A key topic of discussion at Synod 2013 will, undoubtedly, be the bi-national character of our denomination. Also undoubtedly, it is brought forward to us in Overture 5 from Classis Toronto and in Overture 6 from Classis Niagara.
I am an American who, with the exception of a wonderful internship in Calgary, AB (I’d like to do a shout-out to my peeps at Emmanuel Church “What up, peeps!?!”) has only ever served in the American context. So all I can offer is this: I know that I don’t know what it is like be a part of the CRCNA north of the border. I know that I don’t know what it’s like to negotiate the bureaucracy associated with being an American serving a Canadian church or a Canadian serving an American church.
It is for this reason that I refer you to Harry Houtman’s piece – recently published in The Banner – proposing a radical or not so radical solution to a felt problem in our midst.
During their years of living in Egypt, the people of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham prospered. But 400 years after Joseph had initially brought the 12 tribes to Egypt, Moses came to Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go.” It took many attempts before Pharaoh acceded to the request. The people of Israel did not rise up in a rebellion, a civil war, or a labor stoppage. Instead, through Moses, they relied on those in power to voluntarily give up their power.
Martin Luther King Jr., as head of the civil rights movement, also came to those in power. He went to white people, legislators, and common church people, and said, “Let my people go.” Give us human rights. Again, it was the 90 percent of the population who had to voluntarily give up discrimination, voluntarily grant equality.
Dear friends in the United States, you have been “mother” to the earliest congregations of the Christian Reformed Church in Canada for more than 100 years. You have been our mentor and helper for more than 60 years, since the flood of immigrants and the tenfold multiplication of congregations in Canada after World War II. Now it is time for us to say: “Let my people go.” Let us go. Let us be an independent CRC in Canada.
This is not a rebellion, a civil war, or a stoppage of ministry shares. It is more than time for you to recognize that you did a great job of cultivating a mature church in Canada. There are thousands upon thousands of Christian Reformed people in Canada who have benefited from your colleges and seminary in the early years so they could pursue the Christian Reformed testimony in Canada. We have matured. We have grown up. We want to move on in partnership, in equality, with equal rights, in equal determination. We want to be the CRC in Canada, not the CRC in North America.
Dear U.S. friends, urge your synodical delegates to make motions toward true independence for Canada. As Americans you are proud—humbly proud—of the mission success in Nigeria. There you claim the CRC has more members than in North America. You did not hold that church in subjection as you are holding the Canadian churches in subjection. Stop dictating to us how to do Canadian Home Missions, Canadian Chaplaincy, Canadian First Nations relations. Stop administering Canadian pensions and auditing Canadian bookkeeping records. We can do it, and we want to do it. Delegates to synod, have the courage to make the motions for Canadian independence.
We can come back stronger as true partners.
A few questions for reflection:
- Are Israel’s slavery in Egypt or the segregation of races refuted by Martin Luther King Jr. the right metaphors to use in order to understand the relationship between the US and Canada within the CRCNA?
- In what ways is ministry in the Canadian context being held back by their union with the church in the US? (Honestly, this is a question asked in ignorance. I really don’t know. Please describe to me – beyond the list given at the end of Houtman’s article.)
- Will we be stronger as voluntary partners than as covenantal conjoined partners? Or, to put it colloquially, will we love each other more if we are living together than if we are married?