We know our report asks hard questions and probes into corners we might want to forget. But we also know that hearing hard truths and questions, while painful, can set in motion a process of healing. 

April 26, 2016 3 2 comments
Resource, Article

In the heat of an election year in the USA when debate and emotions run high, we are invited to dialogue in such a way that reflects the Jesus we seek to follow. So friends, be excellent to one another. 

April 11, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Article

David Gushee recently wrote on how the inclusion of sexual minorities in the church is redefining the evangelical landscape. Though we feel the squeeze, struggles like this aren't new.

April 4, 2016 0 1 comments
Resource, Report

The Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church in North America met in February 2016 at the denominational offices in Grand Rapids. During this meeting the Board...

March 8, 2016 0 0 comments

A working group in the Mennonite Church USA has created a 43-minute documentary entitled "The Doctrine of Discovery: In the Name of Christ" that is a good introduction to understanding the Doctrine of Discovery.

January 29, 2016 0 0 comments

As official preparations are underway for Synod 2016, it seems like the stakes are higher; the concerns more pressing. Join me in praying for unity in the CRC campground. 

January 26, 2016 4 5 comments
Discussion Topic

I just read this week's CRC Communications email and the link to Dave Schelhass' article in The Des Moines Register. I would like to point out to Dave and others that by combining several separate phrases from the CRCNA "official position" he reads into the statement some boldness to statements...

December 30, 2015 0 0 comments

About a month ago, we received an email from our Stated Clerk to discuss the 3 Synodical Study Committee reports. My question is: how do I best lead these discussions?  

December 29, 2015 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic

In his article "Through African Eyes"

John Azumah, professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary.relates how North American churches can embody cultural imperialism with a very paternalistic...

December 20, 2015 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic

"Will Christ rule our life and witness through His word, or will our life and witness be conformed to the global ambitions of a secular culture?"

The above is a foundational question posed by Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya in preparation for a critical meeting in January 2016. His...

December 18, 2015 0 1 comments

Our church council would like to nominate two young adult representatives, one of whom has served previously. Is this permissible? Secondly may someone be nominated twice?

December 17, 2015 1 2 comments

For the last six or seven years, I have had the challenging situation of dealing with/living with/dialoguing with a special interest group in the global Church. This group swears allegiance to Biblical orthodoxy, uses the name Jesus frequently, and gives passionate appeals to the fact that they...

November 30, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Synod has mandated a study on the area of homosexuality for its 2016 assembly. One of the resources that it has engaged is the material from New Directions Ministry of Canada with Wendy Gritter as its executive director. This blog asks the question if New Directions actually represents all...

October 24, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Report

The Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church in North America met from Sept. 24 to 26, 2015 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

October 5, 2015 0 0 comments

In response to the news that choosing by lot had been part of the selection process, someone commented that it was good to see us trusting the Spirit just a little. What do you think?

August 11, 2015 1 2 comments

Synod 2015 was an industrious synod. Now freed from the pure reporting mode, I share unsolicited insights eagerly anticipated by anyone desperate to read something...

June 19, 2015 0 2 comments

During Synod 2015, The Network is selecting a “Tweet of the Day” to be featured, as well as 2 honorable mentions! Could it be your tweet? 

June 18, 2015 1 0 comments

During Synod 2015, The Network is selecting a “Tweet of the Day” to be featured, as well as 2 honorable mentions! Could it be your tweet? 

June 17, 2015 0 0 comments

During Synod 2015, The Network is selecting a “Tweet of the Day” to be featured, as well as 2 honorable mentions! Could it be your tweet? 

June 16, 2015 0 0 comments

During Synod 2015, The Network will be selecting a “Tweet of the Day” to be featured, as well as 2 honorable mentions! Could it be your tweet? 

June 15, 2015 0 0 comments

During Synod 2015, The Network will be selecting a “Tweet of the Day” to be featured, as well as 2 honorable mentions! Could it be your tweet? 

June 12, 2015 0 0 comments

I sometimes found it intimidating to be a young adult at Synod. While I was very warmly welcomed by so many delegates, there were times I questioned whether I was even qualified to give an opinion...

June 12, 2015 0 0 comments

For the duration of Synod 2015, The Network will be selecting a “Tweet of the Day” to be featured on the blog! Could it be your tweet?

June 11, 2015 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic

In just a few short days, Synod 2015 will be underway on the campus of Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA! We'd love to know: what are you most excited about?  

June 8, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

If you're a deacon, elder, or pastor in the CRC, I encourage you to read the full report of the Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon. Additionally, I've shared other resources to dig deeper!

June 5, 2015 0 0 comments



Thank you for your comments. They are helpful. 

I have spent a lot of time in the last few weeks reading the various reports and overtures that are coming to synod. It is actually overwhelming.  We have to let scripture speak. Using a metaphor here might explain how I feel. "The symphony of some of the reports to synod appear to be a out of tune with scripture."  The 200 plus folks at synod will have great difficulty getting the harmony back! From this you will be able to know how I will pray for this synod.


Harry Boessenkool 

Dear Ron,

As the son of two missionaries who  served in Rehoboth and Zuni and a member of the DoCD report team, I'd like to respond to your comment - as I have previously in correspondence with you.

First, you are right, a commitment to truth is a commitment to the whole truth. That is precisely why this report is the way it is. The arc of the whole truth of European conquest and our treatment of indigenous peoples and the creation is missing important pieces - difficult pieces for us descendants of Europeans to accept. And this report is about those pieces. 

The report is definitely not balanced - and it was not intended to be. It concentrates on the missing, difficult, uncomfortable (for me) pieces of the truth that have been habitually left out of the story. It is intended to bring us a little closer to "the whole truth."

As you may imagine, there was considerable discussion on this point in the committee. In the end, it became clear to us that we needed to present the less admirable elements of European cultural heritage and Christian missions rather clearly and without an attempt to balance each negative observation, historical reference, or - most importantly - personal story with a positive observation, historical reference, or personal story. To do so would be to take away from the truth of the dark, systemically sinful, and pain-causing side of our history - both as a people group and as a church. In other words, we decided not to include the "yes...but".

I had a bit of a journey to get that point. You may note several wince inducing quotes (illustrating the equating of most things Zuni and Navajo as "pagan" or "of Satan") from letters culled out of the archives by our historian - a professional historian, may I note, who is about to receive his PHD. Here is one example: 

. In 1949, Gerritt Vander Meulen used this analogy to critique the practice of allowing students to return to their home communities for special events, writing,

“The battle of the ages is Christ against Satan. Then may we, during the time that they are entrusted to us, permit them to go to Satan’s side and battle against Christ?”

This and several other quotes are from my father.

I know very well that those quotes by themselves do not define who my father was nor his complete attitude to Indian missions or native cultures. But these are true quotes and they do represent an important set of attitudes my father - and many others - brought to Indian missions. The point is not my father's rightness or wrongness. The point is that he learned these views from somewhere and was playing his role in a structure much older and larger than either the CRC or its Indian missions.

If you want to know my father's full attitude and relationship to the Native Americans he worked with, this report would not be much help. I grew up listening to my parent's stories. I know their motivation and their attitudes. But, if you wanted to know the reasons behind the painful experiences of many native Americans from the colonial period to the present, this is an important set of quotes to know about.

I agreed with the rest of the committee: To balance the report would have taken much of the power and truth away from the parts of our history that we would rather not confront.

The report does not say that nothing good has come from CRC mission work with the Navajo and Zuni. Growing up CRC means that I (and others) have heard the good stories and the positive accomplishments in the pages of The Banner, Missionary Monthly, and a number of good books for as long as I can remember.

The report is raising questions about the model we used for missions, i.e. how we as European-Americans ever got into the position of needing - or seeing a need for - residential schools in the first place.  Rehoboth is an example - our example to be sure - of the results of centuries of conquest - religiously justified conquest. DOD justified conquest.

There were many residential schools - as you know well. Some were well run and some were hell-holes. I like to think Rehoboth was among the best of residential schools. Perhaps it was the best that could have possibly been done.  But it certainly was not a model we would have chosen for our children. So the deeper question is: Whatever got us into the situation where the best thing to do, we felt, was to re-make an entire generation of indigenous children into our image?

But the real point is not to blame our parents and/or our early institutions. The creative purpose of this committee's work was to look to the past in order to learn and grow for future Kingdom work. If we learn from the past to examine more critically what are we doing now - how has the church and its Mission been co-opted and used by American and Canadian culture - well, that would be wonderful.

I personally hope this report is seen as a much larger critique of European-American cultural and religious values - not just a critique of Rehoboth and CRC Indian missions. I understand that it will seem to be the later to those who are deeply involved. 

I know many CRC folks have dedicated their lives to and deeply love our Navajo and Zuni brothers and sisters. My parents' service there shaped my own missions trajectory. I was weaned on the stories of Zuni and Rehoboth. I remember Sampson Yazzi coming to our house when I was small. I went to the yearly missionary picnics at Johnson Park. Mom and Pop Bosscher were practically household icons. This report does not intend to bring disrespect to either these missionaries or to the Navajo or Zuni peoples. 

The report is not perfect. But in the end, this will be worth it if we see a little more clearly how deeply we are embedded in culture and society - and that our European-American culture has some deep and historical flaws that need rather urgent attention. It will be worth it if it sparks a renewed telling and listening to the stories - and especially an honoring of the painful ones.

Peter Vander Meulen

Grand Rapids


Hmmmmm?  "In knowing the fullness of our shared story in a spirit of grace and commitment to truth, we can know each other as the new family that Christ intended."  So you say!

1.  I might wish the report reflected the "fullness" of our shared story, including stories of God's redeeming work via the CRC in the Southwest among Navajo and Zuni people.

2.  While your report is a worthy telling of an important part of our story, it seems to lack "a spirit of grace" toward missionaries and other workers, Native and non-Native, who did heroic work in trying to bring the gospel to Native people.

3.  "A commitment to truth" means you are obligated to tell the whole truth. As the catechism teaches (Q and A 112 re false witness), we ought not "join in condemning anyone without a hearing" and we ought to "guard and advance [our] neighbor's good name."

It is my hope and prayer that if Synod discusses the report this summer or delays it for a year, they will include instruction to give the report more balance.  That will disrupt your current narrative and may     require a new or more representative task force, but the current report should not be approved. It doesn't measure up to quality historical work, or the fullness you claim to desire, or what the church deserves and needs.

Ron Polinder

Lynden, WA

Thanks Paul, for this important reminder.

In the same spirit, I wonder if our churches, and synod, would be well served if, prior to any discussion about potentially divisive subjects, we all commit to an exhaustive study of Philippians 2, the familiar kenosis passage, which Paul (the other Paul) introduces by saying: Have this mind amongst yourselves...

Would that be helpful? 

PS Doing justice to the depth of that passage should take at least two years, no? 


How did it go? 

We haven't discussed it but we did other things suggested in the email we all received from the CRCNA, regarding clarity of our position on this issue in the bylaws and articles of incorporation.

I wrote a 4 page summary of the report, left many things out, but that was more FYI vs for discussions. 

Grace, Daniel  

Yes the theological thoughts of former Missional African churches need to be listened to, heard, recognized as we wrestle with our own responses to North American Openness Movements.


Thank you for your comment, Harry. You are right: there are lots of Christian denominations and, at least on the surface, the presence of so many denominations could suggest that unity is next to impossible. But before I would say that unity is impossible, I would want to talk about what we are using to measure our unity.

In Hamilton, Ontario, where I am currently pastoring, our congregation participates as a covenant partner in the TrueCity movement. (You can read about TrueCity here.) There are currently sixteen core churches involved in the movement from multiple denominations, including Baptist, Assemblies of God, and Christian Reformed. We certainly disagree on multiple points of theology (women in office being one of those areas) and we have different approaches to preaching, different emphases in preaching, and reach different demographic groups in our city, we also experience a great deal of unity with each other.

Our unity as TrueCity churches does not depend on conformity with each other in any of these areas. Rather, our unity in Christ Jesus - the foundational reality that we are saved by God's grace in Jesus Christ - makes room for a great deal of diversity between us in how we respond to that God news. In our unity we collaborate together in serving this city of Hamilton. And in our unity, we also spend time talking with each other about our different perspectives on a whole host of topics, including how we read scripture, how we respond to persons in same-sex relationships, and what discipleship looks like in each of our congregations. Unity is possible even when we have different denominational orientations. 

I am also struck by your comment that praying for unity implies that there is already disunity. More than disunity, I see and hear a certain level of distrust within our denomination. I am convinced that distrust (whether of leadership's priorities, of each other's motivations, or of each other other's decisions) leads to disunity. Though I would be hesitant to suggest that we are experiencing complete disunity right now, I would suggest that encouraging us to pray for unity is important considering the distrust and skepticism that is apparent within our conversations.     

Prayer, absolutely. But to pray for unity suggests up front there is disunity. Let's make sure we are all clear on what we believe. To Doug's point we also need to understand what we are faithful to! The first two lines of the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles Creed would be a good start.  James  R Payton wrote an interesting article in the December 2015 /January 2016 Convivium magazine. The key phrase in the lead of the article "..the Orthodox Church offers Western Christians the treasure of celebrating mystery rather than explaining God".  I am not enough of a theologian to grasp all the details but it has to do with what we believe. " At beginning of the 21st century Western Christians had more than 26,000 denominations"  he explains further. Praying for unity appears in that light to have had little success. .

My sense is to be very careful to craft (more) actions/motions/departments/appointments in support of study reports. The CRCNA is famous for that with its 1,000 pages of Acts of Synod.


Thank you for this reminder about faithfulness, Doug. You are right: We also need to pray that we would be faithful. 

I fully agree with you that we can and often do idolize unity, particularly when doing so can give the appearance that "Everything is fine. There are no problems here." As with all idolatry, that type of unhealthy unity ends up celebrating events, institutions, and relationships that have no more depth or substance than a desert mirage.

I wonder, though, if the potential of embracing a false unity can get in the way of us praying for and working toward a more robust experience of our unity as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. 

At the same time, I also see a danger around the pursuit of faithfulness as well. We can idolize our determination to be faithful just as easily as our pursuit of unity. We can use our convictions as walls that isolate ourselves from the rest of the body of Christ. Under the flag of being faithful, we can separate ourselves from others to the point that the only voices we listen to, the only people we associate with, and the only ones we are willing to covenant with are those who reinforce our particular understandings.

Though the desire to be faithful is right and good, we can pursue that desire with such attention to where we disagree that we lose sight of our unity in Jesus Christ. We describe faithfulness with such a tight boundary that we no longer see each other brothers and sisters in Christ.

That is not to say ditch all have boundaries. Quite to the contrary, the creeds and confessions serve as boundary markers helping us understand parameters for faithfulness and unity outlined in scripture. I am, however, suggesting that we can dig our own definition of faithfulness so deeply in one particular spot that we lose the capacity to celebrate the acres of common ground that we have in Jesus Christ. 

So, yes. I would agree: let's pray that in seeking unity we might not ignore faithfulness; and I would add, that in striving for faithfulness we might not lose sight of the unity we already share in Christ.    


I think prayer for the single goal of unity is incomplete.  Unity alone, which as a practical matter sometimes means compromise to the extent required to achieve unity, even if faux, is not what God requires of us.

No, I not suggesting compromise can't be good.  See Acts 15 for that.  But compromise can be bad even if it is not always bad.  No, it's not easy to discern which is which, but still I think prayers for unity must always be accompanied by equal petitions for faithfulness, lest whatever the process prayed for start with the false premise that only unity matters in an institutional church's deliberations.

Certainly, seeking unity is part of being faithful, but only "seeking" and only "part."  Sometimes, I think we believe that institutional unity is required, for ourselves at least, to be one holy catholic church, as if Paul and Barnabas were no longer brothers in Christ because they disagreed to the point of separating in one of their trips and taking different companions.  Wasn't the case then and still isn't now.  

I would go so far as to say that institutional separation, done well, is sometime necessary to organic unity.  But if we only pray for unity, we can't get to that truth, and separation is much less likely to be "done well."

Greetings Andrew:

  In no particular order, here are a few pointers for reading a report.

a. Have a few people read the same report.

b. Have them compare notes.

c. As they read they should ask, with dependance on the Spirit of truth:

    1. What is the report trying to help us decide, or predispose us to accept? Is that good, bad, or indifferent?

    2. What are the author's trying to address, change, or reveal? Is that good, bad or indifferent?

    3. How do the authors view the Lord of the Church, His Word, and His world? [the hints might be subtle and this takes close and careful reading]

    4. Ask how much the author's are influenced by historical Reformed confessions and global orthodox theological positions, and how much are they influenced by the spirit of the age?

   5. Ask if they are proposing a trajectory that will bring the church closer to Reformed interpretations of the Bible, or are they leading the church away from it?

   6. Ask if they are actually representing all points of view with intellectual integrity.

   7. Ask why a minority report might have been created, and what is it saying?

   8. Are there smokescreens or Trojan horses embedded in the report that might not be seen at first flush?

   9. Is the report out of balance either in the material covered, the suggestions it is making, or what it is not saying?

 d. Have the readers compare notes with other readers of reports. For instance it is possible to find two responses from the Young Adults Leadership Taskforce to a current Synodical report at the following link. They are not Gospel, but they might help to form an informed opinion.


Hope that helps.





Thanks John for your article (or articles) in which you are critical of our American culture and the way it seems that many American churches (including Reformed and Presbyterian) are following such culture.  Could it be that our culture is perhaps more on track than the church on many issues, and therefore the church ends up following culture?  If I remember correctly it was the southern USA (the Bible belt) that advocated for slavery and the liberal north that fought against it.  It was also Christians who were in the forefront of opposing mixed racial marriages.  It was also Christians (the church) who opposed women leadership, whether in the church, family, or society. And on these issues, as well as others (such as creation vss. evolution), the church gave (or gives) Scriptural support for such positions.   I think society, although listening to the church for some time, has lost all confidence in the church to give moral or meaningful direction.  Eventually the church (and the CRCNA) will probably follow culture (and rightfully so) on the issue of homosexuality.

Thanks John for your article (or articles) in which you are critical of our American culture and the way it seems that many American churches (including Reformed and Presbyterian) are following such culture.  Could it be that our culture is perhaps more on track than the church on many issues, and therefore the church ends up following culture?  If I remember correctly it was the southern USA (the Bible belt) that advocated for slavery and the liberal north that fought against it.  It was also Christians who were in the forefront of opposing mixed racial marriages.  It was also Christians (the church) who opposed women leadership, whether in the church, family, or society. And on these issues, as well as others (such as creation vss. evolution), the church gave (or gives) Scriptural support for such positions.   I think society, although listening to the church for some time, has lost all confidence in the church to give moral or meaningful direction.  Eventually the church (and the CRCNA) will probably follow culture (and rightfully so) on the issue of homosexuality.

Thanks so much for clarifying this for us.

Churches may nominate as many synod advisers as they like for each of the advisory roles (includes ethnic advisers, women advisers, and young adult representatives). Forms and guidelines for each of the adviser roles are available on the CRC website at and are due to the Synod Resources Office (contact info at the bottom of the form) by January 15. Advisers to synod will be appointed by the Board of Trustees in late February.

Thanks Norman for your article and Stanley for your comment.  I agree with your hesitancy to choose leaders of the church by lottery.  If you think it through, choosing leaders in such a way is really no different than playing the lottery.  You can say we are relying on the Holy Spirit to make the choice, but the reality is that we are bypassing making a reasonable thought out choice and leaving the choice to chance or luck (not the Holy Spirit).

As Bible believing Christians, we believe we have been created in the image of God.  One of the primary human characteristics is our ability use reason and to logically make choices.  Humans don’t rely simply on animal instinct.  This is likely the very reason that Christ emphasized that the law can be reduced to two principles, love for God and neighbor.  From those two principles we can reason or logically deduce the details of what is loving toward God and neighbor, without coming up with a long list of “do’s” and “don’ts,” as did the Pharisees.

It’s disappointing to think that our churches and denomination are moving increasingly in the (so called) leading of the Holy Spirit direction when the reality is that Christians are walking away from their unique God given ability to be reasonable and to use logic when making important choices in life.  The extreme logical outcome of such foolish thinking is to prayerfully play the lottery.  If I win big (unlikely), then I then I thank the Holy Spirit for his guidance; and if I loose all my wealth then I know the Holy Spirit wanted me to be poor.  After all, I did pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

posted in: Trusting the Spirit

Thanks, Norman, for the good reminder. I've thought the same thing when selecting by lot is advocated on the grounds that it's more Spirit-directed. The Spirit works through our reflection and discernment, too!

posted in: Trusting the Spirit

If the 2015 Denominational structure overhaul is carried to it completion the input of Canadians will have effectively been reduced to 3 to 1! The position of Director of Canadian Ministries, always a position of questionable authority or input, will now be relegated to a token position. This despite assurances about the position last year. Based on the Ministry Report 2013 the CRCNA had some 12 ministries and their respective Directors excluding CC, BTGMI, WM, HM, WR.  In addition CRCNA has an ED, a Director of Ministries and Administration (the position that was at the root of the problems in 2013/14) and a Director of Canadian Ministries with a few Directors reporting to him. This is an organization tree with only crowns. 

Will the Home Missionaries and anyone not directly attached to a church be given the same challenges as Wold Missionaries and asked to raise 90% of their own funds for their salaries?

The three years it is estimated take to get the new structure running properly will cause the CRCNA to lose focus and turn in on itself. The Leadership will achieve even greater powers and  Classis' and Synods will become the rubber stamp. 

Oops, time to stop, the delegates to Synod have run for the exits, and leave the workers to clean up and run the show.

I wondered what role you may have at Synod this year.  I was desperate to read something of the happenings at Synod 2015, and found this article.  Looking forward to reading more...

I suspect the use of reading services is higher than the survey suggests.  Churches actively using reading services are often (usually?) without pastors and may be struggling to meet basic needs and therefore may miss or pass up requests to fill out surveys.  Our congregation has been very blessed by the reading sermon website and uses them at a greater frequency than new ones are posted (so we are going back into older posts).  We have appreciated the work of the committee and will miss its work.  Hopefully, we will be provided with direction on where to go to find sermon resources in the future.

Love this idea...let the competition begin! 

Thank you for sharing your perspectives and insights with us regarding the recommendations from the Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon. I also appreciate that you took time to respond to Overture 12. I hope and pray that this year's delegates to Synod will take the time to carefully read the full report (pp. 380 - 401) in this year's Agenda. (The full agenda is available to download here.)

May the Lord continue to build diversity in his Church, including the CRC; and may we find the new clothes we need to support that work of the Spirit. Amen.


Ken -

I wonder if the decreased 'use' is also tied to a growing use of other resources ie. using retired pastors that are  in a local area or using other local resources ie. inviting a local ministry to come and speak on a given Sunday or even creating a prayer service or a hymn service.  No longer is there the strict dependence upon or adherence to having 'approved' resources read aloud.

I also recognize that the elders (and deacons) that I've spoken with over the past years have become increasingly uncomfortable and/or unwilling to speak from the front of the church.  Much less read a sermon !!

Thirdly - I wonder if the increased role of visuals ie. television, videos etc. have also created an appetite for  more 'entertaining' sermons rather than have one read from a member of the congregation.  I've spoken in our church about a back up plan for the emergency of a pastor not being able to attend on short notice and there was a unanimous reluctance to read a sermon and a preference to find a video sermon (acceptable of course to the leadership) that could be simply 'plugged in'.

Just wondering.

Allan Kirkpatrick - Grace CRC - Cobourg, Ontario, Canada

Most Baptist Churches don't have this problems because the NT states someplace that every Christian is supposed to be ready to to explain his faith. Every Elder is expected to be able to give an acceptable sermon. 


You are not alone! I too am worried about the "learned" folks the media trots out to tell me what I should believe. I am widely read and follow trends in two languages spread over two continents. Scripture in both languages is still my anchor.


The problem, it seems to me, isn't The Banner's mandate. It indeed should “stimulate critical thinking about issues related to the Christian faith and the culture of which we are a part.”

The problem arises when The Banner lives up to its mandate and actually publishes articles deemed to be controversial and designed to lead pew-sitting CRC folks to do some serious thinking. Those types are articles are the exception; not the norm.

As an avid and long-time Banner reader, I have grown accustomed to the USA Today style: church snippets and pictures of winning sports teams at local Christian schools. The Banner by its very design and content treats its readers as theological and ecclesiastical neophytes. The very fact that the editorial staff consistently needs to define what a synod or a classis are, reinforces that notion. I can't imagine any sports magazine worth its salt painstakingly explaining what a touchdown is, or a quarterback, hat trick or hole in one.

The Banner is mandated to stimulate critical thinking. Give us something to chew on. Challenge our long-held beliefs. But also give us some very basic information about our denomination. I, and probably thousands of others, bemoan the fact that our denominational publication no longer publishes information on ministers in transition from one church to another.

The blame for the apparent outrage over the publication of those two notorious articles falls squarely on the minds of ordinary Christian Reformed folk who have been spoon-fed light articles of church news for so long that they can't recognize a good potential debate when they see one. We can't handle controversy. We don't know what critical thinking really is.

We don't need a denominational publication to give us warm fuzzies about the state of our church. We need to be challenged to become more culturally relevant as a denomination. We need to look at the tension within the denomination between piety and Kuyperianism, the theology of our church plants, how we engage in mission, the demise (or is it a celebration?) of the second service.

I don't envy the new Banner editor. While he or she will be mandated to 'stimulate critical thinking about issues related to the Christian faith', the truth of the matter is that we who sit in the pew aren't prepared to hear it or to engage in it. The new editor will need to develop thick skin -- even thicker than Bob DeMoor's -- who will need to be backed by a strong board and a stronger synod.

The Banner is the only place where grassroots Reformed people (I hate that term) can wrestle with pertinent issues of the day as they relate to the church and our own spiritual journeys. Our pastors and elders have the annual gathering of synod where they can engage in that kind of discussion. We have and need The Banner.

We will hopefully experience a transition in the kinds of articles that will appear in future Banners. Here's the point: The Banner's editorial staff needs to expect more from its readers. They need to trust that CR folks can engage in a meaningful and thoughtful discussion on matters of faith. The Banner needs to push and prod and lead the CR constituency down a path of critical thinking.

We, the audience, need to open our minds and hearts as we hear our own preconceived notions challenged in our beloved denominational publication. After all, The Banner is mandated to engage us in that kind of critical thinking.


What 'science' is Walhout referring to? There are many credible, PhD credentialed researchers and scientists who will give excellent proofs for a young earth explanation of the universe: and explain how light which is stretched out with the heavens now reflects an old universe, while earth which was created in a gravity well does not have such age; and population models based on Noah and his family entering the Ark about 2348 BC do indeed work out. The population models for 8 adults from that time to the present account for the current world population. Simply put, who or what will one trust? Will a person trust the Word of God first and evaluate all discoveries and worldviews through its lens or will a person press the Word of God through the sieve of ever changing secular science? Walhout seeks to make peace with the world at all costs. The Word of God calls us to faith which interprets our world according to God's revelation. All disciplines are to be subservient to the Word of God. It is a pity that Walhout and many others who claim 'science' disproves the Bible refuse to examine the work being carried out by Young Earth Creationist Scientists. All through my schooling I have been required to read about evolution, Big Bang theories, an ever changing idea of how old the earth must be. It is refreshing to read Young Earth Creation Scientists who propose what the Bible teaches does in fact fit with scientific observation. Such a position as I hold, creation some 6,000 years ago, does fit well with the Word, our creeds and confessions and does mean I get ridiculed by many peers and colleagues in our denomination. No matter. I'd rather seek peace with God and His Word than hold to a false peace with the world. I am appealing for Christians to get more widely read. To read the work of scientists who are Young Earth Creationists and then evaluate their work against the work of others. See how we can truly test the spirits of this age. Shalom.


The fact that the world is coming to North America does not for that reason warrant joining World and Home Missions. I suggest keeping the mission separate so we can focus on the need of new comers (immigrants, refugees etc.). The focus on new comers needs to be organized by local congregations and supported by a Home Missions organization that understands all the legal nuances of new arrivals. Just look at what is happening in Europe with the surge in "boat people". That does not require a foreign missions approach but a whole new way of integrating people in their new country.

That also has nothing to do with sending missionaries and working with Christian partners overseas. The skill sets and needs are totally different. One benefit I can see, in the long haul, is that the pool of potential missionaries TO foreign countries will expand significantly.

I come from an immigrant background (in fact I came twice to Canada, once as a child and immigrated on my own as an adult). We needed a community to join, support of those who could teach us English and assistance to adapt to the new land. Nothing has changed except that it is much more difficult to integrate the much greater diversity.

I respectfully disagree with Dr. Timmermans that the integration of WM and HM is needed. The sheer size of the joint organization would make it unresponsive to the local congregations in North America and would lose total touch with our missionaries and partners overseas.

Our product (mission) is spreading the Gospel. The means to do that locally and internationally need to be organized separately.

posted in: Mind the Gap

 I understand the theology and practicality of being a good neighbor. I understand the dispensational/semi-Pelagian theology of missions but disagree with it. I do not understand the Reformed theology of missions. I have no problem with the doctrine of election as long as it not used to define a sub-set of the general population that God can not regenerate.

posted in: Mind the Gap

John Carver is the creator of the Policy Governance model. See This model is used worldwide by the boards of many non-profit organizations, including many Christian organizations. I have firsthand experience with two boards of organizations in the Reformed tradition that use the Carver model. I recommend the book Good Governance for Nonprofits: Developing Principles and Policies for an Effective Board by Frederic Laughlin and Robert Andringa for practical advice about implementing the Carver model. I know that at least Robert is a Christian.

I can not follow the Carver comments. Where does that come from?

Joel, your initial reaction to rule yourself out as a writer of this objective look may been  the right one. The very fact that it took 4 years to get to this final report from your committee puts truth to the statement "The Task Force heard repeatedly that the current system includes far too many “hoops” and is needlessly complex". The report that I read in the Agenda does nothing to change that statement.

Let me summarize what I read.

First, a few positives. The affirmation of the local congregation was very good to read. Leaving Calvin Seminary and World Renew Boards in place was an excellent recommendation.

Second, a glaring omission. The vision statement of the CRCNA should have been placed at the heading of this report. It was not, so the reader has no idea from what baseline you were working. It follows here so that my comments (following) are seen in the correct light.

“The Christian Reformed Church is a diverse family of healthy congregations, assemblies, and ministries expressing the good news of God’s kingdom that transforms lives and communities worldwide.”

Third, some negatives and supporting comments. The Agenda Report with its 18 circles (page 358) and 21 ovals (page 359) was a rainbow of complexity. Congregational Health was shown as part of one circle but I could not find it in any of the ovals. With 30% of congregations under 100 members the church is far from getting close to its mission statement.  Ministry share requests were about $375 per confessing member in 2014. The church only collected $140 per member. (I used 2013 yearbook professing members). This implies churches paid less than 40% of Ministry shares. Let’s define “health” of a local congregation!

The report in Point 2 of the TFRSC report has the priorities in the wrong order. Gospel Proclamation is shown in the circles (page 358) but it is only one of 11 other areas of focus.

At the heart of the circles is of course the bureaucracy of the CRCNA.  It is this group that has come up with the idea of Global Missions. Our congregations need support as its health is fragile in many parts. Mixing Home missions with World Missions will cause the CRCNA to lose much of its know how on the international level and water down its expertise.

A sixty member COD is an impossible number to work with. The largest companies of the world do have a governance assembly that big. The Executive Committee will have unprecedented powers.

A final comment, the CRCNA has to divest itself of Calvin College. If we could somehow monetize that asset the church would have a great reserve for fixing the health of local congregations. If the church going to go for a wholesale organization let’s take a long term view. Synod should not jump to conclusion and not encourage moving forward but stepping back and see how we need to realize our vision of healthy congregations.

This man named Carver, is he a new Reformed church order guru or did we just find him in a business model and decided that since it works in business it will probably work in the church?



You're right, Terry. Thanks for pointing that out. It was a slip of the pen and we've fixed it in the original post.


I don't understand the following statement:

This also will fit much better with the current Board of Trustees’ decision to move toward the Carver model of governance and concentrate on policy while the administration engages in governance.

In the model that you reference, policy and governance are not two distinct modes of operation. The BoT would govern via policy; staff, through the leadership of the Executive Director (administration), would operate the denomination in accordance with those policies set by the Board. I'm not sure that I understand the distinction you were trying to make. Did you mean "implementation" or "execution" rather than "governance" as the role of the administration?

The question is how to get deacons involved in Classis and Synod? Would a stipend for those losing wages be an effective measure? Some Classes have stipends for elders to attend Synod. Perhaps that is a route to explore...

Thanks, Terry for your remarks. I wonder what the participation rate of deacons is at Classis Atlantic Northeast? I left CANE in 2008 and at the time, deacons delegated to Classis was relatively new, but participation/attendance at Classis was not a very high percentage. Has that changed considerably over time? I believe Classes that allow women deacons will likely have a higher percentage of attendance than Classes that have not yet approved that measure.


Who cares if the deacon can or cant speak at Classis, or synod, or who has what role if the work of the church of either office is not being done effectively.  We have much to say and are amazingly articulate in our own assemblies but are mute in practical matters in our congregations and especially in our communities.  We have the cart before the horse.  Let's go for what's working and rewrite our playbook.  

Hi James,

I really appreciate these posts and the questions. They are good questions to ask. Three years after the document you referenced here I know that some movement has been made towards creation care in our denomination especially at the denominational offices in Grand Rapids. I'd love to hear about how churches are engaging with creation care across the continent. Did synod just ratify a document that now sits on a shelf? Creation care starts at the grass roots. True creation care is the day to day, boring, non-newsworthy living of the members of the congregation...I wonder if there's a way of finding out if the document brought a shift or is just collecting dust. 

I have to admit I like free things. But I also agree that it is a bit silly the "stuff" that gets sent/given away in the name of "promotion". I do have to say that I love the paper pens that Canadian Food Grains Bank and the paper covered USB sticks that Blessed Earth gave out a few years back. Useful and more sustainable materials. Something to think about.

PS I really appreciate your column and questions. Thank you.

Cindy Verbeek

I think that looked at from a historical perspective, the office of deacon is incredibly flexible and has manifested itself in many different forms.  Your note about nominating people according to skill sets brings up an interesting historical note, Harry.  In Geneva the deacons were divided up into procurators, what we would call administrative deacons, and hospitalars, who had the care of the poor and sometimes lived among them.  Calvin defended this distinction exegetically.  Maybe in our new setup it will make sense to make use of it again.  


Thanks for "jumping in" to share your perspectives and thoughts as someone who has been intimately involved in this process for several years now. I am grateful for interest and responses that Norman's post has generated thus far. I encourage those who are following this conversation to share their thoughts on the post itself or in response to any of the comments made thus far. 

I appreciate Norman and Terry's comments. The church made an interesting change when it broadened the skill sets for the ED of the Denomination. Now when you look at the skill sets of those who are nominated to the BOT and the Boards of the various ministries, the "quota's"  for Ministers and Lay people come into play.The "Lay" people for that do not have to be Elders or Deacons but certainly can be. Looking at skill sets has became a factor on one of the Boards I served on and that is good.

If that review of skill sets could be applied to those selected to go to Synod, the distinction between Elders and Deacons could largely fall away. Now of course you need a skill set evaluation at the congregational level if you want to be consistent. But here is where the problem comes in. Pastors on the payroll can always (I hope) get time off for Synod/ Classis. But for lay people this is more problematic. Not only they have to devote time to local work in the role of Elder or Deacon but they can also be delegated to Classis and Synod.

Despite all of the new technology, and how it was supposed to help us, it has probably done the opposite. It is harder than ever to "get away" from the job. In our church polity we have to rely on the wisdom of church Councils and Classis to select the most capable (and I hope with appropriate skill sets) people as delegates to the Ministry Boards and to Synod.

I will make (repeat) another bold suggestion. Could the church not take Calvin College out of its governance structure and also find a totally new way to govern World Renew (e.g. give that role to the Deacons)?

I'll try to address your various points from my perspective as a deacon, a deacon who recently attended a classis meeting (and spoke at the meeting), and a member of both task forces that wrote the subject reports.

Your opening and concluding observation about not being sure about ever hearing a deacon speak at classis might be more indicative of the agenda and culture atmosphere of what classis meetings are like to deacons. Have the deacons been encouraged and mentored by pastors and elders to actively participate in the meetings and committees? Are the topics and discussions relevant to deacons? Do the deacons have a voice in shaping the meeting agenda? In my experience, certain pastors/elders may dominate the discussions. At the last meeting of Classis Atlantic Northeast, the delegates broke into small groups of four to pray for one another and also discuss a topic. Deacons participated equally with the elders and pastors in these small groups. This is one small example of how deacons can be encouraged to have a voice at a classis meeting. I've been told that almost every deacon from one of the churches who has attended a classis meeting in recent years has returned with renewed energy and excitement about ministry.

A couple points regarding the church order changes:

  1. The proposed changes are the result of four years of work over two task forces. The churches have had ample opportunity to comment on the changes and suggest revisions. (One specific revision suggested via overture in 2013 has been incorporated into the 2015 report.) I am sure that future synods will have additional changes based on experience working with these proposed changes.
  2. I hope that at this synod an advisory committee is assigned the sole task of working on this report. The advisory committee in 2013 was assigned additional work that didn't allow it to fully focus on the report it was given.
  3. Changes viewed individually rather than in the context of all the other changes may be questioned, but we looked at every church order article with a big picture view of the offices to ensure that the articles communicated the vision of the offices of elder and deacon that we, and hopefully the church, wants to see.
  4. We have no expectation that these church order changes, in themselves, will be the primary means of revitalization of the offices of deacon and elder. That's why there are other recommendations in the report that are just as important as the church order changes. In my opinion, this report should be viewed as the beginning of a journey of revitalization and not the final word on what needs to be done.

Finally, addressing your concern about imposing a model on the entire denomination, well, isn't that what being a denomination with a church order is all about? Isn't requiring elders and pastors to be delegated to classis meetings already an imposed model? I encourage classes to be creative and share their experiences with incorporating deacons into the structure of classis.

If, as some suggest, the roles and responsibilities of the offices reflect or are intended to reflect and perform the functions of Christ as prophet (pastor), priest (deacon) and king (elder), what does it say about our denomination's view of the role and responsibilities of the deacon (priest) when we don't include them and give them a voice and vote at synod?


Norman, I full support the full inclusion of deacons at all assemblies.  We work together in God's kingdom and we need to share information, encourage one another, and partner together.  So, we need every opportunity to be in the same room together.  I understand your uncertainty, and we'll have a big learning curve.  I'm hoping that the changes we have to go through will leave lots of room for evaluation and flexibility so we can make accommodations.

Norman, I did find your reference to deacons not participating at classis meetings quite disturbing, and I shared that with you privately.  No elder, minister or deacon can be evaluated by the number of words that are being said at a classis meeting.  I might even suggest to you that some people (ministers in particular) probably say too many words at Classis and do not add a whole lot of value to the meeting.

I have been very blessed being in the presence of all God's servants.

Diane Plug

John Klein-Geltink, a deacon from Classis Chatham, emailed his response to this post and asked me to share it here--for some reason he was unable to post it directly.

Hello Jack
When I read the report I was rather put off as are other deacons.For the past 13 years a number of deacons of Classis Chatham have served on the Classis Chatham Ministry Committee and attended Classis meetings and voted on all matters. We even asked to set time at classis to have churches share Diaconial ministry at local communities,which did happen at our last May meeting.Deacons also designed questions to be discussed at Church visits about the nature of diaconial work in their commuttees.So I am not sure what Norman is talking about.

To those who might have missed it, there is a post on The Network's site for Deacons entitled, "What's Up With Deacons Going To Synod?." The post itself is a letter written to CRC Deacons by The Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon. Given the interest sparked by this particular post, I think anyone wanting to better understand this issue might find it helpful. You can get directly to the post by going here. You might also be interested in reading a letter written in 1939 by a deacon that addresses the matter of deacon inclusion/representation also posted on the page for deacons here.



I think you--and others--might appreciate and benefit by reading a letter written in 1939 by deacon Hendrik Schoonekamp about the need for and importance of deacon inclusion and representation. You can read it on The Network's page for Deacons here.

While I support the idea of including deacons at Classis meetings, I wonder about the participation. It is hard to find deacons that are able/willing to take a day off of work for a Classis meeting. I often wonder about the possibility of deacons having their own meetings and reporting to Classis. A number of years ago I was in another Classis that made the change to include deacons. The attendance of deacons was minimal at best. We need full participation of deacons to make it work well.



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