Name Change: Will It Be a Relief to Be “Renew?”


Sometime in the next few days Synod will be faced with a significant decision about Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, a process to change the name of CRWRC has been in the works for at least two years. The first part of the process started in meetings and in-house conversations.

Over much of the last year this process has been carried to the membership of the CRC via internet polls and surveys. We have seen several starts and re-starts in the process as at least two crops of suggested names went out on the internet and gathered much spirited feedback. Back to the drawing board: Find names that more clearly reflect the current mission and organization of CRWRC, while also producing echoes of biblical tradition.

So, what’s wrong with CRWRC? Nothing’s wrong with it. It just doesn’t fit as well as it used to. While the agency is definitely Christian Reformed in origin, worldview and philosophy, and with dual headquarters in Burlington and Grand Rapids, once “on the field,” CRWRC partners with many other denominational and para-church NGOs and national church organizations overseas. Thus “Christian Reformed” seems to be too limited in description. Yet deep roots of name ownership—perhaps too deep?—make some long-time supporters rebel at any name that doesn’t carry the words "Christian Reformed."

Other name issues: What CRWRC does now is much, much more than disaster relief. Community development based on literacy (often using the Bible as a major tool), community health care (preventive—good, clean water a basic ingredient) and hygiene and agricultural development (care and restoration of tired, eroded soils, micro-irrigation, seeds fit for given climates) are all much more complex parts of CRWRC work than was first imagined in the 1960s.

Also, CRWRC has long ceased to be anything resembling a “committee.” It is an many-faceted agency with international reach and splendid reputation for serving people during and long after disasters, working for justice for minorities, refugees, women and so much more.

Names mean a lot. The most important name to keep in mind, though, is the Name of Christ. And it does appear—both in word and with the symbol of the cross in the logo. The FULL name is “World Renew: Living Justice, Loving Mercy, Serving Christ.” The board of CRWRC and the Board of Trustees unanimously agreed on the new name and commended the process used to discover it. What will Synod say?

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In one way, a name change doesn't bother me.   For example, I think the Calvinist Cadet Corps should be change to Christian Cadet Clubs.   I think it is more pertinent and more understandable. 

So I don't think it is wrong to change the CRWRC name necessarily, although it has a pretty respectable brand.   The problem with a name change is whether it brings us back to the purpose, or takes us further away from it.   The purpose of world relief has been or should be, to demonstrate the love of christ.  The argument that CRWRC does much more than disaster relief, does not mean that the other things James listed are not relief efforts, such as improving education or agriculture or literacy or health care.   They are what we would call helping ministries, making very bad situations somewhat better.   We don't expect CRWRC to set up Christian schools in downtown GrandRapids for example, nor help South Dakota farmers to improve their farming methods.   So whether it is an immediate disaster relief or a long term disaster relief, the objective is somewhat the same;  in some cases to prevent probable future disasters. 

The suggested name:   "World Renew; Living Justice, Loving Mercy, Serving Christ" is really the combination of a name and a slogan or motto.  No reasonable person will assume that the entire so-called name will actually be used as a name in other than letterheads.  Do you really think that the acronym WRLJLMSC will be used and on the lips and frontal lobes of the average semi-knowledgeable person?   I don't think so.  In fact, I will pretty well guarantee it will not.  In fact, to me this is so obvious, that I will suggest some dissembling is going on here when people suggest that Christ is really in the name.  I would suggest that if it is, it is like a tail easily caught in the barbed wire.   It will only be used when people object, and otherwise will not be commonly used in the name. 

The suggestion that because CRWRC works with so many other organizations means it must change its name, makes absolutely no sense to me.   Are all these other organizations also changing their names?   How will you know who is who? 

But, if a name change was absolutely necessary, then I would suggest this:   Christian World Relief.   Simple.   Pertinent.  Descriptive.   Accurate. 

The other one could be adjusted slightly and turned into the motto and descriptor that it really is:   "Renewing the World, Living Justice, Loving Mercy, Serving Christ". 

I am, and have been for a long time, a avid supporter of CRWRC. I saw first hand, the fine work this orgainization was doing shortly after the tsumami in Sumatra, Indonesia . How well and carefully  they spent the funds entrusted to them by the church and the Canadian Federal government. But, even there, CRWRC, was hard to pronounce and confusing.  Because if this fact, they called themselves, GENASSIST". Easy to understand, and meaningful. "First to Help" . The proposed name change for this beloved orgainization is something I support fully. My hope is that Synod 2012  will recognize this as a postive change and support it's implementation.

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Here is a link to the CRWRC news story:

I still, even after this very clear explanation, do not see the need for the change. Having worked most of my career outside of the CRC and in the service sector as well as the church, I can tell you that CRWRC is the most recognizable name on many assistance sites. My fear is that you will loose the branding by changing the name to something unrecognizeable. With the logic that because we work with so many NGO's on the field it should be more inclusive, that then means that if it wants to keep up, the "Salvation Army", which has even broader support from both churches and agencies, should change it's name to something less denominational. Sorry, but I for one think that you will be loosing more than you gain.

I agree with indypastor.   The whole name change seems to be done for very pragmatic reasons, while ignoring the spiritual implications.  Ironically, pragmatic reasons will eventually not sustain themselves, and the spiritual foundations of CRWRC will decline.   The example of "Salvation Army"  is a very good one, to show how maintaining a visible connection to the original purpose does not harm the impact of the cause or the organization.   The real fact is that "World Renew" is somewhat a pompous unrealistic name.  To think that one organization will renew the world... what does this mean?   new political systems?   new national borders?   World government?  No more deserts, no more hurricances, no  more volcanoes?  no more wars?   The name is so broad it has almost become meaningless.  However, I suppose it will not harm relief efforts too much in the near future, even if it does lose its christian witness, which it seems to be doing.