Comment Stream

Eric Van Dyken May 24, 2022

This article is a very poorly reasoned.

To begin, as Josh has already noted, the question (if there is one single question at stake) in the CRC is decidedly not what the author posits, namely: “When does a fertilized egg in its development acquire, in the view of the state, the status of a full human being deserving constitutional rights and protections, like any other person?”  The CRC has a clear position that from conception on life is worthy of protection. 

Beyond that, the article is not well constructed or reasoned.  The author engages in question begging when he posits an open question and then goes on to assume a conclusion that has not been established in his argumentation.  Specifically, the author repeatedly speaks of a “potential human life”, which assumes that the developing person is not actually a person, the very question at stake. 

The author does make attempts at challenging the notion of personhood at the earliest stages of development, but they fall flat as mere assertions.  The author states that such a belief “defies biological realities and is legally untenable” but does not actual demonstrate either of those things to be true. As for biology, the author makes no attempt to interact with three biological realities. First, a developing baby is alive.  Saying that the developing baby is "biologically interdependent" does not change this fact.  Place a newborn baby on the sidewalk and see how well the infant can fend for itself.  Does the dependence of the baby on others for its existence lessen the fact that it has rights, including the most basic right to life?  Biology does not answer that question, but it does tell us that the developing baby is every bit as much a living entity as is the newborn baby.  Second, a developing baby is human.  It is not some foreign matter or a different species, but it is from its earliest stages uniquely human.  Third, a developing baby is genetically unique from its mother.  Despite the gestational (and post-gestational) dependence of the child upon its mother, the child has its own unique genetic makeup.  The child is not a growth on the mother, but a unique being.  So, biology tells us that we are talking about a unique living human from the earliest stages of development.  The author interacts with none of this, but simply posits that somehow “interdependence” biologically rules out personhood and rights.  Morally, the author shows such a lack of awareness as to not acknowledge that this argument (though incorrect on its face) can equally be used to justify infanticide.  Are we supposed to learn from this person with such a poorly developed sense of moral consistency?

On the legal side, the author fails to acknowledge and interact with the fact that 39 states have fetal homicide laws, 29 of these states acknowledging the right to life from conception on.  Nor does the author acknowledge the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which is “a United States law that recognizes an embryo or fetus in utero as a legal victim, if they are injured or killed during the commission of any of over 60 listed federal crimes of violence. The law defines "child in utero" as "a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."”  Oops, so much for being “legally untenable”.  The author is either ignorant of these facts, or he is dishonest about their existence.  It is likely that the author is aware of such laws, but finds the language that they contain to be inconvenient because the language exposes our national moral schizophrenia regarding unborn children. 

I live in Minnesota, where I can be prosecuted for and convicted of murder for causing the death of an unborn child at any time from conception on.  Minnesota Statute defines unborn child as “unborn offspring of a human being conceived, but not yet born” and goes on to list penalties for the murder, manslaughter, and assault of an unborn child in the first, second, and third degrees.  Yet a few words in the statute nullify all the moral righteousness of the preceding: [The prohibitions on murder, manslaughter, and assault of an unborn child] do not apply to any act described in [section of law describing legal abortion procedures].  Such a law is echoed broadly across states and in the national legislation and it demonstrates two things.  First, contra the author’s assertion there is broad societal support for the protection of unborn children from the earliest moments of development on.  Second, despite this natural tendency, societally we are so caught up in the cult of autonomy that we would simply dismiss this good and proper conclusion based on the desirability (or lack thereof) of full pregnancy and birth.  Such a milieu is morally untenable and is worthy of the authors reflection, but we get not a hint of willingness to interact with this sticky moral dilemma. 

What a shame that this article would be deemed worthy of publication here, in direct opposition to the stated position of the CRC and full of such shoddy argumentation.

Staci Devries May 24, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 24, 2022

Congratulations! 

Staci Devries May 24, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 24, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 24, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 24, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Josh Christoffels May 23, 2022

In case you are wondering the CRC's position on this issue, you can find it here: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/position-statements/abortion   As you can see, this isn't a question for the CRC: "the church condemns the wanton or arbitrary destruction of any human being at any stage of its development from the point of conception to the point of death." The question is, why would we post an article written by the chairman of the board of Sojourners, a political organization that advocates against our own position, without first informing our readers that this clearly contradicts our agreed upon beliefs?

Stan Scripps May 20, 2022

Dave, thanks for a helpful word on this subject. I'd just like to suggest one additional thing to consider. The underlying assumption in your article is that council members are enjoying unity of ecclesiology. I mean, they would basically agree on what the church should be and do in the contemporary context. Why wouldn't they? The problem is that there are many competing interpretations on that point represented by the members of a council. For some the vision of faithful ministry resembles that of the most popular church in the area. For others, it resembles the programs and budgets from a past time. My experience has been that Elders (more often than Deacons) are quite willing to evaluate the pastor's work, but they do so according to their own working ecclesiology. When that happens, the pastor often feels that he or she has been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and at the same time, he is thinking, "But so what?" In short, that disunity handicaps the work of mutual accountability.

 

Staci Devries May 19, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Dan Winiarski May 17, 2022

I am thankful for parents who raised me to realize that there is 1 race...the human race. And that God created all of us brown. Some of us are light brown. Some of us are dark brown. But in the end, we are all brown!

We need to see each other the way God sees us: as individuals created in His image. Not as members of artificial groups based on our DNA.

Those who wish to divide us (and profit from that division) based on our skin tone, must be opposed as deniers of the true Gospel of Christ. That Gospel teaches us that people who harbor animosity based on skin tone (whether dark-toward-light or light-toward-dark) will be forgiven by Almighty God when they accept God's call to the Cross and leave their animosity there for Christ to destroy for all eternity. Man-made schemes will not bring forgiveness and reconciliation. Only the True Gospel can do that!

bill wald May 17, 2022

My personal understanding of those verses is the opposite of your personal opinion. Pax Vobiscum!

posted in : Absurd Generosity
Steve Dykstra May 17, 2022

I love this!

Great post.

Staci Devries May 17, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 17, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 17, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 17, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 17, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! I have published it as new. 

Alex Maclean May 15, 2022

It's also the case sometimes that scripture portions get selected for translation before others due to limited resources. I found this article helpful for this discussion, especially with reference to a Panoramic Bible:  http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/19_2_PDFs/10%20Using_Scripture_Portions.pdf 

 

Wayne Jones May 14, 2022

Enjoyed this brief summary of how this great work came about.

Darren Kornelis May 13, 2022

Nierkerk CRC part-time worship coordinator position

Robert Fletcher May 12, 2022

We are eager to see who God chooses to lead our family.

Harry Boessenkool May 12, 2022

Is Dr. Carlson's report to the COD going  be shown at the Synod Meeting?  A report on the FTE  growth of the CRCNA HO functions (excluding  Calvin University and World Renew) since 2018 would cause some really good discussions.

 

Doug Vande Griend May 12, 2022

I highly recommend attending this to anyone who can. :-)

Staci Devries May 12, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Alex Maclean May 12, 2022

The similarities are very surface level! Thank you for pointing out this 'common ground', I wonder how often I have mistakenly walked across such ground without noticing the fault lines. 

Staci Devries May 11, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Michael Bentley May 10, 2022

The author seems not to be aware that CRT has different definitions and outworkings, despite quoting the ABA. Nor does the author understand the difference between political enemies and differences among brothers and sisters in the Church regarding the scope and purpose of confessions. Understanding these differences and working with them would go much farther with more constructive solutions for the Church.

Michael Bentley May 10, 2022

The author seems not to be aware that CRT has different definitions and outworkings, despite quoting the ABA. Nor does the author understand the difference between political enemies and differences among brothers and sisters in the Church regarding the scope and purpose of confessions. Understanding these differences and working with them would go much farther with more constructive solutions for the Church.

Staci Devries May 10, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 10, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 10, 2022

This is so helpful! Thanks Amy 

Staci Devries May 10, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 10, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Nicole McLeod May 5, 2022

My apologies for misspelling your name! I don't know where I got that extra "a" from. Thank you for providing additional context. I have a much better understanding of your reaction to the article. As I reflect on your post, I wonder if two additional pieces of advice for those facing burnout could be:

9. Develop life-giving routines and systems of accountability.

I really appreciate your sentence "It is the vast acres of unstructured time, largely unsupervised and unaccounted for, which works hand in hand with the depression which I observe as pervasive in our clergy." In many pastoral roles you do have a large amount of freedom in structuring your time on a weekly and daily basis. I can see how this can lead to both over-working and under-working. Some Pastors end up turning all their time into "work time" to the neglect of family, hobbies, and health. On the other hand without the structure of needing to be up and at a particular place at a particular time, there are days when it can be hard to find the motivation to get out of bed. One can lead to the other.  The past two years of navigating the pandemic has only made this worse as many routines and systems were disrupted by changes to working environments, fewer opportunities to connect with others, loss of familiar working habits and rhythms, etc. As I reflect on how the past two years have been for myself I can think of specific stretches when I was working mostly from home where I did struggle more with my mental health. Some things I found helpful were creating clear goals and objectives for the next 3-4 months on a regular basis and then coming up with realistic and specific strategies to achieve those objectives, making use of time blocking, and writing regular reports to our staff team and elders. I also found myself having to recommit to embracing God's good gift of Sabbath rest. There are times when the cell phone needs to be off and email needs to go unchecked for a time.  

10. Engage in a new activity or learn something new

Your second to last paragraph describes a sort of settled complacency that I think could be the temptation in any field. I appreciate that you suggest a number of different activities that could engage the mind and heart in a new way and be professionally energizing - develop new goals, write a book or regular column that allows you to do research and reflect on aspects of ministry or theology that interest you, get involved in the civic life of your community, connect with parishioners of all ages from those in school to those in the workplace to become familiar with their daily lives and learn valuable new insights, engage in classical activities to continue to stretch and grow in different areas. 

Thank you again for the conversation. I am grateful I pushed back a bit on your response because your perspective has given me some good things to continue to ponder.

Staci Devries May 5, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 5, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 5, 2022

Amen!

posted in : The Pentecost Fire
Staci Devries May 5, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

Staci Devries May 5, 2022

Thank you for sharing this opening! 

John Tamming May 4, 2022

I thank Nicole for her comments (my surname, incidentally, lost the last "a" some time ago, presumably the act of some ancestor trying to shake off a Frisian past).  I do not discount anything of what she writes.  I can only share my experiences and observations.

On a personal note, I completed my M.Div at Calvin years ago but switched career paths when, apart from other factors, I realized my somewhat melancholic personality would lack the discipline and energy to motivate and elevate whatever churches I ended up at.  I could do a great Good Friday sermon and loved funerals but sensed one needed a broader skill set, particularly to work with the youth and younger couples.  I just did not have it.

Articles such as this strike me as simply indulging the worst traits of so many of our clergy and reinforce that which needs no reinforcement.  Updike (I think in his A Month of Sundays) wrote of the "mischievous idleness" of the ministry and I think he was onto something. As I have relayed elsewhere, John Stek's last lecture to our Psalms class included a plea to us graduates to buy an alarm clock, to set it for 5 and to get into your study by 6.  It is the vast acres of unstructured time, largely unsupervised and unaccounted for, which works hand in hand with the depression which I observe as pervasive in our clergy.   

They have no real goals, they do in their 50s exactly the same things they did in their 40s, they write no books or even a regular column, they are largely uninvolved in the civic life of their communities, they are strangers in the local Christian school, they make almost no attempt to understand the careers and demands of their parishioners (and thus have very little octane for their sermon material), are often cynical about their classical responsibilities and in general have so little that seems to professionally focus and energize them. 

And then they read an article which tells them to read the psalms, be ok with their imperfection, etc.  With all respect, this is NOT the advice most clergy need.  

 

 

Cordially,

 

John A. Tamming 

 

I say this not gratuitously, not to be harsh but to honestly set forth the problems as I see them.  

 

Nicole McLeod May 3, 2022

Dear Mr. Tamminga,

I don't think acknowledging the reality of the burnout experienced by many in pastoral ministry in any way is meant to say that the modern Pastor has a harder life than those of previous generations. Pastoral ministry has always been both deeply rewarding and deeply challenging. Congregational stressors and pressures change over time, but each generation and changing season brings with it different challenges (and some challenges that are timeless). 

I'm grateful for articles like this that provide encouragement and steps that Pastors and congregations can take when they recognize that Pastors (or other ministry leaders) are experiencing burnout so that their leaders are able to be healthy. As you say, it really has a negative impact on the whole congregation when the leader is burnt out and depressed. It is a gift when time and space is given to be able to take a step back, re-evaluate, and re-engage in ministry from a healthier place where you are once again deeply connected with the calling that led you there in the first place. I would hate to see pastors going through a hard time give up all together just because they have lost the initial joy of the calling. Instead I would hope that they would see it as an invitation to take a new approach to ministry or put support systems and structures in place like those described in this article that can enable them to discover again the joy and priviledge it is to serve the church. 

Your letter makes a lot of assumptions about the workload and expectations on modern pastors. It's helpful to remember that not all Pastors are serving in contexts where their churches can afford to pay them $100,000 plus benefits. Not all have substantial vacations and other time off. An increasing number of Pastors are bi-vocational, juggling a part-time or full-time job in addition to serving at the church. This can create additional opportunities as well as new challenges. 

As I interact with my peers in ministry, it has thankfully not been my sense that we are "hard done by." Yes, we commiserate over common challenges or things we are struggling with. Yes, after the past two years many are tired. But we also share about the joys of the work God has called us to, pray for each other, and do our best to encourage one another and build each other up. What encourages us and motivates us to continue going in ministry is not the size of the paycheck or the perks and benefits, but knowing that we have the incredible and humbling priviledge to be a part of the the work God is doing in and through his church. 

Blessings to you as you serve in your congregation and community! I can tell from your comments that while you are frustrated at present, you care deeply for the church and long to see pastors healthy and thriving in ministry. As you pray for and seek to support and encourage the pastors around you, you have the opportunity to be a part of bringing that vision into reality.

Grace and peace, 

Pastor Nicole McLeod

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