL

Thanks, Dave. I don't know how many others participated in similar events, but in St. Catharines I know both Jubilee Fellowship and Covenant  CRCs sent email invitations to all on their lists, inviting people to participate in a vigil downtown. We gathered in front of city hall, the imam led prayers for Muslims, who bowed on the ground facing east. The prayers were followed by brief, fitting speeches/comments by several political leaders. From city hall we moved, many carrying candles, with police traffic patrol to the mosque about one kilometre away. There the imam welcomed the marchers, led recited passages from the Quran in Arabic, then translated them to English. Those he recited shared Christian and Jewish moral and spiritual values and principles. As well, three Christian clergypersons made brief speeches, ending with a prayer or blessing. The mosque congregation had several large containers of Tim Hortons coffee and boxes and boxes of Timbits, but there were far too many people--and there was no multiplying of coffee and Timbits, though that would have been a really nice touch. The next day the St. Catharines Standard said about 500 people attended, though I think that was well under, because the column of walkers stretched three blocks, occupying one land of Church Street--with about 10 persons in each row. During and after the ceremony at the mosque, members of the congregation walked through the crowd thanking attendees for showing up. It was a blessed occasion caused by a great wickedeness and hatred. I was very pleased to see at least 15 folks from local CRCs and I might not have seen anywhere near all.

Ken, while personally I have many concerns about Donald Trump as president, even supporters acknowledge that he's made lots of claims and promises that do not include specifics, or that he's changed his mind about later.

I respect Paul Ryan and, like you, believe him to be grounded in the Christian faith. I wasn't attacking Ryan as much as summarizing what I have heard him say repeatedly — promises and claims lacking specifics. Whether he's a Christian or not, it remains troubling that details of an ACA replacement have been so long in coming. Along with many others, I'm still waiting for the evidence that Trump or the Republican Congress will come up with a plan that maintains the positives of the ACA and "leaves no one behind."

Here is a post by Ed Stetzer who writes a blog for Christianity Today on some of the implications of a "repeal without a replacement" approach.

And, just yesterday I received an email from another denominational disability organization — the Anabaptist Disabilities Network — noting that one of their field associates, Rebekah Flores, will be impacted if the ACA is repealed without a comprehensive replacement plan. Rebekah wrote, “I can only afford to see my doctor and pay for my medications to treat my Multiple Sclerosis because of the Affordable Care Act.”

I don't feel it's unreasonable to ask for a replacement plan before repealing.

Doug,

As I said in the post, I didn't think it was necessary for me to be more vocal. Maybe that's the bubble I live in, maybe it was naivety with how the parliamentary system of our denomination works. And while there is a lot I can still do and say as a member of a CRC, I cannot, for example, be a voting member of Synod as a non-office bearer.

If you want a more specific example, my Classis sent a rather mundane overture to Synod related to the Pastoral Guidance Committee report. It was not until I arrived at Synod that I found out you cannot serve on a Synod committee if your Classis has an overture before that committee. I would have spoken much more vocally at our Classis meeting had I known this. I assumed that since the "real" debate would be at Synod, there was no point in making a fuss at the level of our Classis. At least as a delegate to Synod, I was grateful I got a chance to speak on the floor there.

My heart goes out to Mr. DeYoung. Some of those near and dear to me have disabilities so I can sympathize. Nevertheless, I would like to respectfully point out why I think this post is an excellent example of "good" and "not-good" in a church publication. It might have been useful to edit this item just a little before posting it. I think it's "good" to submit a list of features one might hope for in legislation; I think it's "not good" to attach that list to rumors, baseless accusations, and other such statements such as those in the first three paragraphs of this post, in a denominational magazine or website such as this.

This post begins with a vague "Multiple reports suggest..." and goes on to a derogatory comment about the President-elect well before the inauguration and follows that with an attack on Rep. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House. (Ryan was depicted in political ads a few years ago pushing grandma over a cliff in her wheelchair, but some view him as one who lives his Christian beliefs, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit.) This introduction concludes by questioning the morality of legislators in the early weeks of a new term for not providing evidence that legislation still being written will be completely satisfactory. This makes one wonder if it isn't just a tad politically oriented.

If we are going to have political statements here, perhaps we should seek some balance. Would the monitors consider a post that reported that, for the first time in history, a U.S. president spoke at the annual meeting of Planned Parenthood, leading abortion provider in the U.S. and dealer in body parts of aborted babies? This would be the same president who, as a state legislator stated that he trusted doctors performing abortions to provide necessary care for viable infants surviving abortions. These are doctors who believe a dead baby is the best solution to an unplanned pregnancy. As the adoptive father of two grown daughters, now the mothers of five terrific grandchildren, I beg to differ.

Jonathan:  I have to ask, and intend these questions respectfully:  So why didn't you?  And a second question: Why can't you now, even if not an elder?   And finally, What specifically do you believe you so failed to do?

  Unfortunately, since I live in Canada, I can't do much about this.  However, I have shared it on Facebook for my American friends.

Hi Cindy!  Welcome to the CRCNA.  I look forward to working with you.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Lou. I have a couple of thoughts in response. First, the OSJ was not recommending these devotionals, I was. Second, Rohr's devotionals, as many of the others, are challenging. I do not agree with everything that all of these writers put out, particularly as a Reformed pastor. This is why I listed the denominational affiliation of the devotional writers. Personally, Rohr's penchant for the mystical compels me as a Reformed Christian, which I why I recommended him.

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