It is time to create a new agency to support ethnic Christian Reformed churches.
Restructuring an organization is a bit like getting new clothes. While the person wearing them is the same, the new clothing offers not only a fresh look but also functional freedom. Just as children regularly need new clothes as they outgrow the old ones, a relatively young denomination like the CRC needs a new structure as time goes by. It is inevitable that our structure needs to change when the world is rapidly changing and churches are surrounded by diverse neighborhoods.
The CRC is no longer a monocultural church. Here are some examples:
Since the first Korean church joined the denomination in the 1980s, many more have followed or were planted. Now there are more than 120 Korean churches and more than 150 Korean-speaking CRC pastors. Other non-English-language churches in the CRC include Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese, Haitian, Dutch, French, Hindi, Hmong, Indonesian, Karen, Khmer, Laotian, Mandarin or Min Nam, Navajo, Samoan, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu, and Vietnamese. And there may be more.
Almost 230 churches are counted as non-English-speaking CRCs. That is no small number for a total of 1,050 Christian Reformed churches. To put it in perspective, it is as big as the number of Christian Reformed churches in Canada. Diversity in our denomination is not an option; it is a calling to serve. And we can easily imagine that more immigrants will require more ethnic Reformed churches in the future.
However, for the past 20 years, the CRC has somewhat neglected the issue of diversity. On a personal level, I know many of us love to see diversity in the CRC and generously show their hospitality toward ethnic brothers and sisters. But I am talking about the organizational structure of our denomination. Having only one staff person to support 120 Korean churches is not only a hard job for the staff person but is also unfair to Korean churches. But for the past 20 years, this is what has been done. One Korean coordinator of a small department called the Ethnic Ministry Council under Christian Reformed Home Mission cares for 120 Korean congregations and 150 Korean pastors. By God’s grace, the CRC has grown for the past 150 years and has become a diverse church. Now the denomination needs to buy some new clothes that fit our growing diversity. This simple gift could change the self-esteem of our brothers and sisters. It would also increase a Reformed identity among ethnic churches and stimulate their participation in the denomination.
I believe that this is how we can embrace our brothers and sisters in ethnic churches. This is how we could walk together in a new fashion.
"Time to Buy Some New Clothes" by Bomsu Kim. From The Banner, May 2015. Reprinted with permission. www.thebanner.org