What Do We Want from The Banner?

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Five overtures in the Agenda for Synod 2014 call for action related to The Banner. All of them represent responses to last summer’s heat wave generated by the publication of two articles in particular: “Tomorrow’s Theology” by Edwin Walhout (June 2013) and “Sex, Intimacy, and the Single Person – Where Do We Draw the Line?” by Harry VanBelle (July 2013). 

Overtures 9 and 13 (from Classis Columbia and Classis Atlantic NE) propose new oversight policies and practices that, in their estimation, would ensure that all articles published will represent views consistent with our commitment to the authority of Scripture and our Reformed confessions. The other overtures (from Classis Illiana, Classis Minnkota, and the Council of St. Joseph CRC in MI) call for synod to remove Rev. Robert De Moor as Banner editor and additionally (in the Illiana and Minnkota overtures) to retract or repudiate the articles in question.

There are a number of assumptions and/or allegations that delegates will have to weigh as they prepare to engage with these overtures.

Is it true (overture 9) that The Banner is not a suitable place for private familial (as in CRC family) conversation and/or open argumentation? Isn’t the kitchen table the place where some of the most vigorous and at times uncomfortable disagreements do in fact take place in the context of trust? 

If, as overture 9 contends, “it is unwise and detrimental to the spiritual health of God’s people to expose them to biblically unorthodox ideas in the name of promoting discussion with the goal of stimulating them to growth and maturity,” then where do we draw the line?  How many would have argued, and did, in recent history that The Banner was leading us astray by publishing articles that argued for women in ecclesiastical office? 

The same question applies to the contention of overture 13 that The Banner “does not need to participate in dialogue for CRC members to encounter views that go against our creeds and confessions.” But what about the cases in which we lack clarify or agreement on the implications of what we confess? 

The argument of overtures 10-12 is that the articles in question were, in the words of overture 10, “such blatant and egregious violations of biblical and confessional teaching, and so divisive and disruptive of the well-being and harmony of CRC congregations, that The Banner needs new leadership…” De Moor’s actions have shown that “he can no longer be trusted to conduct these conversations within the bounds of Scripture and our common confessions.” 

The question, again, is one of boundaries. The Banner’s synodical mandate (’98) directs it to “stimulate critical thinking about issues related to the Christian faith and the culture of which we are a part.” Do the offending articles seek to do this? One presses the theological implications of evolutionary theory. The other deals with the sensitive question of premarital sexual relations in cases of mature, committed relationships. 

Clearly both articles pushed the envelope. Clearly both have stimulated critical thinking. [The Walhout article received a merit award at the Associated Church Press convention held recently in Chicago.]  But did they cross the line? 

Some readers within and beyond the CRC found the articles stimulating, helpful and engaging, whether they agreed with the authors or not. Do we want/expect The Banner to simply lay out “the CRC position” on such challenging contemporary issues? What if there is no clearly stated “CRC position” but only one that is emerging, in flux?

The overtures acknowledge that De Moor apologized for “the manner and timing of publishing these articles.” When is an apology acceptable? Does a track record of 10 years of faithful and edifying service as editor warrant a greater measure of charity? 

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I interpret this article as a defense of Bob DeMoor and the publication of the two articles. It seems to me the defense is often built on a false dichotomy: either The Banner tows the denominational line with rote, stale answers to important issues or we allow its authors to push us outside our existing theological framework so that we might find new answers. I propose a "third way" where The Banner challenges the church to think critically and creatively while remaining true to the Bible and our confessions. Unfortunately the Walhout and VanBelle articles do not fulfill those requirements. For examples of thought-provoking articles that accomplish this, check out the blog of Kevin DeYoung, a pastor in the RCA. Our own Forum magazine produced by the seminary also does a good job of meeting those goals.

When this article compares The Banner's offensive articles on same-sex relations with debate on women in office,it clearly reveals the CRC leadership's misguided intent to keep our magazine's liberal agenda on track.    

Community Builder

Whatever you imagine may be on the mind of the author, Ken Baker, I didn't read those words in the text. He's asking the question "what do we want from the Banner" which I would paraphrase "What is the Banner for?"

I think that is the question, and is the right question to ask. While we're in the busines of mind reading I interpret most of the protests assume the job of the Banner is to promote the perspective of the CRC on a variety of issues. That's a fine mission and if that is the mission of the Banner then clearly the two articles failed and protest is appropriate. Is that the mission of the Banner? Should that be the mission of The Banner? It's a fine mission, and maybe it should be. If that is the case then we should clarify that mission, the boundaries, give the staff time to evaluate if they wish to participate in this mission, make adjustments and proceed. I think that is exactly what Ken in this piece is asking. It's a good question.  

 

I agree, Paul. The question is an excellent one.

I read many of the author's concluding questions as rhetorical. They seem more like statements than actual questions. In the second-to-last paragraph he seems to be saying that the CRC lacks a clear position on certain issues so The Banner should explore what our position should be. We don't truly lack a position on some of the issues that have been raised by The Banner (I'm thinking particularly about the VanBelle article there, as the catechism states our official position on cohabitation). When we do need to explore new theological terrain it seems best to follow the processes prescribed in the Church Order. Councils create overtures. Classes forward quality overtures to Synod. Synod decides if the overture should be normative. I'm not sure where The Banner fits into that process. I'd be willing to hear thoughts from others on that matter.

I would be deeply saddened if Synod were to overturn the decision of the Board of Trustees to keep Editor DeMoor in his position. Editor DeMoor's public apology (http://www.thebanner.org/other/2013/06/dear-brothers-and-sisters-in-christ) states his commitment to our church and our beliefs, as well as communicating an understanding that his role carries great responsibility. The board's decision included a note that that these articles may have indicated a lapse in judgment, but not a pattern of irresponsibility.

From my perspective as a reader of The Banner and a church member, I had great appreciation for the way this was handled. In this situation, as in so many situations, I feel that if there is to be an error, it must be on the side of grace and forgiveness. What becomes of us - ANY of us - if a momentary lapse of judgment is that on which we are judged?

I appreciate very much the thoughtful articles in The Banner. I think it is important to be challenged, and when we are, we must have faith that God's truth will prevail in the discussion. If we stop asking hard questions and engaging in difficult debate, then we will have lost one of the wonderful things I have come to greatly appreciate about this tradition of which I am a part.

Again, I believe the CRC would be better served by a magazine that is edifying, positive, and useful as a tool for outreach. I am glad that we continue to ask hard questions, and seek to understand the ongoing work of the Spirit of God in the world. But I think there are other forums. Why can't we have a magazine that can be left in public places that is gospel oriented and, yes, a bit simple? People in the world are not as thoughtful as many in the CRC would like to think. They tend to repeat slogans.

Doc

Rebecca... "deeply saddened"? how about angry!?

Community Builder

I think there are a variety of issues we need to weigh if we are to answer the question about the mission of The Banner.

1. When the CRC decided to use The Banner as a vehicle for promoting the work of CRC agencies and informing CRC members about that ministry, did we undermine it's ability to act like "a kitchen table" for more debating open ended, free flowing ideas? In other words when we use the publication for promotion of ministries, do we set up an implicit message that the ideas presented in other articles are also being promoted? The heart of the protest seems to be the assumption that however one construes the "voice" of the CRC (ED, Banner editor, etc.) that anything that comes along side report and celebration OF agency work carries with it an implicit message? Maybe the Banner is too narrow a channel to process multiple functions and for that reason has caused confusion and anger.

2. Who reads the Banner? My assumption is that the MOST faithful CRC members and contributors to CRC agency ministry are its core audience. My guess is that this audience in the US tends to skew conservative. My guess is that in Canada it's more mixed. Again, these are all guesses that may be way off. If the Banner knows who is reading maybe they should share some of this data. Readership should also impact content. It's always tempting to try to expand readership by trying to speak to another audience, but if you do this you'd better let your base know exactly what you're doing. Given the protests I think this was also a fail if that was what was being tried. 

3. The Banner is one of multiple CRC entities that try to stimulate conversation. Another is of course "The Network". Paper vs. online also impacts readership, mission and purpose. Evaluation of The Banner's mission should not be done in isolation to the other assets the CRC possesses. It is a part of the overall package. The question is "what part should it play" given history, paper vs. online, readership, etc. 

4. "Disruption" is a word used to describe how the Internet has changed many industries, print media not the least of these. The world has changed since my grandmother wrote "Women's World" in the Banner in the 60s. The Banner has changed since the Kuyvenhoven era with wooden shoe burning. John Suk former editor wrote "Not Sure" and left the denomination because he wasn't. Navigating change requires wisdom and kindness. We'll need both for this conversation. pvk

Good point on the print vs. online nature of all this, Paul.  That's an element that will continue to develop.  In some ways it may be that in this day and age a site like the Network is better suited for being the "kitchen table" of the denomination than the Banner.  Also, because of it's highly democratic nature, open discussion in this format is less likely to be seen as "pushing an agenda".

IMHO, The CRC would best  be served by a magazine that is winsome, edifying, clear, and useful as an outreach tool. Controversial issues can be dealt with in other publications.

Doc

Like "The Watchtower?"  Is the primary purpose of CRCNA to serve the needs of the member congregations or to serve the needs of the CRCNA? There is a big difference. Compare CRCNA with the US federal government?? If CRCNA wants/needs a publication for advertising purposes maybe it should be delegated to Home Missions. The common areas between advertising copy and a house organ may be the stories about current events at local congregations and CRC members in the news. 

I still cannot believe your response. The internet has brought great blessings. It has also provided a forum for, well, ... let's just say people still wet behind the ears. Lev 19.32. Oh, right. That's the OT. Give me a break. Hey Bill. if we ever meet face to face, let's sit down over a brew and have a go....

sorry for jerkin' your chain Bill; it's just that... well... 200 years from now the Lord's people will still be arguing....

 

If you ever get to Seattle we have a great pub a block away from the condo.  If everything I knew about the JWs I learned from The Watchtower that would be enough to keep me away from them. The web is a wonderful invention but seems to bring out the worst in some people. 

Hey, we all know it's tough in the world. Unemployment, sickness, discouragement... why can't we have a magazine that will be edifying? And use other venues to wrestle?

The subject of the published written material which generated the complaint does not seem to involve matters of salvation and do not seem to rise to the level of possible heresy.

I agree to that Bill

What is contrary to Scripture's clear teaching relating to the offending articles is heresy. "Did God really say 'you must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"(Gen 3:1). 

Your "clear area" is my "gray area." Many "clear" doctrines are logical constructs. It took 300 years and Constantine to settle the "Trinity" issue.  

Just to weigh in again... here in the NE, the CRC is not doing well, a trend which I, for one, will do all I can to reverse. We need some kind of magazine that can be left in offices, and in other public places, that will present a positive, uplifting message that is at the same time faithful to the sovereignty of God. Our own "kitchen tables" are quickly dwindling in size, and in many places disappearing.

Doc

As a former president of the CRC's publishing arm and as a current member of the CRC's Board of Trustees, Rev. Ken Baker is not a neutral observer merely asking some questions. He is a powerful denominational leader who has been directly involved in these matters. He evidently still isn't convinced Bob DeMoor was wrong to publish the articles. He wonders, "Did they cross the line?" He still doesn't know the answer to that question. No wonder Rev. Baker and his fellow members on the Board of Trustees gave such an inadequate response to The Banner's blunders. No wonder Synod itself needs to address the matter.

Rev. Baker should acknowledge that Edwin Walhout isn't just another CRC member with some opinions that push the envelope. Walhout was a longtime leader at CRC Publications (later Faith Alive, of which Rev. Baker was board president). After retirement, Walhout declared in print that the Reformed confessions are no longer normative for him and wrote that Reformed doctrines would topple like dominos under the force of evolutionary theory. This is the man whose assertions Bob DeMoor decided to spread to every family in the CRC.

Rev. Baker should acknowledge that former Banner editor John Suk left the CRC after affirming homosexual marriage and expressing disbelief in Jesus' Second Coming. Suk published a book titled "Not Sure." This title was echoed in Bob DeMoor's editorial "Don't Be So Sure," published shortly before he published the articles exalting evolution and cohabitation.

Rev. Baker appeals to the editor's "ten years of faithful and edifying service." Picture a pastor who has served in a CRC congregation for ten years. The congregation has recently been shaken to learn that its former pastor has renounced key doctrines and joined an ultra-liberal denomination. Around this time, the current pastor preaches a sermon titled, "Don't Be So Sure." A month later, he knowingly invites a guest preacher to proclaim to the whole congregation that Adam never existed and that Reformed doctrines must fall like dominoes. The next month, he invites a guest speaker to tell the youth group that sex before marriage is fine if two people feel sort of mature and committed. When many people from the congregation express outrage over these things, the pastor says he's sorry they got so upset, and he explains that he was just trying to stimulate discussion. Most CRC congregations would not continue to employ such a pastor. Even if some Council members still liked him and still thought he was not really trying to undermine  confidence in biblical, Reformed truth, they would recognize that he had brought division and had lost the confidence of too many people in the congregation to continue serving the whole church effectively.

Back to Rev. Baker's question: What do we want from The Banner? For starters, we want it to be trustworthy. We want faithfulness to the church's doctrinal and ethical standards. We want a magazine with content that every CRC household can trust to be biblical and Reformed, or else we want to stop using ministry shares to send that magazine to every CRC household. We want an editor who firmly rejects and opposes the direction taken by Banner/Pubs predecessors such as Walhout and Suk, not an editor who publishes Walhout and echoes Suk's call to be unsure. We want more than an editorial apology for "the manner and timing of publishing these articles"; we want an editor with the wisdom not to publish such articles at all.

And we want real accountability. The Banner Editorial Council was of no help at all; they unanimously approved the editor's decision to print the articles. The Board of Trustees was of little help. Trustee Baker still doesn't know if the articles crossed the line, and evidently others on the Board were equally indecisive. They called the editor to Grand Rapids for a conversation, issued some damage control press releases, and continued with business as usual. The Board of Trustees, after further study, called for stronger oversight--and then gave the editor veto power in choosing half the members of the committee that is supposed to hold him accountable. Synod must do better than that.

David ...maybe this seems completely inappropriate... how old is he? The older I get, the scriptures that put a premium on age seem so appropriate.

Thank God for David Feddes' excellent commentary on Rev.Ken Baker's feeble attempt to appear neutral. He isn't. The Banner's board of trustees must be replaced by members committed to defend the Reformed doctrine and the CRC's Calvinist heritage. For starters, Rev. Bob DeMoor must go..   

I was a supralapsarian Calvinist, when John Calvin wasn't cool

Thankyou for your comments, David.  We have a tendency to want to forgive, but we should realize that the consequences of needing to forgive these kinds of things will lead to a decline in witness and effectiveness of the church.  At some level, these editorial indiscretions are like committing adultery.  Adultery can also be forgiven, but we want to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Not all issues are the same.  Throughout the debate on women's ordination, the CRC declined to define the issue as rising to the level of the confessions.  Those who were advocates for the ordination of women were not ever charged with violating the Form of Subscription as far as I know.  Precisely because this was not a confessional issue, it has been possible for the denomination to live with a local option on women's ordination.  The doctrine of original sin is not like this.  The condemnation of all unchastity is not like this.  These issues are explicitly addressed in our confessions.  On these issues, we have an authoritative, confessional interpretation of what Scripture teaches.  Those who have signed the covenant for office-bearers are supposed to exercise our theological and intellectual freedom within the bounds of the confessions.     

The debate about women's ordination was always about how to interpret Scripture on an issue that was not definitively settled by our confessions, and even in the midst of disagreement my experience of the CRC debate was that those who disagreed nonetheless recognized each other's genuine intention to honor Scriptural authority.  That's still my experience.  This is reasonable, because there are passages of Scripture that speak positively about women as prophets and worship leaders and images of God and other passages of Scripture that speak negatively about women as preachers and leaders in the church.  Which passages should control the interpretation of which?  That's a fair question, and even though I am absolutely confident in my interpretation of these passages, I respect those who reach different conclusions and honor their need to be obedient to Scripture as they read it.  There is no similar ambiguity in Scriptural teaching about fornication, and suggesting that a defense of fornication is somehow analogous to a defense of speaking God's word while female is rather offensive.    

So could we please not confuse the conversation by appealing to women's ordination as if it is a precedent for every other debate in which the denomination engages? 

 

You got this complementarian saying, "Preach it, sister!"  : )

>There is no similar ambiguity in Scriptural teaching about fornication,
 

How do you interpret Gen 24:65-67 without ambiguity or assuming facts not in evidence?

65 and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

The text says Isaac "married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her." I interpret these ever-so-complicated words to mean that Isaac married Rebekah and she became his wife and he loved her. What is ambiguous about that? What facts are not in evidence? Rebekah and her family had already agreed to the marriage before she met Isaac. She then made the journey and met Isaac. At that point, he married her. The text speaks of marriage, not mere cohabitation. How does this text clash with biblical teaching that sex apart from marriage is fornication?

I always appreciate your clarity, David.  

An Old-Testament colleague of mine at Calvin recently published a piece about Biblical understandings of marriage that might be helpful: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/05/13054/.  

The first sentence of the text of http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/05/13054/  

"The only form of marriage that existed before the fall was between one man and one woman." This is disingenuous because before the fall there were only one adult human  male and one adult human female in the Garden.

Second sentence, "The narrative trajectory of the Old Testament shows that all other versions were the result of sin." 

Isaac's example is arrangement by the tribal chief and ratified by sexual intercourse. Is this version more or less sinful than the CRC approved model? 

 

Isaac's example is clear.  His father sent a servant to get a wife for him.  His union was anticipated and publicly approved and acknowledged.  It was acknowledged as marriage, a permanent committment.  No one questioned whether this was a trial period, or a partnership of temporary convenience.  It is our lack of understanding of marriage that sometimes creates the issue, especially when we have cohabitation as an imitation of the world's view of sex and marriage.

It is not primarily the state that validates marriage, nor even the church.   Instead it is the public and private committment for marriage until death do us part that is the marriage.  The state and the church facilitate this committment, and consolidate and support this committment.   But when young cohabiting people deny they are married, or fail to announce their marriage committment in some public way,  they are simply indicating a lack of committment, a lack of marriage.  If they are committed, they ought to use every means at their disposal to support that committment.  They should not leave their committment in question.   Instead, they are reserving the right to renege.   This is not the way of christian living, but the way of the world, and should not be supported by the church.

The Bible clearly teaches it is the initial act of sexual intercourse which initiates the marriage. Jesus went to the marriage at Cana to party, not to officiate.

I have been told that in The Netherlands the church ceremony only confirms the government-issued marriage license. In the US, the pastor acts as a government agent.

Sexual intercourse is part of marriage.   But it is also part of fornication.   It is the committment and promise that indicates which is which.

 

1 Corinthians 6:16

New International Version (NIV)

16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

 

Thus the sex act was/is the marriage ceremony. 

this always seemed like the bottom line to me; yet certain OT laws in practice seemed to not always follow that ideal; in spite of that, it appears that "one flesh" in its context "set up" a couple that they might fulfill the cultural mandate; but I guess this is far afield from the original question, what do we want, or expect, from the Banner; and I still believe that arguing over controversial questions ought to be done in more "scholarly" publications

Or, the sex act is adultery, or fornication.

Community Builder

My fear for Synod is my expectation of a comment discussion, that we will spend time wandering around debating sex, science and the worthiness of our present editor. Discussions of sex, science and the worthiness of whatever editor we presently have will always be with us, it seems to me foundational question is the question of this article, "What do we want from The Banner?"

I think most of us will agree the denomination needs to be able to manage a number of missions at once:

1. Prescriptive Faith formation and doctrinal instruction. The assumption of the Banner for this mission and the felt betrayal by the two articles in question and the editorial decision to put them through is what is drawing all the heat. OK. but if this is the mission of the Banner then we should say so.

2. Space for exploration tolerating divergent even heterodox ideas. When I work with people, in and out of the church I encourage them to speak their minds and their hearts and I value honesty over correctness in this mode. Most of us get this as a necessary part of a process for individuals and communities to work out their faith and figure out how what they believe fits, or does not fit with the catholic church. Should The Banner be a space for this? Our current "mission statement" for the Banner seems to suggest it, and given the limited media modes of communal conversation in most of the 20th century it fits. The question is whether it fits the present realities of The Banner as print medium combined with its promotional mission (which is a separate mission from points 1 and 2 here).

When the matter of adopting the Belhar arose the most interesting question for me was how would our denomination manage a communal conversation and decision of this magnitude? My conclusion based not necessarily on observing the outcome as much as the process was "not very well".

Questions of sex and science along side the matters of power and privilege which the Belhar sought to address are large and broad conversations that the church must engage because society is engaging them. If the church wants to have both influence and a voice we will need to figure out how to do so.

James Schaap has been the CRC historian for the late 20th century. The piece he wrote for the 150th anniversary of the CRC http://www.dordt.edu/publications/pro_rege/crcpi/Pro_Rege_Sept_2007.pdf noted that the reality of our place in our time is that we've lost the ability to control the question. CRC minds and hearts, of laity and pastor alike are shaped far more by voices outside the CRC than inside. No decision on the Banner will change this. We will not have the kind of voice in the Banner that we had in the days before TV and then the Internet took possession of the agenda. The question we must ask is how will we steward the conversations we are capable of. We will talk about sex and science and power and privilege but what we need to figure out first is how will we talk.

Paul, you observe that “discussions … of whatever editor we presently have will always be with us.” Since at least 1980, “whatever editor we have” has been theologically left of the CRC center, and objections to Banner content have come from those who resist its leftward leadership. Also, for 32 of the past 35 years, Banner editors have been Canadians who considered it part of their mandate to be provocative. (Full disclosure: I am married to a Canadian, have ministered in two Canadian congregations, and have preached in dozens more.)

This uniformly leftward choice of editors is related to the overall leftward slant of Board of Pubs/Faith Alive throughout this time period. For instance, Walhout was a longtime fixture there. If I recall correctly, when John Suk was nominated for editor, another finalist was Dr. Carl Zylstra, an eminently qualified person from the CRC’s center who had earned a Princeton Ph.D. and was later President of Dordt College. But the nominating body did not submit Dr. Zylstra’s name as part of a duo for Synod to select from; they presented the more liberal John Suk as a single nominee.

We haven’t had a Banner editor from the center or right of the church for decades. If the Banner continues to be published, maybe we ought to find out what it would be like to have an editor from the CRC mainstream who does not think that provocateur is part of his job description.

David I hear you... further, it just seems like the CRC goes from one controversy, however important, to another; many have left the CRC and one reason I've heard more than once is that people are tired of all the fighting; couple that with the general lack of institutional loyalty, and, well, it just seems that the time for published controversies, in the popular publication, are over; many CRC people used to go home on Sunday afternoon and read Bavinck or Berkhof or Kuyper; not that I think they were the good old days, but CRC people were different than most are today; if the Banner has become a forum for questioning the historicity of Adam or the propriety of gay marriage... well, personally I cannot see any good coming from it; HOWEVER I do think these and other issues need discussion, just not in the Banner... my 2 cents... I fear we'll just give fuel to those with a bent for schism, like the debate over women in office... I wonder whether that could have been handled a bit more judiciously, instead of giving grounds for the fundamentalists in our family to pack up and leave

re: your statement that the Canadians consider it part of their mandate to be provocative... that seems a serious charge; what happened to "pursue the things that make for peace?" or taking with a drop-dead serious attitude Christ's prayer that we might all be one, that the world might know the truth? or the mandate to utter edifying speech that administers grace to the hearers? there was a time when the Banner only went to those who deliberately subscribed; now ministry shares are used to send it all over the place; do we give ministry shares to stir up controversy in our own family? if we want it to truly be a "kitchen table" in part so that the "family" can discuss serious issues, maybe we should return to a subscription only publication

I don't assume that all CRC Canadians seek to be provocative. I'm just saying that all three Canadian Banner editors over the past 35 years liked to be provocative. It's also worth asking whether we should have such Canadian dominance of the Banner editorship when a large majority of CRC members are U. S. citizens.

I am not certain that labeling things as left, centre or right is helpful to a fruitful conversation, let alone making the charge that "Canadian" Banner editors "liked" to be provocative. That individuals may disagree with the arguments laid out in some of the articles that were published is one thing and an opportunity for an ongoing dialogue, however, we always need to ask ourselves whether our comments occasionally slip into ad hominem attacks.

The comment, "It's also worth asking whether we should have such Canadian dominance of the Banner editorship when a large majority of CRC members are U. S. citizens," raises an important question. Why does citizenship in a nation state trump membership in the Body of Christ? Does civil religion take precedence to following Jesus Christ?

 "Why does citizenship in a nation state trump membership in the Body of Christ? Does civil religion take precedence to following Jesus Christ?"

Jesus reduced the entire LAW, OT and NT to "Love God and be a good neighbor" but the Devil is in the details. Our sin nature effects all human activities including the Church.

David Feddes raised some very excellent points relative to the politics of selecting banner editors, editorial committees, synodical oversight, and the banner purpose.     I think the comment about Canadian vs USA staff is not so pertinent, since if all editors had been USA but equally provocative, the problems would have remained.   On the other hand, Ken Bakker's comments  are written in a barely acceptable fashion as has been pointed out, since they appear to defend the indefensible.   If this magazine goes to every home on the involuntary membership dollar, then it ought to uphold the confessions and scripture.  These two questionable articles clearly did not do so.  Furthermore, the ten years of editorship has not in fact been without "issues", as David pointed out with regard to the "don't be so sure" article.

While I have suggested that we forgive Bob DeMoor for his indiscretion in the two inflammatory articles, I was again put off by the title "where have they all gone?", relating again to the homosex issue.  It would be interesting to use the same title for an article on where the great majority of people have left for other reasons, including acceptance of women in office, crc apparent acceptance of homosex, acceptance of premarital sex, and questioning of primary doctrines from Genesis.  How many left because being upset with the statements made by John Suk?  How many left for other reasons related to lack of orthodoxy, and ignoring of scripture?   With a general decline since 1992, it is becoming apparent that many denominational statements and positions are driving crc people either to more orthodox reformed churches because they perceive a better correlation to scripture there, or to anabaptist churches because they sense a better committment to christian living there.  Traditional social crc members will likely remain because of their primary committment to their heritage, social situation, family relationships, but yet they will decline.   Only a primary commitment to scripture, to God and Christ above all, and to Christian living in both personal and communal aspects, will provide motivation to remain with the denomination.  Thus these types of banner articles serve only to drive people away, with no beneficial side effect, since they also separate people who remain, away from God and from His Will.

Forgiveness for the publishing of two inflammatory articles implies repentance and a renewed sense of discretion with regard to the implications of titles, articles, and the way they are written.   Without that discretion well applied, crc members will often feel like prisoners of the system, implicitly maligned by perverse statements having the "apparent" blessing of an involuntary publication funded by their church tax dollars.

To anyone: Would John Calvin agreed that one should leave his "Reformed" denomination for the sorts of possible reasons listed above by John Zylstra? It has been a long time since I have read The Institutes.

I would also suggest that the banner withdraw from all magazine competitions regarding various article categories (I forget the name of the association or award committee), since review by such an organization has led to awards for some articles that I think should not even have been in the magazine, and such type of "peer" review can lead to a perversion of the intent and method of various articles and editorial content.  The only review that matters is what God has said about it, and that should be interpreted by the denomination, not by some outside organization which has standards outside of and not approved by crc confessions, nor by scripture.

Paul VanderKlay raises some important points above regarding the mandate given the Banner by Synod over the years in contrast to other writers who feel that mandate needs to be revised. The question that needs to be asked is whether there has been shift within the CRC "not" to a more conservative outlook on issues, but a shift from it's Reformed roots to realignment with North American fundamentalism.

Regardless, the Banner and it's editors are an easy targets for what are ongoing pastoral and ecclesiastical discussions on various topics at annual Synods. That these topics are on the table at all, is a reflection of what local churches are struggling with in ministering to their flock. If pastoral care is to be extended that means both dialogue and engagement with scripture and God's creation is required rather than mounting the ramparts. 

Scripture asks us, no tells us, to defend the faith and contend for the faith.  (Jude)  To put on the full armor of God.  In that sense we mount the ramparts.  The struggle is the same as it has always been, between following God and following the world.  We like to do both, but it doesn't work;  it was the downfall of both Israel and Judah, and led to the decline of the roman cath church, which led to the reformation.

The reformed roots were to bring God's people back to scripture, rather than to man's opinions.  We are to be reformed from a life of sin and separation from God, towards a life of repentance and consecration towards God, using scripture as God's word, as our guide.  Accomodating to worldly living is not being reformed.   Being reformed is informing ourselves and others how the world should be transformed in its living if it desired to follow Christ.   Fundamentalism is a worldly concept, not worthy of comment.   Being a radical christian means dedicating all of life to God, not trying to accomodate our desire to be like the world.

When we have difficult questions, which we always will, they should be answered in a scriptural and reformed way, and not given the credence which caused the problem in the first place.  For example, since there are so many divorces, should we have an article in the banner saying that since there are so many divorces, that probably that is a normal state of affairs, which we should have a special ceremony for?  or should we have an article advising us to reform our lives and attitudes in such a way as to reduce the number of divorces?

A Banner that denigrates the basic confessions and supports immoral living has nothing to say to us that the world is not already saying.  If it continues to do that, it will cease to be a christian magazine, much less a reformed magazine.  The mandate of the Banner is not to imitate the Washington Post or the Toronto Star.  It is not to create controversy.   It is not to provide both sides of every issue as if both sides are always valid.  Rather, it is to be a witness to Christ, to contend for the faith, explain the milk and the meat of the gospel, and to help us put on the full armor of God.

Community Builder

There seems to be an illusion that The Banner is the 'official' voice of the CRCNA. That designation disappeared from the cover of The Banner back around 1980. I am not sure if that took place towards the end of Les De Koster's tenure as editor, or early on in Andrew Kuyvenhoven's reign. But I recall the discussion clearly. By being the official voice of the denomination, it could only spout official denominational policy and regurgitate synodically-approved decisions.

To be clear, The Banner is not the official voice of the denomination. It was designed as a CRCNA-supported publication designed to educate and to spark debate about issues relevant to the church today. I personally bemoaned the decision of The Banner to become a popularized, church-bulletin publication that reflected cute news stories about how some high school's basketball team made it to the state finals. We witness the result of that theological 'pulp' today: we become upset whenever The Banner dares to bring some serious, thought-provoking debate to its pages.

The Banner needs to return to longer articles and debates that will lead to critical thinking about the important issues of the day. Challenge our faith, help us question why we believe what we believe about Genesis and infant baptism and, aghast!, gun control. The Banner needs to return to its roots. More importantly, CRCNA members need to return to critical thinking. We have been fed church trivia for a decade or two. It's time to put some flesh to our faith and to what we believe.

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