Discussion Topic

I have deliberately kept a low profile for the past year since the Banner published the article, Tomorrow’s Theology.  I have watched as the church responded, and now that Synod has acted upon the various overtures related to it, I think it appropriate to re-enter the conversation.

July 3, 2014 0 2 comments
The last substantive motion of CRC Synod 2014 came from the floor. The restoration of the ethnic advisors. Ethnic advisors have served Synod for a number of years due to the lack of ethnic diversity. The plan was for there to be advisors until 25 delegates were from non-CRC-majority culture...
June 20, 2014 1 7 comments
Changes in the missionary support paradigm at Christian Reformed World Missions have created some controversy. A former missionary and current missions leader gives a personal perspective.
June 18, 2014 3 5 comments

A little while ago I listened to Rev Joel Boot as he gave his final speech as interim executive director. The first thing I thought was it takes a special person to do that job and we should thank God for the job Rev. Boot did. As I was listening I found myself wishing I could someday visit the...

June 17, 2014 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

There is a lengthy and thorough report of this committee. At the end of the agenda item there is a request for input which I assume to be for synod delegates to complete.

I wonder if those of us in the pew can participate in this?

Do we need a new post for this? It is a complicated...

June 15, 2014 0 1 comments
The succession plan outlined in the Board of Trustees (BOT) supplement to the Agenda for Synod indicates that both the previous interim Executive Director and deputy Executive Director will continue on in other roles until March of 2015. Does any other organization work this way?
June 9, 2014 3 5 comments
Discussion Topic

I am delighted that there will be joint sessions of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) and the Reformed Church in America (RCA) this month in Pella, Iowa.

This may sound like a recurring refrain but here we have the CRCNA (a bi-national synod) meeting with the RCA (a...

June 3, 2014 0 1 comments
Having served on the search committee that recommended Dr. Steven Timmermans to the Board of Trustees for interview and nomination, I will not fully relax until the final vote is tallied and announced. Let me explain.
May 30, 2014 2 2 comments
The church has always had a strong commitment to Christian education. This ecclesiastical commitment remains critical today. In particular, the historic creeds and Reformed confessions of the CRCNA give the college and its faculty a well-articulated faith context in which to work.
May 21, 2014 2 2 comments
All three offices share in the great challenge of the church leadership: the equiping of the saints, together, but also each in its own way.
May 13, 2014 1 0 comments
Five overtures in the Agenda for Synod 2014 call for action related to The Banner. All of them represent responses to last summer’s heat wave generated by the publication of two articles...
May 12, 2014 0 43 comments
All advisers are asked to remember their role at synod—which is to help the delegates from the classes and churches to make decisions for the whole Christian Reformed Church. Synod 2014 will consider a report that more clearly defines these advisers and their roles...
May 12, 2014 0 0 comments
The Board of Trustees meets three times per year to implement matters assigned by synod and carry out interim functions on behalf of synod. "BOT Highlights" are published following each meeting and distributed to churches by way of the stated clerk of classis. Here's the latest issue.
May 9, 2014 0 0 comments
A time of worship for the whole community–a time to sing and pray, a time to talk to God and listen to what God has to say to us.
May 6, 2014 0 0 comments
In a historical first, the annual synod of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) will be doing some business together when they meet simultaneously in June on the campus of Central College in Pella, Iowa.
May 2, 2014 1 0 comments
Most churches have ministries geared for children and youth, but many kids with disabilities don’t feel at home in these ministries.
May 2, 2014 2 0 comments
I’m glad that in June the CRC and RCA Synods are meeting at the same time in Pella, Iowa, and worshiping together from the same hymnal. I welcome the joint recommendation to both of our synods to acknowledge how much we have in common...
April 24, 2014 0 2 comments
Soon after his promotion from lecturer to professor of Old Testament studies at our Theological School in 1914, Ralph Janssen was to face growing suspicions of "liberalism."
April 22, 2014 2 4 comments
The Board of Trustees meets three times per year to implement matters assigned by synod and carry out interim functions on behalf of synod (read more). "BOT Highlights" are published following each meeting and distributed to churches by way of the stated clerk of classis. Here's the latest issue.
March 5, 2014 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

In 2012, Synod adopted a new category, Ecumenical Faith Documents, and placed the Belhar Confession therein. This category is interesting and puzzling.  This category was never defined by Synod 2012 and I believe a definition was put on hold during Synod 2013.  There was an overature presented...

February 21, 2014 0 0 comments
The Office of Synodical Services is in the process of soliciting nominees for service as ethnic and deacon advisers, as well as young adult representatives to synod.
October 24, 2013 0 0 comments
The Board of Trustees meets three times per year to implement matters assigned by synod and carry out interim functions on behalf of synod. "BOT Highlights" are published following each meeting and distributed to churches by way of the stated clerk of classis. Here's the latest issue.
October 15, 2013 0 0 comments
There is much I like about the shepherding model.  I especially like the emphasis on listening.  I just think that the listening should take place sooner.  
October 2, 2013 0 0 comments
When I think about the things that make me impatient with synod, I confess to the sin of cynicism. (Is cynicism de facto a sin? I’ve come to think so. Christians just don’t get to do gratuitous negativity.) On the other hand, when I’m feeling good about a particular synod, and someone snidely says to me, “Yeah, but what did they actually ACCOMPLISH?” I feel deflated... 
September 30, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

I am a bit behind on this topic. However to pressure on folks who already work in mostly difficult circumstances this is a difficult position to support. If we apply it to Back to God Ministries International and Home Missions the traffic on our pulpits asking for money eould increase...

September 8, 2013 0 27 comments



Thank you, John, for the courtesy of your reply, and for the candor with which you write.

I “seem to deny” that God spoke creation into existence?  I do find that deduction difficult to understand.  The fact is that I affirm that doctrine wholeheartedly and make much more of it than is customary in our theology.  So if we ask Genesis One what is the Word of God? we get the reply: that activity of God whereby he brought the whole universe, including humans, into existence.  We need to listen to what God is saying in the creation fully as much as we need to listen to what he is saying in the Bible.  Or don’t you agree that God is speaking in the creation?

You say that I am my own arbiter of what to accept and what not to accept in scripture.  Surely you can’t mean that.  I accept anything and everything that God says, whether in natural revelation or in special revelation.  Perhaps you come to that strange conclusion based on the recognition that the Adam and Eve stories in Genesis 2 and 3 can be interpreted, as Paul suggests in Romans 5, as typology rather than as historical.  This is not an arbitrary decision on my part to deny part of the Bible, but to attempt to understand both what the Bible teaches and what science teaches (special and natural revelation) without contradiction.  Of course you may disagree with that method of reconciling the two, but it should not lead you to make such unfounded and somewhat disrespectful accusations.

But taking into consideration everything you wrote in this reply, I think you didn’t address the main point of what I wrote.  I asked the question whether or not we are willing to listen to what God says in creation, to believe what he says there, and make whatever adjustments appear to be necessary, if any, to our theology.  It is indeed my conviction that the Adam and Eve stories in Genesis are typological, not historical.  And if this is true, then it seems clear to me that theological revision will be required.

Edwin Walhout


In my perception, it is ironic, Edwin, that on the one hand, in your world, Adam never existed, yet on the other hand, God still spoke.  As your own arbiter of what to accept and what not to accept in scripture, it is difficult to carry on a rational discussion.  By your standards it would be as easy for me to deny that God spoke at all.  Especially that he spoke creation into existence, which you seem to deny anyway.  (or are you now suggesting a punctuated equilibrium?  or God of the gaps?).

It sometimes seems that the strongest believers in raw evolution theory are those who do the least examination of the empirical  difficulties with it.

Scientists who study origins without considering God' s word, and His role, just might be the same as a mechanic trying to understand an engine without considering the fuel that makes it meaningful  Just because they are studying God's world, does not mean they are listening to God, anymore than a teenager riding a God-created horse down a God-created trail to a God-created stream is listening to God.  Although scripture does say that even those who have not heard of Christ are still without excuse before God, because they can see God's hand in the world around them, if their hearts are open.


Michael, I would be interested to learn how Calvin College would respond to the Community Covenant Document  that Trinity Western Students and Faculty (in Langley BC Canada) sign and that has caused a firestorm in the media in Canada. Please look up the document on their website. In summary, many Canadian lawyers and teachers believe the graduates from TWU are unfit to practice law and teach in Canada. The Supreme Court overruled the teachers in 2010 but now the lawyers are starting the same process.

Paul you make a good point here. The CRCNA has at least 6 denominational boards with average of 12 members spread across North America involving lay people and Pastors. These Boards meet up to 3 x per year.

What is interesting to me is that the CRCNA does not have an overall Finance Board.  Each of the the 6 Boards mentioned already have a Finance Committee. In Canada these are  legally required as is an Audit Committee. The scope of the BOT needs to be decreased and taking Finance out would be a big step to decentralizing control.  To broaden and create more entry points it would be feasible to expand the 6 Boards with Advisory Committees. This could add up to 100 entry points!

Once that is done and all the small ministries (Disabilities, Safe church and a host of others) are rolled up into Home Missions it would be possible for Synod to meet once every two or even three years.

As I have said elsewhere, the whole CRCNA structure needs to be overhauled  and more responsibility placed back at the congregational level. Making Board members and Advisory bodies more involved with the congregations (and possibly accountable to them) would go a long way to achieve what you are saying. The cost to fund this could come from a reduction in positions of the smaller ministries of which some could be put in "sunset" mode, as I mentioned above, and defunding unsuccessful church plants .

The RCA is considering biennial General Synods. I had two separate conversations with RCA delegates who both complained about the diminishing role of deliberation at larger assemblies. Both of them felt that reducing the amount of work done by the broader group of people reduced denominational buy in. I tend to agree. 

Denominational identity and loyalty are directly tied to the amount of influence one feels they are able to bring to the denominational. I think in general we need to flatten, broaden and create more entry points for people to serve and participate rather than reduce. It does cost money but the broader the buy-in, identity and loyalty the greater the financial participation as well. 

I don't know what you read in my piece that suggested "higher". The challenge is to create a deep and broad pool. 

The language of "best qualified" has similar limitations as "higher" language. I've been involved in a variety of search processes at multiple levels of the church. The question usually isn't as uni-dimensional as "best qualified" but rather "gifted and qualified to bring X quality to address Y need which is most important at this time." All hirings are contextual given the present needs of the organization and the gifts and talents of a person in a job at a particular time then of course impact the direction of the organization.

This is why having a deep and broad pool of diverse candidates with a diversity of experiences and skills is so valuable. Our lack of diversity, not only with respect to ethnicity and gender but also experience limits our search processes. 

The Synod experience I think is important. I think varying the location as we've been doing helps bring Synod to different places in the country which is positive, and making room for more participation likewise helps strengthen the denomination. pvk

Hi Keith,

In what publication did you see a reference to this blog as "one of the 'latest' articles in the Network?" 

For just a few moments, I thought that George Vander Weit was back. I just saw this as one of the 'latest' articles in the Network. It took a while to realize that the piece is three years old and that, to my knowledge, he is still missing.

Is this piece's inclusion in The Network intentional, or is it a painful omission on the part of Network editors to archive this piece.

It was something that Harry said that caught my eye: The need for a sunset clause on some of the ministries and/or committees.

I occasionally facilitate strategic planning sessions for Christian non-profits. One of the first questions I ask is: "If you had to begin this ministry from scratch, would you?"  That question caught one particular group off guard and the said that, no, other organizations do it better than they do. So they folded.

What about a sunset clause for every local church; especially every church plant. Are they effective in spreading the gospel to the community? Is there another church that can do ministry more effectively?


And now a point about this most recent synod. It seems to have ended rather quickly, with very few substantive issues that required much debate.  Take away the bureaucratic appointments and the drivel over The Banner's editorial integrity, and there is nothing that couldn't be held over for another year or two. The CRCNA is one of a very few denominations to hold annual assemblies. The cost savings might fund an overseas missionary or two.

Aside from the "higher" that Lambert correctly resists/protests, I appreciated Paul's thoughts regarding the impact or impressions that folks experience being delegated and present. I had encouraged a Calgarian female elder who had "a blast" being there,and I know contributed to the conversation in the advisory committee she served. She'll go back to Calgary and RPC and let the folks know that some good things happened in Pella.

Again, we need to look for the best, most qualified to fill positions of leadership and administration, even when they're not the "higher" places.....either that or have a hiatus of a year without them, and see if the local church collapses...which it will NOT!  I do think it's a mistake to have the past leaders stick around as long as the BOT suggests, accepted by Synod 2014. Which, by the way, as a more seasoned attender, delegated or not, was a pleasant synod. Even the youngest delegate seemed to be enjoying it!  One cannot lament the result if one doesn't participate.

Lambert, the church has some of the same tendencies as the government hierarchies. They are always willing to fill what THEY perceive to a hole or short coming of the people. The law books  (in government and Acts of Synod in the CRCNA) are ever growing. Instead of a sunset clause on some actions or activities the church takes, the things they create always grow in people and expense.

I agree with you, let's give the local church some credit for the things they do and most often can do on their own.

How is it that we keep thinking that our Administrative offices at 1700 28th Street GR are 'higher''? They are not. They are different. The local church is the highest authority center in our system. One of the problems we keep bumping into in the CRCNA is thinking of GR as HQ and that its staff is in leadership over the local church. It doesn't work that way. How many local churches take their leadership cues from GR? Very few I suspect. We certainly don't. Nor did my previous two congregations. With regard to staffing our administrative offices, we ought to find best qualified...nothing else matters...and if it does, we still have a problem. 

Hi Lou,

The exciting thing is that churches have mostly responded very well in the past year.  Instead of keeping their total dollar amount the same and shifting it around, many have boosted their support significantly.  One church decided to increase their support of a CRWM missionary from $1000/year to $1000/month, fully meeting his goal for this year.  Another missions committee member told me he was upset with the new model and asked the team, "What are we going to do about it?"  They decided to boost their mission support budget by $6000/year.  If we are to move boldly into the future in obedience to the Great Commission, we do need to think through priorities.

For many years I had heard about a Presbyterian denomination in southern Asia that funded missions through a handful of rice taken from the bag for family use and setting it aside for missions.  I met the mission director and asked, "Is it true that people in your denomination do this every day?"  He said, "No, we do it at every meal."  In their poverty, they are totally committed to exalting the name of Jesus and willing to sacrifice to advance His cause.  The challenge to us as wealthy North Americans is clear.

Hi Steve,

This is where I mentioned on the Twitter feed that I concluded we were talking past each other.  I hear you speaking to the need for the denomination to stimulate the desire to serve in missions through a clear commitment to the life-changing, essential character of the Gospel.  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).  We certainly do need to re-emphasize in our day of relativism and pluralism that the Bible makes all kinds of exclusive claims about Jesus.  This builds the desire to serve in Gospel proclamation at home and abroad.  

I was addressing the mechanism for getting those motivated people to their field of ministry, which hasn't been working very well for a quarter century.  These are exciting days on the deployment side because our change in support-raising paradigm means we can send more people, but all of us need to work at the stimulation side.  And, truth be told, many CRC people are serving in missions with a variety of other organizations who would have served with CRWM in the past.



Thank you for this, Steve.

There is greater depth to this than from what can be ascertained from a Twitter feed. I am glad that CRWM is able to use this model to free space for new missionaries as CRWM only sends missionaries as are able to be created. Your 'shrinking missions' fact is that of demand. This demand is not our want or desire to send missionaries-- of course we do, and the more the better. It's an issue of demand that is constrained by our ability to create the position.

My point of clarification, coming from someone who is say, younger. I think you were circling the camp with this sentence: "CRWM chose to keep sending sons and daughters of the Christian Reformed Church to serve God in missions." This is historically correct. I mentioned on social media that there is a vast contrast between missionaries then and missionaries now. The number of missionaries actively entering the field is an issue of supply. The CRC has not been doing the best job in this regard-- and this is an issue separate from financial status. This brings up orthodoxy-- strong conviction and belief. We are not raising up missionaries the way that we were because, in my opinion, we are feeding ourselves wishy-washy statements, unchallenging gospel truth, and lackadaisical doctrine. How are we to fulfill the Great Commission if nobody is telling me that we are to be salt and light to the earth? Or "because I belong to him, Christ... makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him."

We ought to be wise builders who build on rock-- Not foolish builders who build on sand. Those creedal truths are our rock-- and as Jesus said-- we must both hear and put into practice these words. That's how you'll raise up a generation of missionaries.

My heart aches for CRWM and for our overseas mission staff as they deal with funding issues.

I recently returned from India where I was witness to incredible church growth. K.P. Yohanan's Believers Church plants 17 churches per day across that nation.

I attended a ceremony for a class of Bible College graduates. These were 20-year-old young men, many of them having grown up in the slums of Mumbai and elsewhere, who were new Christians and who were determined to return to their slum neighborhoods to spread the gospel.  They went through a two-year Bible College training program with the express purpose of church planting.

Each one of those 20-year-olds said that they would plant churches and preach the gospel until they die ... realizing full well that they may only live three or four years before they will be killed for their faith.

My point is this: Is there a simpler, more-effective way to train young men and women ... something that doesn't require four years of college and then seminary training with an MDiv at its conclusion.

The demand is incredible in India -- and around the world. These graduates feel the 'urgency' to get out and spread the gospel. They 'ache' for the lost.

The Christian Reformed Church -- especially our pew-sitting parishioners -- don't see that urgency. Their focus is on the plight of our overseas missionaries and their families rather than on the thousands of 'lost' they may reach.

Last night I attended our church's congregational meeting where we are looking at a $3.5 million 'renovation' to our church building. It will make our comfortable pews more comfortable. We have numerous churches throughout our classis -- never mind our denomination -- who invest millions in their own comfort, building their own 'kingdom' rather than God's kingdom.

That $3.5 million could fund a new church plant in our city, providing $100,000 in salary and support for the next 35 years.

We as a denomination have lost the sense of urgency when it comes to spreading the gospel.

"The mission....has been delegated to His Church."  When spelled with a Capital "C" this gets fuzzy, but insofar as a lot of reformed folk understand "denomination," the Church has dodged and a lot of congregations duck when approached.  Used to the paradigm of a missionary having to have 12 to 14 churches supporting them at anywhere from $500 - $2000 each, what does a congregation that has perhaps four or five missionaries do to "up" their amount to the necessary level?  The obvious choice to some is "cut some entirely."

This is yes, a pattern of quarter of a century, as is the decrease in membership.  That is the trend that so concerns me; I don't see enthusiasm for mission in churches that are not successful in local evangelism either.  God help us....

The SPACT report in the Agenda for Synod was comprehensive but a few things jumped out at me, as someone who has been involved in a few major organizational changes.

1) a revision of job descriptions before an organization chart has been considered seems a bit premature.
2) a more concrete approach to the bi-nationality issue appears missing.
3) telling managers to change the culture is not a solution. The CRCNA has been at this for 30 years.
4) disfunction between the key ministries and the BOT is an organization problem not a people problem. 

There have been major changes in church attendance and the number of churches. In the CRCNA the number of churches has been growing while the members on a per church basis is declining (some 21% over the last 15 years). This puts pressure on Ministry Share income. The corporate organization in place today is not sustainable.

The SPACT committee gave an interesting option which had some traction with me. I have changed it slightly but it appears to go in the right direction. It entails reconstituting the BOT. The members should be the ED, the directors of the 4 key ministries and 2 members from the Boards of each of these ministries. This would be step one.

In two years, the four ministries could be reduced from four to three. Home Missions, World Missions and World Renew. (A North American ministry and two world missions one of which would be World Renew.) These three ministries would continue to be supported by an Administrative/Financial department.

All the smaller ministries, focused on North America, could be rolled into Home Missions. Probably at least three of those might be eliminated because their useful live time has been reached.

Over the next 3 years the three ministries plus Administrative/Finance could have some 30% of their staff in Canada to equal approximately the Canadian share of the CRCNA membership.

It might be safe to assume an amalgamation with the RCA over this time frame.

In Canada the CRCNA  would end up with an ED and three ministry leaders along with a senior manager for Administration and Finance. At that time the reconstituted BOT could include the ED of both countries and 1 or 2 members of each board (6 or 12 people).

Respectfully submitted for discussion purposes.

Harry Boessenkool

Sent from my iPad

I will certainly do what you suggest.

In making the suggestion of this candidate to synod I wish the mandate of the committee had also included a proper take over of duties time line.  What was announced seems a very unusual. A new person should have a very short overlap (5 days will do) with the outgoing (in this case 2 persons). It is extremely important that a new person start with a clean slate. Each direct report can make up his or her own "state of the union" in their area of responsibility. This should have nothing to do with the "retiring" folks. We appreciate their work and their contributions...but the golf course should be their new challenge.

In my career spanning 40 years I moved 12 times. Some pretty senior jobs too. The longest overlap was 5 days. That is a simple answer to Norms first question.

posted in: Long Goodbye

Agreed. Having the previous interim Executive Director and deputy Executive Director still in place sends conflicting messages to staff as to who is in charge. 

posted in: Long Goodbye

You make some excellent points.  I question the transition time-line from the perspective of financial management.

posted in: Long Goodbye


posted in: Long Goodbye

There is much wisdom here, Norm. 

posted in: Long Goodbye

Thanks for the call to prayer, Loren. I will commit to praying for the interview aspect as well as the whole of Synod that all that is said and done, as well as what is not done, will honor God and edify His people. May all our plans be what God desires for His church.

thank you, Search Team, for the hard work of discerning and responding to the church's needs and bringing forward a wonderful candidate.



Just a (perhaps) minor correction. The RCA is a bi-national denomination, though it may be much less intentional about its bi-national identity than the CRCNA. Unless there is another Reformed Church in Canada that I'm not aware of, the one you mention in your post is not a denomination, but a regional synod within the RCA. 


Paul VanderKlay raises some important points above regarding the mandate given the Banner by Synod over the years in contrast to other writers who feel that mandate needs to be revised. The question that needs to be asked is whether there has been shift within the CRC "not" to a more conservative outlook on issues, but a shift from it's Reformed roots to realignment with North American fundamentalism.

Regardless, the Banner and it's editors are an easy targets for what are ongoing pastoral and ecclesiastical discussions on various topics at annual Synods. That these topics are on the table at all, is a reflection of what local churches are struggling with in ministering to their flock. If pastoral care is to be extended that means both dialogue and engagement with scripture and God's creation is required rather than mounting the ramparts. 

To anyone: Would John Calvin agreed that one should leave his "Reformed" denomination for the sorts of possible reasons listed above by John Zylstra? It has been a long time since I have read The Institutes.

I would also suggest that the banner withdraw from all magazine competitions regarding various article categories (I forget the name of the association or award committee), since review by such an organization has led to awards for some articles that I think should not even have been in the magazine, and such type of "peer" review can lead to a perversion of the intent and method of various articles and editorial content.  The only review that matters is what God has said about it, and that should be interpreted by the denomination, not by some outside organization which has standards outside of and not approved by crc confessions, nor by scripture.

David Feddes raised some very excellent points relative to the politics of selecting banner editors, editorial committees, synodical oversight, and the banner purpose.     I think the comment about Canadian vs USA staff is not so pertinent, since if all editors had been USA but equally provocative, the problems would have remained.   On the other hand, Ken Bakker's comments  are written in a barely acceptable fashion as has been pointed out, since they appear to defend the indefensible.   If this magazine goes to every home on the involuntary membership dollar, then it ought to uphold the confessions and scripture.  These two questionable articles clearly did not do so.  Furthermore, the ten years of editorship has not in fact been without "issues", as David pointed out with regard to the "don't be so sure" article.

While I have suggested that we forgive Bob DeMoor for his indiscretion in the two inflammatory articles, I was again put off by the title "where have they all gone?", relating again to the homosex issue.  It would be interesting to use the same title for an article on where the great majority of people have left for other reasons, including acceptance of women in office, crc apparent acceptance of homosex, acceptance of premarital sex, and questioning of primary doctrines from Genesis.  How many left because being upset with the statements made by John Suk?  How many left for other reasons related to lack of orthodoxy, and ignoring of scripture?   With a general decline since 1992, it is becoming apparent that many denominational statements and positions are driving crc people either to more orthodox reformed churches because they perceive a better correlation to scripture there, or to anabaptist churches because they sense a better committment to christian living there.  Traditional social crc members will likely remain because of their primary committment to their heritage, social situation, family relationships, but yet they will decline.   Only a primary commitment to scripture, to God and Christ above all, and to Christian living in both personal and communal aspects, will provide motivation to remain with the denomination.  Thus these types of banner articles serve only to drive people away, with no beneficial side effect, since they also separate people who remain, away from God and from His Will.

Forgiveness for the publishing of two inflammatory articles implies repentance and a renewed sense of discretion with regard to the implications of titles, articles, and the way they are written.   Without that discretion well applied, crc members will often feel like prisoners of the system, implicitly maligned by perverse statements having the "apparent" blessing of an involuntary publication funded by their church tax dollars.

ok... just a break from sharing my thoughts to hearing from another perspective... here's a recent article (warning: it's long and a tough, heavy read, with possible triggers for those who've been abused, so read only when you are at a healthy emotional place/time) about Boz Tchividjian (Billy Graham's grandson) and the ministry of GRACE he's involved with...  and some of his thoughts on transparency in the church...


here's a quote from the end of the article:

 GRACE is challenging Christian institutions to live up to their teachings, to “expend themselves, even to the point of death, to demonstrate love for a very hurt soul,” as Tchividjian says.
“If you think about it in the Christian context,” he continues, “God did his most powerful work when Jesus, his son, was at his most transparent and vulnerable, on the cross. So why do we approach all these things differently? If I’m a Christian, why am I not driven by the fact that if we mess up as an institution, then when we’re most transparent and vulnerable, that’s when God can do his most powerful work? I’ve seen that in churches: When they do respond that way, it’s pretty powerful what results in the lives of survivors.”EOQ

so, CRC, something to ponder pretty seriously...



"This document, Confessional Commitments and Academic Freedom (CCAF) is presented at synod this year for information". (Bold is mine HB)

I made a comment re Calvin College in the context of Finances (Ministry Shares). The above quote is interesting because it raises a question in my mind of why Calvin College can not become totally independent just like e.g. Dordt College in USA and Redeemer and The King's in Canada.

Don't get me wrong, as mentioned by Dr. Le Roy, Calvin and the CRCNA have been a blessing to each other. Should we open this discussion or put it on a Synod agenda at some point?

significant clarification on:

b. "manifestly" and "obviously" used in Section 6.c regarding appeals

These are quite ambiguous terms and cause me to cringe more than I’m comfortable with.  What is obvious to one person, is not necessarily so for the next, that’s how come things get to the judicial code level.  The leaders of the proceedings are generally very smart, and if they think it’s necessary, they are smart enough to manipulate and cover things up for whatever reasons they feel it’s necessary, and so it will quite likely NOT be manifestly unfair or obvious that the evidence doesn’t support the conclusion, but it will be hidden, subtle, confusing and very, very difficult to prove, especially if it’s appealing something done in strict executive session.  Transparency does not seem to be a strong point in the CRC.

The charge of an unfair hearing will be met with much resistance from the leadership, and the leadership will spin everything they need to, to make them look good, and cover up.   Anyone who is good at manipulating will be able to make the hearing appear fair to the majority of people, but you have to dig to find how they are manipulating the process.  It will not be obvious or manifest, but will take peeling back layers of a tangled web, which most likely will include manipulation, deception, twisting, spinning, misunderstanding, etc..  That's one of the reasons the Catholic Church could cover things up for decades!!!  Things are not obvious and if they were, it would not have gotten to this point in the first place.  On top of that, often people are afraid to speak out, because they will be shunned, lose their friends/job, or worse…  and that is one of the tactics the enemy uses to keep evil from being exposed.

I see these terms as significant potential loopholes that can be used to manipulate the outcome, or give the perpetrator, or leadership, a way out.  Manipulators can twist the meaning of words to make it fit their situation, and use it to try to shut down a case based on some technicality.  As one example, per the church order article 84, “sexual misconduct” has a very narrow definition, basically “sexual abuse”.  However, sexual misconduct is generally understood with a much broader interpretation than how the CO defines it.  I would think that for most people, how the CO defines “ungodly conduct” is what most people consider “sexual misconduct” as well as “ungodly”.  It seems that sometimes something is decided on a technicality, instead of what is right and just.

I’m also very concerned about “manifestly” as that could shut the door on the prophetic.  When things are so hidden, secretive, covered up, God will use the prophetic to help expose it.  Often there will be manifest evidence as well, but it might not be obvious, and being a bit familiar with our traditional understanding of the prophetic, I have concerns that we might be shutting this door of the prophetic through using this type of word seems to me could technically exclude the prophetic.

Again, if something is at the point of judicial code/last resort, there are serious issues where someone isn’t taking responsibility, or being honest, or there is something fairly deep going on.  We cannot assume everyone is doing the righteous, Christ like response at this point, because then it would have been resolved long ago.

So would love to see these terms clarified or something as they are vague and seem to leave a large loophole for leaders to do whatever they want.

I found it interesting that the crc acknowledged our lack of justice through the following statement from Synod 2014:

BOQ: Synod 2010 issued a declaration confessing that the CRC has "not always justly and compassionately helped those who have been sexually abused" and has "not always justly or adequately disciplined church leaders who have been abusers" (Acts of Synod 2010, p. 867). EOQ

I'm thinking and finding that it's been more than an isolated incident here and there.


 "Why does citizenship in a nation state trump membership in the Body of Christ? Does civil religion take precedence to following Jesus Christ?"

Jesus reduced the entire LAW, OT and NT to "Love God and be a good neighbor" but the Devil is in the details. Our sin nature effects all human activities including the Church.

I am not certain that labeling things as left, centre or right is helpful to a fruitful conversation, let alone making the charge that "Canadian" Banner editors "liked" to be provocative. That individuals may disagree with the arguments laid out in some of the articles that were published is one thing and an opportunity for an ongoing dialogue, however, we always need to ask ourselves whether our comments occasionally slip into ad hominem attacks.

The comment, "It's also worth asking whether we should have such Canadian dominance of the Banner editorship when a large majority of CRC members are U. S. citizens," raises an important question. Why does citizenship in a nation state trump membership in the Body of Christ? Does civil religion take precedence to following Jesus Christ?

I don't assume that all CRC Canadians seek to be provocative. I'm just saying that all three Canadian Banner editors over the past 35 years liked to be provocative. It's also worth asking whether we should have such Canadian dominance of the Banner editorship when a large majority of CRC members are U. S. citizens.

The first sentence of the text of http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/05/13054/  

"The only form of marriage that existed before the fall was between one man and one woman." This is disingenuous because before the fall there were only one adult human  male and one adult human female in the Garden.

Second sentence, "The narrative trajectory of the Old Testament shows that all other versions were the result of sin." 

Isaac's example is arrangement by the tribal chief and ratified by sexual intercourse. Is this version more or less sinful than the CRC approved model? 


re: your statement that the Canadians consider it part of their mandate to be provocative... that seems a serious charge; what happened to "pursue the things that make for peace?" or taking with a drop-dead serious attitude Christ's prayer that we might all be one, that the world might know the truth? or the mandate to utter edifying speech that administers grace to the hearers? there was a time when the Banner only went to those who deliberately subscribed; now ministry shares are used to send it all over the place; do we give ministry shares to stir up controversy in our own family? if we want it to truly be a "kitchen table" in part so that the "family" can discuss serious issues, maybe we should return to a subscription only publication

David I hear you... further, it just seems like the CRC goes from one controversy, however important, to another; many have left the CRC and one reason I've heard more than once is that people are tired of all the fighting; couple that with the general lack of institutional loyalty, and, well, it just seems that the time for published controversies, in the popular publication, are over; many CRC people used to go home on Sunday afternoon and read Bavinck or Berkhof or Kuyper; not that I think they were the good old days, but CRC people were different than most are today; if the Banner has become a forum for questioning the historicity of Adam or the propriety of gay marriage... well, personally I cannot see any good coming from it; HOWEVER I do think these and other issues need discussion, just not in the Banner... my 2 cents... I fear we'll just give fuel to those with a bent for schism, like the debate over women in office... I wonder whether that could have been handled a bit more judiciously, instead of giving grounds for the fundamentalists in our family to pack up and leave

Paul, you observe that “discussions … of whatever editor we presently have will always be with us.” Since at least 1980, “whatever editor we have” has been theologically left of the CRC center, and objections to Banner content have come from those who resist its leftward leadership. Also, for 32 of the past 35 years, Banner editors have been Canadians who considered it part of their mandate to be provocative. (Full disclosure: I am married to a Canadian, have ministered in two Canadian congregations, and have preached in dozens more.)

This uniformly leftward choice of editors is related to the overall leftward slant of Board of Pubs/Faith Alive throughout this time period. For instance, Walhout was a longtime fixture there. If I recall correctly, when John Suk was nominated for editor, another finalist was Dr. Carl Zylstra, an eminently qualified person from the CRC’s center who had earned a Princeton Ph.D. and was later President of Dordt College. But the nominating body did not submit Dr. Zylstra’s name as part of a duo for Synod to select from; they presented the more liberal John Suk as a single nominee.

We haven’t had a Banner editor from the center or right of the church for decades. If the Banner continues to be published, maybe we ought to find out what it would be like to have an editor from the CRC mainstream who does not think that provocateur is part of his job description.

this always seemed like the bottom line to me; yet certain OT laws in practice seemed to not always follow that ideal; in spite of that, it appears that "one flesh" in its context "set up" a couple that they might fulfill the cultural mandate; but I guess this is far afield from the original question, what do we want, or expect, from the Banner; and I still believe that arguing over controversial questions ought to be done in more "scholarly" publications

My fear for Synod is my expectation of a comment discussion, that we will spend time wandering around debating sex, science and the worthiness of our present editor. Discussions of sex, science and the worthiness of whatever editor we presently have will always be with us, it seems to me foundational question is the question of this article, "What do we want from The Banner?"

I think most of us will agree the denomination needs to be able to manage a number of missions at once:

1. Prescriptive Faith formation and doctrinal instruction. The assumption of the Banner for this mission and the felt betrayal by the two articles in question and the editorial decision to put them through is what is drawing all the heat. OK. but if this is the mission of the Banner then we should say so.

2. Space for exploration tolerating divergent even heterodox ideas. When I work with people, in and out of the church I encourage them to speak their minds and their hearts and I value honesty over correctness in this mode. Most of us get this as a necessary part of a process for individuals and communities to work out their faith and figure out how what they believe fits, or does not fit with the catholic church. Should The Banner be a space for this? Our current "mission statement" for the Banner seems to suggest it, and given the limited media modes of communal conversation in most of the 20th century it fits. The question is whether it fits the present realities of The Banner as print medium combined with its promotional mission (which is a separate mission from points 1 and 2 here).

When the matter of adopting the Belhar arose the most interesting question for me was how would our denomination manage a communal conversation and decision of this magnitude? My conclusion based not necessarily on observing the outcome as much as the process was "not very well".

Questions of sex and science along side the matters of power and privilege which the Belhar sought to address are large and broad conversations that the church must engage because society is engaging them. If the church wants to have both influence and a voice we will need to figure out how to do so.

James Schaap has been the CRC historian for the late 20th century. The piece he wrote for the 150th anniversary of the CRC http://www.dordt.edu/publications/pro_rege/crcpi/Pro_Rege_Sept_2007.pdf noted that the reality of our place in our time is that we've lost the ability to control the question. CRC minds and hearts, of laity and pastor alike are shaped far more by voices outside the CRC than inside. No decision on the Banner will change this. We will not have the kind of voice in the Banner that we had in the days before TV and then the Internet took possession of the agenda. The question we must ask is how will we steward the conversations we are capable of. We will talk about sex and science and power and privilege but what we need to figure out first is how will we talk.

1 Corinthians 6:16

New International Version (NIV)

16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”


Thus the sex act was/is the marriage ceremony. 

I always appreciate your clarity, David.  

An Old-Testament colleague of mine at Calvin recently published a piece about Biblical understandings of marriage that might be helpful: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/05/13054/.  

The text says Isaac "married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her." I interpret these ever-so-complicated words to mean that Isaac married Rebekah and she became his wife and he loved her. What is ambiguous about that? What facts are not in evidence? Rebekah and her family had already agreed to the marriage before she met Isaac. She then made the journey and met Isaac. At that point, he married her. The text speaks of marriage, not mere cohabitation. How does this text clash with biblical teaching that sex apart from marriage is fornication?

>There is no similar ambiguity in Scriptural teaching about fornication,

How do you interpret Gen 24:65-67 without ambiguity or assuming facts not in evidence?

65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

You got this complementarian saying, "Preach it, sister!"  : )

If you ever get to Seattle we have a great pub a block away from the condo.  If everything I knew about the JWs I learned from The Watchtower that would be enough to keep me away from them. The web is a wonderful invention but seems to bring out the worst in some people. 

Not all issues are the same.  Throughout the debate on women's ordination, the CRC declined to define the issue as rising to the level of the confessions.  Those who were advocates for the ordination of women were not ever charged with violating the Form of Subscription as far as I know.  Precisely because this was not a confessional issue, it has been possible for the denomination to live with a local option on women's ordination.  The doctrine of original sin is not like this.  The condemnation of all unchastity is not like this.  These issues are explicitly addressed in our confessions.  On these issues, we have an authoritative, confessional interpretation of what Scripture teaches.  Those who have signed the covenant for office-bearers are supposed to exercise our theological and intellectual freedom within the bounds of the confessions.     

The debate about women's ordination was always about how to interpret Scripture on an issue that was not definitively settled by our confessions, and even in the midst of disagreement my experience of the CRC debate was that those who disagreed nonetheless recognized each other's genuine intention to honor Scriptural authority.  That's still my experience.  This is reasonable, because there are passages of Scripture that speak positively about women as prophets and worship leaders and images of God and other passages of Scripture that speak negatively about women as preachers and leaders in the church.  Which passages should control the interpretation of which?  That's a fair question, and even though I am absolutely confident in my interpretation of these passages, I respect those who reach different conclusions and honor their need to be obedient to Scripture as they read it.  There is no similar ambiguity in Scriptural teaching about fornication, and suggesting that a defense of fornication is somehow analogous to a defense of speaking God's word while female is rather offensive.    

So could we please not confuse the conversation by appealing to women's ordination as if it is a precedent for every other debate in which the denomination engages? 


2) Words and phrases that need to have a very clear definition and understanding of the following terms or reconsider using these terms:

a. restorative justice

Restorative justice is a very broad term and needs clarity... Please include a clear, specific reference to a document, or include an appendix to what is meant by this term.  Looking back at Synod 2005, I could not find the definition in the acts of synod and needed to look in the 2005 agenda to find some idea of what we mean by this here, it was not a quick and easy search to find out what this means.  I read the 2005 overture related to this concept which states many of the same concerns I have about this concept.  Have those concerns been addressed anywhere?  If so, how, when and where?,  So, not seeing any definition in the proposed changes is concerning.

If the perpetrator is a master manipulator, the victim might be the one who ends up repenting and apologizing to the abuser.    Unbelievable?  Not unheard of, unfortunately.  I’m sure that’s not the intention, but I've heard about the victims where their spiritual leaders use their authority and tell them they are the ones in the wrong for a variety of reasons and that they are the ones that should be repenting and apologizing and asking for forgiveness.  (see above comment on timeliness and how some assume the person bringing the charge is at fault for making it drag on as one example).  I would like to see a clear, concise definition, understanding that can be quickly accessed either referenced or included here.

I agree that restorative justice is often not appropriate for charges regarding ungodly sexual conduct and any kind of abuse.  The Holy Spirit is the only One Who can ever restore the damage to the trust and innocence and other “intangibles” that have been damaged because of the situation.  I would love to see the prophetic and inner healing recognized as part of the process.  It seems that is recognized minimally in this process.

We want to make the assumption that whoever is leading will do so in a righteous, holy and godly manner.  I want to believe that too, and did for most of my life.  However, in the last several years, I have witnessed and researched multiple situations where that was not the case when it came to sexual immorality in leadership.  I have studied the Catholic Church and the sexual abuse of children that was going on for decades and how multiple levels including the Vatican were involved in covering it up, and protecting the reputation of the leader and the Church at the cost of the victim.  The code of secrecy that contributed to decades long cover up and keeping it hidden, again at the expense of those who were and continued to be victimized by leaving the priests in leadership positions, where they could continue to do their evil “deeds”.   I have researched the Sovereign Grace lawsuit, again, where sexual abuse against children by leaders was covered up for many, many years with leaders aware of it and left the perpetrators in positions of leadership, where they could continue to abuse.  I have researched Bill Gothard, a key ministry leader in the patriarchal movement, how he for years took advantage of teen girls who volunteered in his ministry, to date there have been over 30 that have come forward.  And most recently we have Doug Phillips, also a key Christian leader in the patriarchal and home school movement, in a lawsuit for sexual abuse, to mention just a few situations that have been publicized.   Along with that, in the last several years several women that have been in the crc, have shared with me their stories of abuse by leaders in the church, and that in all of their situations, the leaders were left in leadership.  Also, I have heard from others involved in a number of other abuse stories within the crc that had the same result: NO JUSTICE, and leaders protected.   Restorative justice would be wonderful, but in too many situations, we aren’t even seeing any JUSTICE at this point, unless it goes public, forcing leadership to deal with it in a more transparent way.

(there will be more words that I would like to see defined or clarified in a subsequent comment)