On November 18, 2013, Rev Karl Westerhof wrote a noteworthy article, entitled The Church and the Exercise of Non-Ecclesiastical Power, on the Elder's Network. The article broached the important but nettlesome subject of the place the (institutional) Church in contemporary society. Westerhof refers to the Sphere Sovereignty views of Abraham Kuyper; he also points to the Manual of CRC Government (2008, p. 123) and the CRC Church Order Commentary by Dr. Henry De Moor. Those sources seem to endorse the notion that denominational governance must deal only with ecclesiastical matters – and not interact with societal institutions. Westerhof cannot fully abide that view. He states: “Denominations are institutions and as such are endlessly intertwined with other cultures in society and do exercise influence and and power.”
The purpose today is to invite the readers of the Elder’s Network to continue this discussion. It's a matter of importance! On the one hand we must not fall into the trap of the Social Gospel movement. On the other hand we all came to realize that the Christian church in Germany did not speak prophetically during Hitler's infamous days. Can the Christian church afford not to address the great moral issues of society? But I also realize that addressing some of society's problems and concerns is a daunting task, both with respect to the content and the manner.
Let me introduce another contributor to the Elders' Network– though he is not aware of it just now. He is none other than Dr. Steve Timmermans, who will appear before to this summer's CRC Synod to be confirmed as the next Executive Director of the Christian Reformed Church. Timmermans, who is currently the President of Trinity Christian College near Chicago, was interviewed by the Grand Rapids Press. This is how he was quoted in the issue of April 8– his remarks touch upon the above matters– “Society has changed greatly. Our churches are existing in a sea of change.” In response to the interviewer's question, “... how the church can be relevant to society in 2014?” he responded: “I do think that people are searching for what's meaningful in life, and I believe that the only answer is faith. We're going to have to learn to use our voice in new ways in contemporary society.”
What will it mean for the CRC to use our voice in new ways in contemporary society?