The CRCNA: A Church in Two Countries, Canada and the United States

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As a 65 year old Canadian member of the Christian Reformed Church, I have been a keen observer of our denomination and the way it works or doesn't work. For some time now I have come to the conclusion that it's time for the Canadian churches to have our own Synod — to determine the will of God for our churches in a unique Canadian context. The cultural divide between our two countries has always been great, but it has become increasingly so of late.

As some of you may be aware, the CRCNA is once again trying to figure out a new governance model. It will come before Synod again this June. Many of our people are unaware of the frustrations that lie just below the surface in our bi-national church. Canadian ministry directors come and go. Mainly, I suggest, because they are not taken seriously at the BOT and cannot deal with the weighted bureaucracy at the denominational offices in GR. I have come to the conclusion that we, as Canadians, will never be equal partners when dealing in the present structure. It’s not because our American friends are “bad” people. Not at all, it’s that the world view of our friends below the 49th parallel differs greatly from that of their Canadian neighbours. Faith, politics and the flag now have fuzzy borders to many in West Michigan and beyond. That’s something we just don’t understand here in Canada. Unfortunately, the US has become an incredibly polarized nation politically.

To be fair, I worked for a firm headquartered in Kalamazoo, Michigan for 24 years. I was the only Canadian at the management level in this firm. I spent a lot of time in West Michigan during those years and became a student as too how American corporations operated and thought. I see many similarities in our church governance. Not a pretty sight,  I must confess. We Canadians have a much different world view than our American friends. Not better, just different. This is also reflected in how we approach ministry.

I think it’s time for us to go it alone. I am not advocating a split. I am proposing the idea that we begin to make our own decisions in Canada for our Canadian congregations. I see no reasons for not cooperating with and supporting the agencies we now have in common. such as CRWRC, WM, HM, Cadet, Gems and a host of others. However, we should test these alliances and make our own determinations in the light of Canadian context. I believe we could achieve and should have ecclesiastical fellowship with one another.

Much more could be written, and I hope much will be by others. This blog or topic is to get the discussion going.

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For more reading and a much better written analysis of the subject , go to the Banner article by Gayla Postma, in the March, 2012 issue of the banner, titled "WHY BEING A BI-NATIONAL CHURCH IS SO IMPORTANT"  

Community Builder

HL makes some  good points but not enough facts to support them. While the world is globalizing our churches are trending to congregationalism (and  regionalism).  In a voluntary organization that is usually an easy solution.  The boards of the Denominational Ministries are well represented by Canadians so we can have an impact.

The impact of the GR "HO" is, and I agree with with HL, a real challenge.I am just in the process of looking at some of the financial data in the Acts of Synod over the last 15 years. I am far from finished but what I see so far is interesting in a good way. The CRCNA has many strengths that would be difficult to replicate IN BOTH USA and CANDA if we were seperated.

The discussion on how we should organize as a church is in the works and comments like those of HL should be very welcome. Let's make sure the task force who working on this has strong Canadian input.

Like HL, I too have woked for international organizations in both Canada and Holland. I am all for partnerships across boarders of which CRCNA ministries have literally hundreds.

Let's continue the discussion.

Thanks for your comments, Harry. I appreciate your insight. However equality with our American friends in the CRCNA is something I am pessimistic about after many years of observing our church governance.

I invision a Canadian synod eventually. Only then can we as a truly Canadian church sensitive to our own cultural reality. I also think only then can we work as a equal partner with our American friends and our shared mission.

We are long overdue for a Canadian synod.  Thanks for your article HL.  Our provincial and federal governments have important pieces of legislation before it on bullying, on the beginning of life and there is no direction from the Canadian offices. I suspect because all things must be vetted by our US offices; it is a top down structure from a foreign country. In Canada we have a lively ecumenical scene that is very different than the US, and it is stalled by the bi-national nature of our denomination.  Material is produced in Spanish, Korean etc, but where is the French material?

Thank you for your supportive comments Richard. For this to happen, it needs to come from the grass roots, and not the traditional leadership. It must be a bottom up appraoch to have any success.

I listened very carefully to "The State of The Church" address given by our interim E.D., Joel Boot, last evening in the Meadowlands Fellowship CRC Church. He mentioned at the top that the state of the church was "critical" I agree with his view on a number of levels. However, I find it interesting and very telling that he does not mention the issues surrounding  our bi-national status.I am afraid our friends do not "get it" . I get it that this Synod will be working on this issue again. It's high time Canada convenes it's own CRC synod.

Community Builder

Henry thanks for your comments. I am a bit older and also a keen observer of the CRCNA. In my final term on one of the CRCNA Boards (as a vocal Canadian). 

In a recent news release I noticed that Joel B and Peter B have been reappointed as ED and key Assistant. That is too bad. Peter (recognizing the key support he has been) should have been replaced by a Canadian. That would have been a wise move.

In my previous comments you will know that I do not support a "seperation" of the Cnd CRC or even a Canadian Regional Synod.  But let's keep on talking. It's interesting that the CRCNA spends a great deal of effort figuring out how to diversify its leadership. I might suggest that the search committee for the ED get the concurrence of every bi-national board before any recommendation is made to synod. They do that by providing their top three picks one of whom must a Canadian!