The CRC Synod of 2013 accepted a proposal from Classis Toronto to study the religious persecutions around the world with a view to devise effective ministries. In response, Synod appointed a study committee which will now report to the synod next month in Sioux Center, Iowa.
One would think that two years of study would enable the committee to make proposals to synod with many items of advice. Not so. The committee will only submit an interim report without much information, let alone action-oriented advice. Actually, advisory committees of synod usually take more than two years.
However, the committee did make some helpful observations of the considerations that need to go into the final advice.
Following is a summary of some of the committee’s considerations:
- Faithful Christian living in Canada and the US has witnessed a gradual erosion of legal protection and cultural tolerance. Persecution is defined as “the violation of religious liberty.”
- It is a challenge to confront legal systems of public officials that condone persecution.
- Does the CRC have the resources to address abuses world-wide?
- How can the CRC address inter-groups and/or interfaith conflicts?
- Persecution has inevitably political and social dimensions; how must they be addressed?
- How can scriptural and historical experiences be brought to bear on present day realities?
- The Reformed understanding of religious pluralism will prove helpful in formulating advice.
- The state must abstain from favoring one religious conviction over another; Christian communities are to live and work alongside persons of diverse and contradictory faiths.
Problems will remain: religions have inevitable public practices since they embody mostly total world and life views. For this reason, religious freedom cannot be strictly absolute.