I share your concern Peter. When giving to Resonate or World Renew, I try to give to specific missionaries (through my local church) or to assist in particular relief work with World Renew. Of course money is fungible and we are in an era where our denominational executives seem to view the political organization Sojourners as "an ecumenical body" so it is hard to get excited about giving to the denomination.
I will say that there are some great CRC-related agencies (orthodox Reformed with a lot of CRC folk involved) who do excellent work. One I have supported is Kuyper College, they have a high view of Scripture and train people from throughout the world for ministry vocations. Another you might take a look at it the Luke Society, This is a medical missions group founded by CRC physicians. It still includes many physicians, nurses and others in the CRCNA.
Obviously, no denomination is perfect and many others have been just as frustrated with denominations that lean too far to the other end of the political spectrum and others who feel that churches should be *more* political. I think I share your perspective, though and perhaps in time, more of our brothers and sisters in our denomination will as well.
There are two things to consider from my perspective. The first is making sure there is a credible audit trail that ensures that in fact funds are being appropriately approved and recorded. The second is the issue of confidentiality. If the treasurer is not a deacon has the treasurer affirmed in writing that he will keep confidential the names of people being helped where that has been promised.
CRCNA Diaconal Ministry Initiative
"Why the classification of white people and people of color dehumanizes us all"
What happens when it is the institutional church that continues to classify people based on skin color? The solution to malevolent classification based on skin color is not benevolent classification based on skin color. The church must model a better way forward than the world, and that better way forward is not to proliferate the same unbiblical classifications/separations only with good intentions. Physician, heal thyself.
Good day Peter:
Yours is certainly a provocative question: "Are there any good, Christian agencies under the CRCNA banner that are just doing the work of Christ in the world, without a political bias?"
What gets complicated by such a question is that it seems that you are trying to ascertain the area of presuppositions, or the thinking behind the thinking of these agencies. Take a poll of any Christian agency, CRCNA or otherwise, and ask them if they are adhering to biblical orthodoxy, loving neighbors, and loving Jesus and they will all declare "Yes and amen." However, if one peels back a few layers, then sometimes something else emerges. Here I will use an illustration from my soon to be defended PhD thesis.
There is an evangelistic method out there that suggests that if one uses the sacred texts of non-Christian religions to "prime the pump" in a pre-evangelistic method, then better results are guaranteed than if one used the Bible in wise ways. Three things appear to be at work behind the scenes of this method. First, is a North American pre-occupation with results and pragmatism. Secondly, the method assumes that these sacred texts (and often an erroneous appeal is made to Acts 17 and the Apostle Paul at the Areopagus using the poetry of Aratus and Epimenides) are neutral raw material that can be utilized to advantage. Lastly, an underlying assumption is that the basic lack of humans is information, and that if information is packaged in user-friendly ways, then they will come. These three assumptions, for all the declarations of orthodoxy etc of this method, are actually working against Christian truth. The way that this method works is more informed by non-Christian presuppositions influenced by the spirit of the age than Christian presuppositions informed by a Biblical-Christian worldview.
So how does this apply to your question? Your question asks for a qualification "without a political bias" and that needs a lot of qualification. Was Jesus being political or a-political when he suggesting giving to Caesar what is Caesar's? Might I suggest that you ask whether an agency, by its actions, passions, publications, and priorities leans towards Christian or non-Christian presuppositions, and to what degree they are being driven by the values of the surrounding culture and the spirit of the age. [Some of my ideas here are also influenced by Michael Kruger's excellent blog series, "The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity"
Here is a short list off the top of my head of some of the influences of the 'spirit of the age.'
1. We must show hospitality to all ideas in the marketplace.
2. Respect for the ideas of everyone is more important than respect for God's standards.
3. God's standards are up for negotiation.
4. My negotiation and your negotiation must be affirmed.
5. Wholesale affirmation without judgment must be the new mark of the true church.
5. The true church is characterized by what my views of justice, equality and love look like.
6. My views are sovereign.
Blessings in Christ
You certainly don't need to reply, Dan, but here are my observations and comments:
What you cite above, 2016 Act of Synod, Article 72, Section 8 says:
8. That synod affirm initial actions for justice and reconciliation of the CRC
in Canada that are already in process:
– the public acknowledgment of “systemic evils behind colonialism,” the
confession of the CRC’s “sins of assimilation and paternalism,” and the
commitment to live “into a sacred call of unity and reconciliation,” as
expressed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.
– follow-up initiatives on the calls to action of the TRC.
This may illustrate our difference rather starkly. "The leadership of the CRC in Canada" (and you) may see in the above Synod 2016's (pre-)approval for "Canadian leadership" taking a position (now in 2019), in behalf of the Christian Reformed Church, on a particular piece of legislation, Bill (C-262), which would incorporate into Canadian federal law the entirety of UNDRIP, but I can't for the life of me find that in the above (2016 Act of Synod, Article 72, Section 8 ).
And this is where the rub is. I don't object to the institutional church advocating principles about which it can say, true to its calling and expertise (not to mention CO Art 28), "so says scripture." The CRC has done that for over a century, and that aligns with CO Art. 28. What is quite new is deciding that the CRCNA, as denomination, must also lend its name, funding and institutional reputation to lobby (for or against) highly specific legislative proposals, like Bill C-262.
2016 Acts Article 72. section 8.
In the documents provided to the Canada Corporation, the BoT, and the Advisory Committee to Synod the statement affirming UNDRIP as a framework for reconciliation was presented and endorsed by all three bodies which was then ratified by Synod. This is denominational position, duly debated and passed under the ongoing activities of the Canada Corp.
This concludes our discussion.
Dan: It's good to hear that Canadians are so of one mind as to all matters political.
I'll not respond to your points except this one: In your number 2, you decline to cite to any synodical decision but rather "every BoT report for the past decade or so for Synodical reference." While I'm quite certain the BOT references Synod and vice-versa -- as to many points -- it seems clear that Synod has not passed on this. I understand you would probably say they don't have to -- you folks in Canada have been working on this a very long time.
And I honestly appreciate that Canadian churches have their own political agenda, but that does make me wonder: if the CRC is to increasingly become political (both the US and Canada), and if US and Canadian law and politics are so, so different (as you quite emphatically claim), does it make sense to have a single, multi-national denomination? Having a single, multi-national denomination does make sense if the purposes of the institutional denomination are ecclesiastical only, but what if they are also political?
A note: this will be my only response. I'm not interested in engagement as the article only requires refutation. The author's blog lacks merit and I write only to inform readers that the deep flaws in information and context contained within it render it inadequate for serious consideration with respect to conversations of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.
1. There is a point of passing the law. It codifies what the SCC has consistently directed the government to do and the government has consistently refused to do. The change would be two-fold: 1. The government would stop wasting time on losing cases. 2. Clarity regarding title and consultation would be achieved. Your argument on this point demonstrates that you lack specific knowledge on how Government and the SCC interact on matters of policy and legislation.
2. Since this has been an ongoing file in Canada you can look to every BoT report for the past decade or so for Synodical reference. The Canadian church has been endorsing this change for a long time and we have been part of the dialogue with government for making these changes. This is neither new nor unendorsed.
3. There is no sense debating political involvement. Neither of us agree and neither of us will be persuaded. What is important is the Canadian context of this particular issue. You are approaching this particular policy decision as though it is something novel and theoretical. In the Canadian context these discussions are long had, well studied and are an essential part of ministry being done on the ground. The Canadian ministries would not weigh in on this if we lacked experience, expertise, a clear ministry goal, or support from the churches. You might be catching wind of it through a blog post that you didn't like but we've been wrestling with it for years. To use a sports analogy: you're a football coach coming into the 3rd period of a hockey game that we're winning and questioning why we're using sticks and skates.
4. This isn't a partisan issue. There is very little for/against language in our body politic. Canadian churches are sensitive to issues of Truth and Reconciliation and have a long and well founded relationship with our structures of leadership and political dialogue. You're inferring a conflict that isn't part of the dynamic here. It is a part of why Canadian matters are dealt with through our own process.
5. You're not a Canadian constitutional lawyer who has dealt with issues of Treaty. Appeals to your experience don't apply here. It's football and hockey. Canada is a generally less litigious society except in the area of Treaty where the government has consistently tested the limits of those treaties. Adoption of UNDRIP into statute is not new law. It is the incorporation of SCC direction into policy in a way that provides definition to relationship. Will these definitions be contested - absolutely - but this is neither a change in course nor a new thing - it is simply the next step in a process of social, political, religious and economic reconciliation that has gone on for a long time.
Adding a 6th. There is a profound reason that Canadian issues are dealt with through the Canadian process. It is because there are things that are unique to the realities we face. We've been doing this for decades. We are generally happy with the process and trust the people we've put in place to guide us along the path. You are inferring a fight that simply isn't happening here and to be frank - because of your lack of experience, knowledge or context - you're not helping. To borrow from one of yours: "stay in your lane."
Dan: Thanks for engaging. My responses (correlating with your point numbers):
1. UNDRIP's Article 26, as literally written, cannot be regarded as less than "breathtaking" (which was the word I used). As I had suggested, it may be that the Canadian Sup Ct will alter its literal effect by construction, but that is yet to be seen. To say it another way, if, as you say, Article 26 is already the "law of the land," there really would be no point to passing Bill C-262, would there? I'm quite sure there is no current Canadian statutory (or case) law language that says what UNDRIP's Article 26 says. That's why new law gets written.
2. My reference to "CRC Leadership in Canada" quotes from the DoJustice article (see link in my article), which is a publication of OSJ. Whatever impression is given by that is essentially an impression given by the DoJustice article. And however "robust" the process denominational process may be, I'm not aware of any Synodical decision to endorse and lobby for the statutory adoption of the provisions of UNDRIP (which is what Bill C-262 does of course). Can you provide a cite to the Acts of Synod or something else that indicates otherwise?
3. You suggest I have a "bias against ecclesial involvement in the political process." While I may have that, my more immediate objection would be the that the CRC's Church Order (Article 28) has that same bias, or more accurately put, the CRC Church Order prohibits "involvement in the political process," not my own personal bias As you may know, I've advocated for those who favor a change in CO Art. 28 to propose that change and so ask Synod to consider making that change, just as those those who wanted to change CRC Church Order to allow women's ordination did. That way, the question could be resolved. At present, the rule contained in Art 28 (which is a covenant among the churches) is simply being ignored. I do agree with you that reconciliation is very important. Where we perhaps disagree that creating a law that says what UNDRIP's Article 26 says would help reconciliation. I think it will more likely prove to have opened the door to the the opposite.
4. I'm sure there are plenty of Canadians who oppose C-262. If there weren't, C-262 would have been passed a very long time ago. Similarly, I'm sure there are Canadian CRCers who oppose the denomination endorsing C-262. An action isn't "noncontroversial" just because someone who favors the action says so.
5. I'd respectfully disagree with your suggestion in #5. Any time statutory language is passed that overstates an intention (which the adoption into law of UNDRIP Article 26 does, unless it really means what it says, in which "breathtaking" is a very mild characterization), the result is an increase in litigation and dissension. Certainly that is my opinion, but I've practiced law for 40 years in a country (US) whose legal system also stems from the English system. I've engaged in Canadian legal matters enough to know it is different in some respects from the US system but not that different.
A few things:
1. Framing UNDRIP as a radical proposal ignores the very long history of Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decisions surrounding treaty rights that through continuous rulings have affirmed what is at the heart of Article 26. It is essentially the law of the land and putting it into law simply means that every time there is a project to be negotiated the government will save years, lawyers fees, and animosity with indigenous peoples fighting losing court cases. This is not a huge radical change. It is good policy rooted in long history that the author does not have access to.
2. "CRC Leadership in Canada" creates an impression that this is a few people in a room making decisions. It is not. Decisions like this are made through a robust process of delegated authority with multiple points of accountability and are received and endorsed through the Canada Corporation at the Council of Delegates and then received and endorsed by Synodical decision.
3. The author's personal bias against ecclesial involvement in the political process is known and based on experience in the US regarding what lobbying is. The Canadian experience is markedly different involving deep and careful study of a limited number of files in which we have a long history and a wealth of relationships and expertise. It is also governed by processes of accountability, regional, delegated, representational authority, and oversight via the Canada Corporation, Council of Delegates, and Synod. The relationship between indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada, and the churches is one of those files. The CRC in Canada has a decades long involvement in these discussions and the involvement of churches in the process of Truth and Reconciliation is essential not only for public policy but for gospel proclamation.
4. The answer to your question regarding whether the action of the Canadian churches are properly endorsed is yes. This is a long conversation in Canada with decades of history, decisions, and accountability through proper ecclesial channels. Endorsement of UNDRIP is not surprising, shocking nor is it controversial.
5. Taking the very important issue of reconciliation out of the process (which is enough to do it in the first place): this is good social, economic and legal policy for Canada. It will save tax dollars, create stability for businesses, and improve health, education and economic well-being for indigenous peoples.
Fixed :) thanks Michele!
Have any Canadian CRC leaders been asked about giving CRC church or denomination lands back to indigenous peoples? As in, are they willing to do so?
Greg and Willemiena, Yes! Sometimes when I've spoken to groups, I challenge the common use of the word "normal", as a contrast to "disability" or "mental illness." I like to quote Whoopi Goldberg who is reported to have said, "'Normal' is just a cycle on a washing machine." No one is "normal" or "whole" or "independent", but all are broken and in need of support and care and encouragement from fellow human beings. And we live in hope and new life for the present time and for eternity through Jesus Christ (John 10:10).
Hi there! Yes, we are still in search of these hymnals. I will be anxious to hear back from you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I wonder if it would decrease stigma if we thought more about a spectrum that we are all on rather than a black and white division between the mentally ill and the mentally well. We all experience the brokenness of this world in different ways and look forward and live forward to the telos of Jesus's coming again."
I like this, Greg.
Hello, Jonathan! And to all who are commenting. Great discussion and real-life challenges within the children's ministry--finding enough leaders. My name is Lenae Bulthuis and I serve on staff with GEMS Girls' Clubs as the Training & Club Development Manager. How we value and appreciate each leader and club! (As I know Cadets does too!)
To answer the question about combined Annual Themes, sharing the Be a Blessing theme for the 2019-20 season is unique. GEMS and Cadets will have different themes again next season!
As far as combining GEMS and Cadets into one group, there is something important to consider. Boys and girls are very different. We get that! And while they encounter plenty of situations in church and life where they interact together, GEMS and Cadets provide a safe, like-gender environment where older women can teach younger women and older men can teach teach younger boys. All based on the principles defined in Titus 2.
Within GEMS ReFresh (an online training program for GEMS leaders: gemsrefresh.org) we have a message on recruiting volunteers. Please check it out! (Along with a growing library of messages to equip and encourage leaders!) Or connect with me or any of the GEMS staff: gemsgc.org. We would count it a privilege to walk alongside you to strengthen your club, equip leaders, and reach this generation of girls. I'm confident the Cadet staff would say the same.
Thank you for your important ministry with our youth. It matters!
all is grace,
GEMS Training & Club Development Manager
Akhtar gets one thing correct:
"Christians and Muslims are fighting a decisive battle for the true image of humanity."
We always have a combined GEMS & Cadets Sunday, with "Lunch on the Lawn" afterwards to attract more of the families who don't normally attend on Sundays. We do this twice a year (November and May). In the past, we have either chosen one of the themes or something generic or more in line with what our church is doing. I don't think it's necessary to preach on the theme verses of either group.
As an agency of the Christian Reformed Church, World Renew is subject to Synod. The Synodical statement on climate change can be found here http://justice.crcna.org/creation-care-church-speaks
The peace and justice work includes widows rights, trauma healing, and more. https://worldrenew.net/peaceandjustice
One excellent guideline to inform our worship according to the regulative principle, is to skip ahead two catechism questions, to number ninety-eight, still in Ursinus' treatment of the Second Commandment under Lord's day 35.
Q. But may not images be permitted in the churches as teaching aids for the unlearned?
A. No, we shouldn't try to be wiser than God. He wants His people instructed by the living preaching of His Word--not by idols that cannot even talk.
The regulative principle of worship gets only passing notice in our seminary, where in both the homiletics, and worship planning curricula, the inclusion of "video clips" are eagerly encouraged. Our people come to church for as little as an hour and a half a week, perhaps the only waking moments that they are not influenced by a screen. So, in addition to obedience, and to confessional adherence, the Lord's ways provide a practical respite from the enculturation by mass media now prevalent among the saints.
When I teach this Lord's Day lesson, I remark about God's prescriptions for the first organized worship described in Exodus chapters 19 and 20, and then, remind that it was only a short time later, that God's people craved a tangible image.
Curing idolatry in the churches is a painful process, sometimes you have to drink pulverized gold from the brook.
I am also looking for input on what agency the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) falls under, as I will use that as input to my donation decision.
On World Renew, I know there is a lot of controversy and the scientists don’t agree if man is causing any global warming or cooling. In the face of this unsettled science, with at least 31,487 scientists (Source: http://www.petitionproject.org/ ) saying man is not causing global warming, can anyone please relate what side, if any World Renew has taken on this issue? I am hoping they have not taken any side, and just let the scientists figure it out and the politicians decide what to do, with World Renew just helping people affected by floods and hurricanes. They do excellent work there.
I see that you have already connected with Ron DeVries our wonderful Youth Ministry Catalyzer. I would also love to connect with you. I work as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in Eastern Canada. Over the last 9 years we have had almost 500 students and mentors go through various leadership training events which have resulted in having youth and young adults step into a variety of leadership roles throughout Southern Ontario. I have also begun taking this training on the road and will be doing a leadership event in Alberta this spring as well.
My email address is email@example.com , if you would like to connect.
Thank you Michelle we really need your perspective on these matters. Certainly our Reformed theology points to the depravity of all people and how easy we can be coaxed into evil (the Nazis as an example). It is too easy for us to scapegoat people with mental illness and as the Bell Lets Talk initiative shows, a lot of this is coming to light in the public square and there is much more awareness. Unfortunately there are still a lack of services and treatment in the area of mental health, long wait times for programs such as DBT and other challenges in our health care system on the Canada side. My other comment is that I think we have to start to look at mental illness more as mental health. Just like physical health we are all on a spectrum - some more healthy, some less. I meet few individuals who are 100% healthy mentally from what I can tell. Some practice mental fitness through therapy or medication and that should be encouraged. I wonder if it would decrease stigma if we thought more about a spectrum that we are all on rather than a black and white division between the mentally ill and the mentally well. We all experience the brokenness of this world in different ways and look forward and live forward to the telos of Jesus's coming again.
Doug, thank you for your thoughtful post about how we as individual Christians should welcome the stranger, and how governments should act to protect its citizens from harm.
Let’s say a church group wants to take a group of believers on an evening boat trip on the ocean, to fellowship and pray together, maybe have a meal together and get to know each other. They book a boat that holds 50 people safely, and publish the date and time on Facebook. The smart thing to do would be to ask for RSVPs, then count and vet the people who want to join in and make sure they do not have any ill intent. For example, if you get a request from someone who is on the run from the police for recent train and boat robberies, you would respectfully decline their request to join, and probably should work with police to arrest the person and get them the justice and restoration they need. But we don’t do that restoration on the boat. We would have guards or walls at the entrance to the marina or boat, and verify the identity of those who want to board. We would use force to keep the criminals off the boat, if they tried to sneak in or bust through the check-in desk at the gangway.
So the first thing a group of Christians would do to keep their participants safe is make sure no one who has ill intent comes on board. The only way to do that is to find out who wants to board, and check them out.
If this group of Christians did it the wrong way, they would just post an invitation, “anyone who wants to join, meet us at the dock at 5pm!”
Then, what if 100 people showed up? Should we “welcome the stranger” and let any and all board the boat? What if the overcrowding caused children and others to get pushed off the side of the boat while underway, killing or injuring them? Did we really do the right thing by letting any and all board without vetting or controlling the numbers?
What if the additional weight of the people causes the boat to sink or capsize, killing all on board? Can we say the organizers of the outing implemented the right, caring policy for all by “welcoming all the strangers onto the boat”?
The Gallup polling organization did a poll of half a million people in 152 countries between 2015 and 2017, and found that nearly 120 million foreigners would migrate to the United States if they are allowed to enter. The current US population is 328 million, so that additional 120 million would overwhelm our social safety nets and cause the country and current citizens severe, perhaps unrecoverable problems. Is open borders really the best, caring policy for a country to have? Or should we have strong walls, and a big beautiful door for those who want to join us to go through, get vetted and authorized?
Checking the prospective boarders of a boat, or prospective migrants to a country, and limiting the numbers for the safety of those already on board, is the moral and Christian caring thing to do. We have walls around our churches, with doors that are open during worship times, but even then, we have walls around the pastor’s office, walls around the church safe that holds the collection money, and walls around our nursery care area. We vet people who want to enter past these walls to the pastor’s office, the safe and the nursery, and for good reason. Should we “welcome the stranger” into the walk-in safe, or “welcome the stranger” into the nursery care area where our children are? Of course not. So the “welcome the stranger” exhortation is not absolute and mindless. It does not mean we should throw out common sense or put those we love in danger.
The principle of “welcome the stranger” is a good one, as Doug mentions we should welcome strangers in our neighborhoods, and welcome them into our churches. But governments are put in place by God to help protect the people and provide justice…and just letting any and all comers into the country is not compatible with those goals. We want to welcome immigrants here, but we must have walls and make sure people come to the big beautiful doors, the official ports of entry, so we can vet their background and make sure they are someone the citizens of the country want to come in.
We should strive to avoid hypocrisy on this issue, where we put up moral, legitimate walls to protect our homes, schools, and churches, but then somehow we for political reasons we want to deny walls that are put up for the same reasons to protect our country. There are many examples of this hypocrisy showing those pushing for open borders with walls around their own houses or businesses: https://www.redstate.com/brandon_morse/2019/01/14/watch-new-series-walls-across-america-shows-us-democrats-walls-around-homes-starting-george-soros/
For years, Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship International has helped redeem broken lives. As Christians, we believe all people have value, deserve mercy, and are loved equally by God—even the most outcast. We as Christians help restore hope and share God’s redeeming grace with prisoners and their families around the world. But we help them and minister to them in the jail. We don’t advocate for opening the walls of the prison and letting them enter freely into our homes, schools and nursery rooms or walk-in safes of our churches.
Similarly, if there are criminals or even non-criminal poor who break the law by entering the country illegally, we are not under an obligation to ignore that law-breaking and “welcome the stranger”. If an escaped prisoner breaks into your house, you don’t “welcome the stranger” and try to rehabilitate him in your house. You call authorities to pick him up, take him back to prison and show him God’s love there, minister to him there and offer the forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration that God brings. If someone sneaks into the United States, we can show Christ’s love for them, help them get rehabilitated and restored in their home country’s prison if appropriate, or help them with food and resources in their home country if they are poor. In addition to the immediate need for food and water the poor need, we should also give them help to fix the harmful political environment that caused them to be poor in many cases. Many countries are living under totalitarian, socialist or communist leadership, which takes all the resources for a few elites and hurts the poor and powerless. We should work to spread freedom, capitalism and the rule of law around the world, to help these oppressed people in their own countries. We are not under any obligation to take people out of their current place and move them to another place to help them.
I appreciate this heartfelt prayer for all the good gifts God gives us, including coal, oil, and natural gas. I will continue to praise God and thank him, and I appreciate the reminder that:
“Every time we turn on a light switch, start our car, feel the heat of our furnace, the refreshing cool of our air conditioner, or eat nourishing food may we remember and give thanks that God has provided for us.”
I also thank God every day for the hard work of scientists who, using their God-given gifts of intelligence and curiosity, discovered these gifts of God in nature, and how to use them for His children’s benefit (keeping us warm, giving us light and heat and health, freedom and travel).
And I pray for these scientists as they research and discover even more about the amazing planet God has created for us, and what is beneficial to the natural plant and animal environments of God’s great earth: http://www.petitionproject.org/
While reading the other comments I was reminded that the word from which we get words like psychology, psychiatry etc. is [psyche]. Please forgive me for not putting it in International Phonetic Alphabet ; I don,t have the characters on hand. Psychiatry and psychology claim to treat the mind, but the medications also treat the soul to some extent since antipsychotics and antidepressants control the symptoms that make mentally ill people often miserable enough to consider suicide, when they don't actually take measures to end their own lives. Since depression was my dominant negative symptom, finding a medication that alleviated that emotional problem helped me to move on from self-obsession to being able to help others AND to want to. I wish you luck in trying to diagnose moral illness in a society that has pretty much lost its own moral compass to begin with. I disagree with Rev. Nederhood that abortion is the cause of people choosing to kill children. In my opinion, it is merely a symptom among others.
I think Cedric is quite correct that the normative principle is much more common in practice, or perhaps one might say that a "modified RPW" is quite common. Even within adherents to RPW, there is substantial disagreement as to what boundaries might be a necessary conclusion. In some circles, head coverings, exclusive psalmody, and a capella singing are all the result of being normed by RPW. RPW can also become an end unto itself sometimes, which is not helpful. We need to be careful also that RPW does not become shorthand for "what I prefer" or "the way we've always done it."
Having said all that, I think much is lost when the RPW is discarded altogether. The normative principle, it seems to me, has led to many broad evangelical practices/excesses that do not even resemble worship (unless we consider them worship of man). Certainly there is danger in the rote exercise of RPW-normed worship that we must be vigilant to fight against. But it seems to me that the dangers associated with throwing the doors open to anything not expressly prohibited are much greater than those associated with the excesses or ritualism that can come with RPW.
In the end, I also agree with Cedric that we should, in effect, "say what we mean, and mean what we say." We don't do well to profess one thing and practice another. Such double-mindedness is not pleasing to God.
Mark, I agree with you that "the RPW should first shape our general attitude toward God," but I think that most Christian Reformed congregation today would not agree with the RPW. In my experience, most Christian Reformed Churches operate on the normative principle of worship (if it isn't forbidden, it is permitted). Thus, many of our churches include liturgical elements that are nowhere commanded in Scripture either explicitly or by implication (e.g., lighting of Advent wreaths, Lenten observance, etc.). Perhaps its time that we revisit Q/A 96 as a denomination and ask ourselves whether we really believe what it says we believe.
Hi Ken, thanks for chiming in. It sounds like this may be something you've encountered personally... If you have, we are curious to know how this played out: the good, the bad, AND the ugly!
thank you for sharing this opening!
This is very helpful!
Also, consider downloading the free collection of descants Praise God in the Heights by Dr. Larry Visser. This collection is useful for voice or instruments: see https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/publications/praise-god-in-the-heights/
For the Lenten-Easter season the following songs in Lift Up Your Hearts appear with descants in this collection: #136, 137, 145, 146, 163, 164, 167, 182, 187, 188, 216, 202, 205. Well worth the minute it takes to download.
While the initial download is free if you want to make further copies for your choir or instrumentalist you need to use the appropriate copyright license or contact the copyright holder. Information on copyright holders can be found at www.LiftUpYourHeartsHymnal.com.
Thanks for all of the comments on this post. Since our community guidelines say that comments will avoid arguing back and forth, must contribute something new to the discussion, and will avoid repeating, we are going to shut off comments on this post at this time. Please feel free to start a new post if you have a new ministry question or a different point of view to express. Please also feel free to continue your conversation off line.
Great question, Josh!
The Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) has been helpful for my congregation in refining what happens when we gather together on Sunday morning and evening. Instead of only determining the components of a worship service (greeting, singing, confession, sermon, etc.), I find the RPW to be most helpful in developing the ethos of our worship. Put another way, elders should be asking of their congregations, "When we read about a corporate worship event in the Bible, can we relate to it because that's how we worship as well?"
As I have visited congregations throughout my life, I sometimes have left an evangelical worship service and felt as though it did not reflect the tone and spirit of the worship described in the Bible. Sometimes this means a congregation values doctrine and proper behavior so much that their worship becomes stale and lifeless. The unashamedly joyful worship of David would scandalize such congregations. Churches on the other end of the worship-style spectrum can also seem unbiblical by focusing exclusively on praise and encouragement, giving little attention to prayer, the sacraments, or the Bible. Here there is no "trembling at God's Word."
My point is that the RPW should first shape our general attitude toward God before we look for proof texts of why an element of a worship service is or isn't biblical.
Makes sense, Dan. I'm definitely in favor of both. Hoping to see you at the Cooler/Smarter meeting on Feb 21. I'll give a brief overview of the chemical evidence of climate change (I'm a chemist) and then get into ideas for personal reduction of CO2 (including anecdotes from my family's efforts).
See you then!
Great topic for conversation! Willow Creek did valuable research on the topic of growing disciples. I think it could be really helpful for you. For instance, The Reveal study describes people in four different stages of faith development: Exploring Christ, Growing in Christ, Close to Christ and Christ Centered. Each group has different growth needs related to spiritual behaviors and attitudes. They also found spiritual growth for the different groupings happened in different settings. For instance, small groups move and develop those Close to Christ but large group gatherings were more effective in moving growth in those Exploring Christ. Those Christ Centered grow more through small accountability groups and through serving. They also found that more church activity did not predict greater spiritual growth!
I'm thankful for the Reveal research. It shows us there is not a one size fits all approach. And, I found it is helpful to think less about the organizational structure - small groups, large groups, programs - and think more about how to develop Christian practices. For instance, in what way do we want people in our congregation to engage with neighbors and the community? What if we could work backwards and start with the behaviors, practices and attitudes of how we want our people to live? How would programs and structures - like small groups - be impacted?
I'm a long time Coffee Break leader and serve as the Coffee Break Program Manager. Coffee Break is a program that helps participants actively dig into the Bible and talk together about what they are learning. Its a program or type of group but the focus is on developing practices of Bible engagement, listening, story telling and engaging with people who have never read the Bible before.
So much to think about! I would be happy to chat!
Thank you, John Tamming, for this provocative commentary. First of all, I'm not sure if the generalization can be demonstrated that pastors are reluctant to visit parishioners, though I DO know of some pastors who show such reluctance. In such cases, I share your perplexity. In my 27 years as sole parish pastor and preacher for churches ranging from 200 to 425 or so active members, with evening services for all those years, I would make about 8 to 10 pastoral visits a week in homes, work places, Tim Hortons or schools during noon breaks. (Btw, these do not include hospital visits). Most of the time it was a very good thing to leave the church building and study and engage with members (active or not). As you note, much sermon fodder (to be handled VERY carefully, of course) that grows in these visits. And, as you also comment, lots of political good will built up in those visits, even if that's hardly an exclusive reason to go visiting,
But let's say your generalization is accurate. I won't make excuses for pastors and your point is well-taken that without an evening service, there is more time available. But this I do know: many pastors are basically shy people who have learned to be as a good friend calls himself, "a professional extrovert." Still doing and being that is tiring for many of my colleagues and many of them find visiting hard; I never did. As well, as my years as a pastor increased, I found it harder and harder to do all I wanted and needed to do pastorally because meetings seemed to demand more time and preparation as years passed. There was much time dedicated to planning and strategizing, work that didn't come naturally for me, though I could and did do it as required.
Still, since I'm speaking only from my limited personal experience, I'd be interested if colleagues would comment on John Tamming's brief, edgy blog. Blessings and thanks again, John, for your contribution.
Herb. Let me know your email address and I'll respond.
Don't put the infrequent attender and uninvolved member on council in the hopes of getting him more involved in church. Making an uncommitted member a church leader could be detrimental to your ministry.
I'm familiar with that material, as well as DeMoor's commentary. I guess what I was more looking for was some proponent of the type of lobbying that Doug here decries to interact with Doug's question about the institutional church transacting ecclesiastical matters only. I am interested to see someone who favors this type of activity in the church grapple honestly and more than surficially with our covenantal language.
The closest I've seen in this thread is Tom Ackerman's quote: "I disagree with your statements about the role of the church on issues of social justice, including global warming. There is no stronger message in the Bible than our requirement as God's people to seek justice and to love mercy. Laying waste to our environment is neither just nor merciful."
A couple of observations:
1) Tom does not in this argument establish that lobbying for a carbon tax is an ecclesiastical matter, except to establish his belief that it relates to justice an mercy. But of course, every aspect of life relates to justice and mercy in one fashion or another, but that does not maker every matter in life ecclesiastical (of or relating to a church especially as an established institution).
2) There are indeed stronger messages in the Bible than our requirement (law) to seek justice and love mercy. Grace always overwhelms law in the Christian gospel, so it simply will not do to posit law as the dominant theme of the Bible.
3) In this quote Tom illustrates the cardinal sin of environmentalism, that of hyperbolic pronouncement. Later in the thread Tom objects to the use of the term "alarmist". But the word is used for a reason, and the history of alarming exaggeration within environmentalism is long and illustrious, whether the name be Ehrlich, Gore, Hayhoe, McKibben, or some politician pandering for votes through fear. The idiom "lay waste" is defined in one place as "to devastate; destroy; ruin", which is typical of its common usage. The idea that humanity is somehow devastating, destroying, or ruining "our environment" is the the type of apocalyptic language that is so detached from reality that the purveyor of such fearful language drives people into two disparate camps: First, true believers, who begin to speak and act in more and more irrational ways (see Green New Deal language) due to exaggerated fears. Second, those who are driven away by the hyperbole and flee to the opposite end of the spectrum, and often in so doing also discount realistic concerns. So the use of such hyperbole is quite counterproductive, and it continues to be the Achilles heel of the environmental movement, both within and without Christianity.
Yes, it should. Fixed now. Thanks Hetty!
We are recently having a similar conversation - do we have a combined Cadets and Gems Sunday? This year the theme and theme verse is the same for both groups, which makes things difficult for a pastor who wants to preach to each group's theme verse on their designated Sunday, but preaching on the same text a few months apart gets to be a little redundant... Does anyone know if the Cadets and Gems plan to have the same theme going forward? Or was this a one time thing?
I think you are quite right Lubbert. Somewhat following outside the church political patterns, as if there is some kind of connection, there has been a trend, in both realms, toward the hierarchical and away from the distributed.
I'm not a fan of the trends.
Ok, cool. So what % theologians did you come up with?
Your welcome. Church Order, Article 27-a may also have some relevance in this matter: "Each assembly exercises, in keeping with its own character and domain, the ecclesiastical authority entrusted to the church by Christ; 'the authority of councils being original, that of major assemblies being delegated'."
The question I struggle with is whether the Vision 21 Report submitted and adopted by Synod 1987 upended the ecclesiastical governance model set out in Church Order, Article 27-a where CRCNA administrative bodies are speaking on behalf of church councils and congregants without their authorization and outside their sphere of sovereignty. In particular, the Manual for Christian Reformed Government in the commentary states,
"1. The assemblies of the church exercise the ecclesiastical authority entrusted to the church by Christ. This is a basic principle in Reformed polity. The church is not based on the principle of hierarchy but on shared authority that flows from the head of the church: Jesus Christ. From that principle flows the following:
a. Ecclesiastical: The essential authority in the church is ecclesiastical—it is limited by the nature of the church as the body of Christ. The Bible speaks of various other types of authority, such as the authority of parents over their children and the authority of rulers and judges over a nation. Each type of authority must be exercised within its own sphere and in accord with its own structural purposes....
b. Entrusted by Christ: The first principle of all ecclesiastical authority is the headship of Christ. The mandates he gives to his church are based upon Christ’s own authority. The church has no ecclesiastical authority other than that of Christ. In other words, 'the authority of the council is not delegated to it by the classis or the denomination.'...
2. The relationship of the assemblies: Each assembly exercises its own peculiar authority in keeping with its own character and domain—the council in relation to the congregation, the classis in matters relating to its member congregations, and the synod for the denomination as a whole.
a. The authority of councils: The authority of councils is original; the authority of the major assemblies is delegated. Each congregation as a unit is a complete expression of the body of Christ in its particular setting. Congregations are the basic units of the church, comprising all of its members in a given community of faith.
b. The authority of major assemblies: To express and maintain the broader unity of the church and to reach out beyond the local boundaries, councils (minor assemblies) unite in broader (major) assemblies called “classes.” The churches of the classes (as minor assemblies) unite in a still broader (or major) assembly called the “synod” of the church....
3. Movements that undermine the authority of the assemblies: The ecclesiastical assemblies must be guarded against actions that, knowingly or unknowingly, undermine the authority and threaten the unity of the church. On various occasions synod has warned against the circulation of petitions and against pressure movements within the church that circumvent the decisions of the assemblies and cause disunity in the church."'
Thanks for posting that Lubbert. As often as I've appealed to CO Art 28 in the past years, I don't recall anyone engaging me as to the meaning of it, nor arguing with my assertion as to what the Article means in terms of the boundaries it creates for denominational (institutional church) activities.
I find that discouraging because it means there may well be something of a widespread willingness to break covenant (which is what the CO is, read its preface) with the CRC churches and members. Some may think that's a small deal so long as their sense of "justice" is pursued by means larger than themselves (which is what the denomination is).
I think it's a big deal, and that our willingness to ignore (or just disobey) this foundational CO rule will be destructive.
If it is of any assistance, below is advice provided on Church Order, Article 28-a from the 2017 edition of the Manual of Christian Reformed Church Government:
1. Ecclesiastical matters
The work of the assemblies is limited to ecclesiastical matters. Such matters relate to the ministry of the Word and sacraments, worship, education, works of benevolence, the exercise of Christian discipline, the furtherance of the communion of the saints, and other activities that pertain to the church and its ministries.
Although Christian people have a responsibility to serve the Lord in all spheres of life—physical sciences, education, political life, art, business, etc.— these are not to be regarded as ecclesiastical matters. Synod has declared that political, social, and economic questions are ecclesiastical matters only when doctrinal and ethical issues of sufficient magnitude are involved as commonly understood according to the Word of God and the confessional standards of the Christian Reformed Church. By adhering to this fundamental principle, the church will not invade the rights of the state (government) nor erase the boundary between the duty of the church-institute and the duty of Christian citizens.
I would be interested to see one straight-forward attempt to answer Doug’s continual question regarding Church Order Article 28 and the proper activities of the institutional church. The pertinent language of Article 28 is as follows: “These assemblies [council, classis, & synod] shall transact ecclesiastical matters only, and shall deal with them in an ecclesiastical manner.”
We can argue until we are blue in the face about carbon taxes, green new deals, capitalism vs. socialism, nuclear power, etc., and that is all well and fine. But in the end, as individual Christians we make decisions based on our conscience as informed by God’s Word. And there simply is no straight line from God’s Word to the complexities of 21st century energy and economic policy, no matter how hard you try. There is no way to argue that a certain position on a national carbon tax is an “ecclesiastical matter” without stretching the definition of ecclesiastical until it has no meaning whatsoever. If everything with a moral component is an ecclesiastical matter then there is no end to what can be made to be ecclesiastical. If everything is ecclesiastical, then nothing is. If we are to have common ground, we must have a common language, and that language has to mean something. Are we so double minded (James 4:8) that to say one thing and then do another is perfectly acceptable to us? Or are those who hold the power in the church’s institutions and agencies indifferent as long as their ox is not being gored?
What happened to Christians respecting each other’s consciences in matters such as this? Why must Christians take the reins of power and co-opt the name and resources of others to advance their preferred political agenda? What is to stop these brothers and sisters from pressing their claims through YECA, EEN, Sojourners, 350.org, or any number of other organizations of like-minded individuals, whether Christian or not? How are we to understand the continual, obvious, and divisive politicking of the church except as a display of arrogance and disregard in the face of brothers and sisters who differ?