Intentionally Diverse and Unified

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Last week I attended two classes meetings, (one which is situated in one of the most diverse areas of the world and the other right next to it), neither of them had one person of colour as a delegate to the meetings and neither of them is sending a person of colour to Synod 2011. On Sunday our church (one which hopes to become a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural church) installed five new office bearers – none of them a person of colour.

I don't mention these things to try to point fingers and scold anyone (if I was, I'd be doing this to myself as I'm a part of all three of these groups)! I bring this up because these classes and this church are not being exclusive on purpose. As far as I can tell, they all want to be inclusive and desire to see the family of God reflected in our churches and church leadership. And yet, it’s not happening.

We want these things to happen “naturally.” Many of our churches are becoming more diverse so we think that this will naturally flow to having a more diverse leadership in our churches and that will grow to mean more diversity in our classes and denomination. But it isn't happening naturally. It seems like if we really are to become more diverse, not only in who shows up for a Sunday worship service, but in our leadership, we will need to become more deliberate about seeing this happen.

A report is going to Synod this year, approved by the BOT in February, from the “Diversity in Leadership Planning Group” (page 55 of the Agenda for Synod), which gives recommendations to the BOT and the denomination about how to increase diversity in the top levels of leadership in the denomination. It also recommends that classes review the guidelines of the 1996 report: “God's Diverse and Unified Family” before voting on who becomes a delegate to Synod.

These efforts are on the denominational level. What can we do in our congregations and classes to become more intentional about becoming God's diverse and unified family?

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Please define "person of colour." Will a female "person of colour" count for two slots?  I suppose the proposal will pass because most people don't the jobs. This will take the pressure off popular white male deligates.<G>

A person of colour is someone who is not caucasian.  A woman person of colour is an important delegate - she would still only have one vote but would bring an important, often missing voice to our classes and synod meetings.  It may take pressure off the usual white male delegates to attend the meetings, allowing other voices to be heard as well, but it doesn't take all the pressure off of them since they will be needed to begin to develop leadership in others.

 

From  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasian_race

 

The term Caucasian race (also Caucasoid, Europid, or Europoid[1]) has been used to denote the general physical type of some or all of the populations of EuropeNorth Africa, the Horn of AfricaWest AsiaCentral Asia and South Asia.[2] Historically, the term has been used to describe the entire population of these regions, without regard necessarily to skin tone.

hmn:  "diverse and unified"  

what, pray tell, does that mean exactly?

To me this means that as a church we are a people of many different backgrounds and places in life (not just in colour and ethnicity but also in ability, age, jobs and maybe even more aspects of life), and yet are all unified in our committment to God, our belief in Jesus Christ and our dedication to join God in God's mission in the world.  I think we have an example of this in the Trinity - three distinct persons of God and yet one God - diverse and unified.  In John 17 Jesus prays that we will all be one just as he and the Father are one.  Diverse and unified.

BUT doesn't this concept attempt to reverse God's will as expressed in the "Tower" incident?" Isn't it God's will that we be diverse and separated?

The whole taxonomy of people is flawed. Especially the polarized "Caucasian vs. People of Color," because it is prone to arbitrary categorizations. The Taliban from Afganistan are as Caucasian as they can be, or the Azerbaijani to mention another ethnicity. Yet, the average North American would not buy the idea that they are Caucasian. Many Latin American would be shocked to find out that they are People of Color, especially if their ancestry is predominantly Mediterranean. And, to make things more complicated, what to do with those millions of emerging Latino-White children in the U.S., the ones who are already here and who will replace us in the next generations? I suspect we need a different working taxonomy or perhaps no taxonomy at all.

Perhaps you are right Alejandro Pimentel - our standard ways of organizing people groups don't fit very well do they?  So maybe we need to say things differently - that our leadership and our classis and synod delegates should reflect our local church communities and our local churches should reflect the communities in which they are situated.  How different would our churches and leadership be if this was the case?  Maybe in some nothing would be different but I'm guessing that in many churches and classes the faces represented at our meetings would look different than it is now.

Each year, The CRC yearbook asks each church how many members in a church are not looking like a  'white' person. From that information, you can ask how many people who are not called 'white' are at Classis, or Synod? If the % are different the majority 'white'? person should check how we choose our delegates. Classis Alberta has a way to choose: One minister gets a chance to go to Synod, irrespective of his/her colour via a list. the other minister and the two Elders delegates gets a chance by voting.   If a classis has lots of non-white members, and a few non-white elders gets to classis, and they never get enough votes to go to Synod, Classis can change it a bit by making a list like the ministers have with once in a while, a non-white elder gets a chance to go to Synod in relation to the % people who are non-white.

Where I worked, for 35 years, each year there was a check how many people thought they were in a minority. They could then check how many 'minority' people were managers at each level, including the highest levels. If the % is equal from every manager level, the company could think they are moving in the right direction.

In churches, one can not check with the % in the community, as there may be many reasns why the %'s are different. However, once the 'minority' people are members, the same process can be used to check whether we are going in the right drection.

Participant

I am so glad that God does not look at outward appearances but at the heart... let's try His way and ask for His eyes to see each other with and not use our human ways of "organizing" and defining each other...  Let's ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in who should be selected for leadership positions as is done in Acts 13:1-3, and Acts 14:23...  He WILL still do that if we would but pray, fast and listen....then obey...or is that just too mystical for us western trained intellectuals?

Hi Bev,  you're right, we do need the Holy Spirit to guide us in who should be selected for leadership positions and when we listen to the Holy Spirit, pray and fast, God will show us who should be leading.  This is a very significant way God leads and guides us, however, throughout the Bible God has used other ways as well to choose leaders.  The seven who are chosen to take on the work of looking after those who did not have food were chosen because they were known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3).  That is what was needed for the leadership role.  While listening and praying to God about our leaders it is also appropriate to name the type of gifts we need for leadership roles and search for those who have those gifts, always being in prayer and listening for the Holy Spirit.

Participant

yes...I think in all the scriptural references, the leaders did a first round selection of possible "nominees", based on a number of criteria...  then asked the Holy Spirit to further select, or in the case of Acts 6:3 by knowing/discerning who was filled with the Holy Spirit...  so, now how do we tell who is filled with the Holy Spirit?  often it seems it  can be a popularity type contest or based on their business "success" or natural giftedness/abilities....  or some other indicator like ethnicity or intellect ("it will require our best minds and some solid study..."  June 2011 Banner editorial; p10)... but we don't go into the Spirit filled question, or  do we assume every believer is Spirit filled men and women of prayer?    or do we specifically ask about their prayer life and their relationship with Jesus?   I find many are quite defensive when asked specifically about their prayer life, if it's asked at all.

Our country (the US) has had the best and the brightest and look at the mess we have made...  our denomination has had the best and the brightest, and here's another quote from the same editorial, p 10 again....  "The changes made to make our denomination more efficient have caused more problems than they have solved." 

that is what happens when we are not Spirit led, and instead use our human understanding ( a business model) to run our denomination...  we would have said all our leaders have been Spirit led, full of wisdom in the past, yet something's amiss...

My intent is not to be critical, my heart breaks for our denomination, I've been a part of it all my life...but we have some serious concerns where some things are not as it should be...

the best minds and spirit filled are not always synomynous...  they can be, but we need the gift - discerning of the spirits, which is much more than just discernment...

Participant

after listening to the intro on Moses Chung, and Moses speech, that is what I'm talking about for selecting leaders.......  the search committee said, "God spoke to us and said, this is the person..." after compiling a pool of potentials...  then the confirmation of Moses, his mom's dream, his wife' dream (which was in an article I read somewhere), as well as my spirit resonating with his heart for prayer, I know he gets prayer...   I have no doubt, God has him exactly where He wants him. 

my very specific prayer is that God will raise up Spirit led men and women of prayer for leadership in our denomination..  many will say "of course prayer is important" and "try hard" to pray, but he gets it...  so, when we try to orchestrate it through human "goals", we miss God's beautiful orchestration, or doubt it's God, because we might think, well, we're just trying to fulfill the mandate.  God, help us all to hear You speak to us...

Bev, I really appreciate your comments about prayer and discernment when looking for leaders.  I think too we need to be very prayerful and discerning about our plans and ways we set up to find the right leaders we are looking for.  It is not just about the best model for an organization but what God wants for us - no matter what the model.  At every level of church governance we need to be focused on prayer and discernment.  So often when we have a busy meeting planned we think that cutting short our prayer and devotions will give us more time but it is when we have a focus on God through prayer that meetings become productive and energizing.  I hope that all the reports that come from the various committees of the denomination can be said to be developed through prayer and discernment, even the ones that stress the need to have diversity in our leadership.

Theological influence is NOT dependant upon numerical size. For example, the Plymouth Brethern set the stage for the entire "dispensational" sub set of Christianity.  Is the primary purpose of the CRC to promote Calvin's teachings or numerical growth? Might these be exclusive goals? 

I think the primary purpose of the CRC is neither promote Calvin's teachings or numerical growth but to join God in God's mission to the world to bring redemmption and renewal to a world broken by sin.

Elizabeth, I think your last comment ("…the primary purpose of the CRC is neither promote Calvin's teachings…") might need some clarification so that readers may not draw some unintended conclusions. I am of the opinion that in the missiological purpose of the CRC, anyone should be able to find —implicitly and explicitly— Calvin's teachings, including the teachings of Historic Christianity and of the Reformation. If for any reason we do not want that particular element to be present in the "primary purpose" of the CRC, then to be consequent with our consciences and thoughts we should remove the Reformed part of CRC, and perhaps become more like Calvary Chapel or some other more ambiguous religious organization. I have observed that there is a growing "sentiment" in the CRC to become less doctrinaire, less rigid, less "theological" in order to become more welcoming of other ethnicities. But, I am of the opinion that this is not a healthy "sentiment," as the Germans say "to throw the baby with the bath water." To waterdown the uniqueness of the CRC and its rich tradition, would bring unexpected consequences to its witness. For instance, I was drawn to the CRC because of its teachings, namely, Calvin's teachings. That was the "entincement," the element that made me compare my Dispensational/Evangelical bubble and fundamentalistic mindset, one that was based on fear, the fear of being "raptured" at any moment, the fear of seeing life in black and white and condemning people left and right (just watch TBN and you'll know what I mean), the abysmal ignorance of the Word in spite of the fact that I studied it ad nauseam, but in fact I, like a parrot, repeated the indoctrination that I was taught without any room for dissent. That was my former religious world, and I am very happy that I found this new Reformed world. If the "Reformed" part would no longer be there or is no longer necessary, then what am I doing here? And that is a very valid question any Hispanic/Latino could ask of himself or herself.

You are right, my point does need some clarification.  I did not mean to say that we don't use the Reformed accent  to find the missiologic purpose for the CRC.  I too love the Reformed tradition and don't want to throw it out. We do not need to do that to become more welcoming of other ethnicities.  But to say that our primary purpose is to promote Calvin's teachings seems to give it the wrong focus because it is not about Calvin's teachings (even if he got it all right) it is about God and God's work in the world.  Calvin helps us understand what this means and how we practice it but it is not the purpose to which we exist.  If it is then it seems we have become more of a cult following of one person's teachings rather than a church who follows Christ.  Becoming diverse as a church does not mean we have to change who we are, it means we need to become more of who God has called us to be.

 

>I too love the Reformed tradition and don't want to throw it out. We do not need to do that to become more welcoming of other ethnicities. 

 

Disagree. If other ethnicities wish to accept the CRC as they find it, fine. If other ethnicies such as myself want to revise the CRC to fit our traditions, then not fine. Let me and others find a denomination better suited to our traditions. There are hundreds of denominations extent.

Recall the (excuse change of type size I didn't do anything) historical (1970's) discussion of the "Ugly American" who wants to impose "Americanness" upon other ethnicities. Why should Dutch CRC traditions be imposed upon by Americans, Koreans, or anyone? The message coming out of The Banner and Grand Rapids is that "all animals are equal but Dutch animals are less equal than others." I interpret the trend to goofy generic named congregations which reject admitting to be a CRC congregation as attmpting to follow the money trail instead of Calvin. That's my personal opinion.

 

 

 

Dear Bill Wald, I had some difficulty understanding your last comment. Would you please rephrase it. Excuse me for assuming that English is not your first language, but some of the sentences sounded offensive or could be read as offensive.

The CRC is in a continuum of change —the whole universe is in it— and all ethnicities in the CRC are also in this continuum of change. The issue is where are we heading together, and Elizabeth has raised a very important subject (God's diverse and unified family).

Born in Brooklyn, NY. Not politically correct. Sorry about sloppy writing.

I "got reformed" in 1988 when the Rapture did not occur and I read the Institutes cover to cover twice. The only Presbyterians with whom I was familiar were OPC types and I disagreed with their politics and with Reconstructionism. I never head of the CRC until we moved five blocks south of First Everett (WA) CRC. We liked the traditional church service and the Dutch customs. The people were very friendly. We knew we would feel as outsiders because the congregation was basically three or four extended families who grew up together. That was OK. We wanted to join them. We did not want to change them.

I soon learned that the Classis and the Synod - the CRC leadership - was trying as hard as possible to hide the Dutch origin and appear to be a generic, community church. Any Dutch emphasis was discouraged. Half the new congregations had stealth names that intentionally ignored any reference to "Christian" or the CRC. The old hymns in the gray psalter were altered to be more PC. At the same time the old hymns were altered to remove any reference to God loving the world. Now, in song, God only loves "us," the insider Reformed people. Very strange. 

Most people would not notice. I know many of the old hymns by heart and spent 30 years writing propaganga in one form or another. I love music and hate the inane ditties and questionable lyrics of the new music published sans vocal music, only tune line.

At least most new style non-CRC congregations reflect the traditional American Civil Christian Religion. The (new) CRC seems to be catering alien cultures and hippies, (whatever the semi-civilized call themselves these days).

There are dozens of Protestant denominations. One very old, very important, very small denomination which I have mentioned being the Plymouth Bretheren, started by J. N. Darby in the middle 1800's. Most people have not heard of them. They deny being a denomination. BUT  80% of the material in any "Christian" book store reflects PB theology. They invented dispensationalism and the rapture. CRC members quote PB theology and don't realize it.  

 

The historically successful denominations attract a particular social set of the general population and/or emphasize a particular historical theological stance. The CRC historical position was Dutch Reformed culture, Calvanist, (not Presbyterian) theology and politics and education.  The quickest way to kill the CRC is to become "generic" christianity with congregations that will please all cultures. This is against the human nature that God gave us. We can't "out baptist" the Baptists by allowing children to take communion or "out holiness" the holiness churches by introducing "praise teams" and de-civilizing music."

I worked in Seattle's Chinatown for 25 years and prefer Chinese culture (and food <G>). I am pleased that people from any culture would want to join the CRC and worship in a traditional Dutch way.  I am not pleased that the leadership in MY CRC wants to dump CRC culture in favor of a generic almost anything goes civil religion. I suspect the reason for the change is more budget based than theology based.

bill wald  

 

Bill, I am very glad that you found a church home in the CRC and that you have found God in profound ways in “traditional” worship. I'm happy that the dutch culture and customs of the CRC have been good for you and not a barrier.

What you experience as the traditional CRC worship looks very different from what the founders of the CRC intended. Many of those Dutch people would have been horrified to find out your CRC is singing hymns! Only Genevain Psalms were appropriate in the CRC. Things have changed in the CRC – what you experience as traditional has not been the tradition long. Calvin and Calvinist teachings were imported to the Netherlands, I don't think that Calvin ever came to the Netherlands or knew what influence his teachings had there. Church culture changes, the gospel does not change. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. “

You are right that there maybe changes that are not great. I too wish that those churches who have taken the CRC out of their name on the fronts of their buildings would put it back in and that in some churches they would rediscover the joy of hymns and be more discerning about song lyrics.

I do not think that church leadership is for the most part trying to “hide” our dutch culture but trying to understand it as part of our history and move forward to where we are today. Most people in our congregations (even those who come from the Dutch background) do not identify with the dutch culture that is so prevalent in our churches. They do not fit in as it seems you have been able to do. True theology and true worship is not equal to Dutch traditional worship. Many people from many cultures love the reformed view on Christianity and love the CRC but do not identify with the Dutch traditional way of worship. I believe we need to find a way to welcome different ways of worshiping within our reformed tradition.

You are right that we in the CRC need to be who God calls us to be, but that is not necessarily what we have always been. God wants to transform us more and more into God's likeness. As reformed believers we believe that the Kingdom of God is already among us and we get a clear picture of what this looks like in Revelation 7:9a: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” May our churches reflect this glory of God's Kingdom! What does this mean for us? I don't think it means that we say, “we worship this way, if you want to be like us, great, if you don't, go away.” I think it means we need to figure out who God calls us to be and this may mean changing our culture, not to “cater” to other ethnicities, but to grow into God's will for our church.

I pray that we, as a church, can continue to become diverse and that as we do we can figure out what that means for our church traditions, worship and structure.  And I pray that we can do this all with the Holy Spirit's leading, not in our own strength or with our own power but understanding who God wants us to be.

"Dutch Culture" for fifth generation americans with a Dutch surname may mean nothing else than  peppermints, tulips and wooden shoes; church wise, whatever the Dutch church was like when the first generation left Holland in the late 1880's. 

Each new generation who came to NA, will have a different Dutch Culture to think above.

Dutch Reformed churches as any North American Reformed churches do: Change slowly from generation to generation.

Dutch churches change differently that NA churches since the society where the churches are are different. In Holland, there are only other reformed churches and Catholic churches. In North America, we have a lot of other denominations to compare and copy.

Rather than use the word 'Dutch' to explain something, please be more specific.

Obviously this is not as important as to see where the Lord is leading His (one) church.

I partially agree on this one with aguilla1, and it is a very important subject. The use of the noun/adjective "Dutch" in the CRC is plagued with stereotypes of all sorts (good ones and really bad ones), there is also a great deal of ignorance about history and the migration of people. By the way, I am not insulting anyone, I am just saying that there is ignorance (lack of information or knowledge) on both sides, the "Dutch" side and the "Non-Dutch" side… if I may use those unfortunate polatisations.

It is also somewhat anachronistic —as aguilla1 has rightly pointed out— to refer to a third or fifth or tenth generation American or Canadian or any other nationality, as "Dutch" in the sense to highlight their racial/ethnic/cultural identity. It is like the Italians who left "Italy" during the first half of the 19th century. There was no modern "Italy" back then, only a collection of rival Italian nations, with their own cultures, dialects, foods, traditions and people, until their unification in 1861.

Nevertheless, for our own purpose, I suspect the term "Dutch" is used more to illustrate the solidarity and privileges that people with ancestry in the Low Countries have enjoyed in North America, in contrast with other ethnicities that may not have had such privileges.

So, if we want to be more specific, as aguilla1 is requesting, perhaps we should start refering immigrants from the Netherlands as "Bible-belt Netherlands" people, or Frisians, or Belgians or Batavians or how about Surinamese, but that would be utterly impractical and non-sense even for people of Dutch ancestry.

So, the one hard fact we have about this subject is that we live in a racialised society, divided by skin color, cultural origin, and all sorts of other evil things… we have a loooong way to go as a church and as a society.

As a US Supreme Court justice noted, "I can't define ponography but I know it when I see it." In the same undefined way, I preferred working in Chinatown than in the "white" or "black" parts of Seattle.  In the same undefined way, I prefer meeting with the people at Everett CRC over the people at other churches I have visited in the area. It isn't all because of theology.

If I were to move to the US, and naturalized how would I be identified or would it be up to me or is it some arbitrary label friends and associates use to identify me?

American (because of my citizenship)

Canadian (I had lived there for 58 yrs and taken up citizenship)

Dutch ( I was born there and some of my ancestors can be traced back to somewhere in Holland)

French (6th generation back on my dad paternal side - my last name is French)

German (5th generation on my mom's dad's side - my first name is German)

Such things are self-identified in the US. You could call yourself a cousin of the old Russian royal family if you wished. <G>