What Does It Mean To/For the CRC When WCRC Adopts or Declares Something — or Does Stuff?
December 14, 2011
Updated June 28, 2018
5 comments 241 views
In the relatively new push by the CRCNA to become a part of a much bigger organization (first WARC and REC, which folded into WCRC), I for one have a number of questions to which I lack answers.
My first question is this: So if WCRC (formerly WARC) adopts, say, the Accra Confession (which is has), what does that mean for the CRC? Phrased differently, by being a member of the WCRC, what is the CRCNA saying about those things the WCRC declares to be true?
Second and very related, does being a WCRC mean the CRCNA says it agrees with all the actions taken by the WCRC? If not, what?
Third and also related, other than passing a resolution saying the CRCNA is now a member of this or that broader "church organization," what role does Synod play in monitoring or working with or opposing or otherwise dealing with what WCRC declares (confesses) and the actions it takes.
I frankly oppose the CRCNA being a member of WCRC, in large part because WCRC is so much a political organization (as opposed to what CRCers have traditionally thought of as a church organization) but also because the WCRC is very much within the tradition of what I is called "Liberation Theology," which is not historically Reformed and which I regard as unbiblical in significant ways. But then, I'm not really sure what the CRCNA (as denomination) claims to be the the meaning of it's membership in the WCRC in the first place, and so thought it would be best to see if I can found out.
Final question: what does it cost the CRCNA ($-wise) to be a member in the WCRC?
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The CRC isn't saying anything about things declared to be true by the WCRC. Article 50c of its Church Order is quite clear on that point when it says that "decisions of ecumenical bodies shall be binding upon the Christian Reformed Church only when they have been ratified by its synod." Synod relies on its Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee to keep up with what is happening within the broader WCRC circles and what is officially decided by that communion and report that to the synod of the CRC. According to the Ecumenical Charter adopted by the CRC synod, this committee plays a leading role in seeing to it that the WCRC is fully apprised of official decisions made by the CRC and in carrying on those things that are important to "exercising Christian fellowship with other denominations" and "promoting the unity of the church of Jesus Christ" (Article 50a).
I have no idea what the cost of our participation in the WCRC might be. That's a question for administrators at the denominational building.
In general, I do think that we should not play out our mission in complete isolation from other Christian churches and, more particularly, other Reformed churches throughout the world.
Henry: Thanks much for the answers. If you would indulge me, I have some follow up questions.
First, what is the CRC's role within WCRC as to WCRC's decision making? For example, when the WCRC adopted the Accra, which I understand it to have done in 2004 (well, WARC actually did but it seems WCRC considers itself to have inherited that), what role did the CRC play in that adoption? Did the CRC have privilege of the floor so as to state its position? Did it cast votes? Something else?
Second, assuming the CRC played/plays some active role in WCRC decisions, how does it practically/logistically do that? Does it send representatives who have voting authority? If it does, how are those representatives selected and how to they cast votes (eg., by decisions made by a group? by using their own judgment?) ?
Third, when you suggest that the "CRC isn't saying anything," but refer to CO Article 50c, I note the language in that Article to precisely say "decisions of ecumenical bodies shall not be binding ...". It could be argued that "not being binding" does not equal "the CRC isn't saying anything." To clarify by analogy, were I a member of the Democratic Party, I could quite legitimately claim that I wasn't bound by any of the platform planks the party may have adopted, but yet, other people could as legitimately say that my party membership does say something about me. So is there some sort of generally understood, non-CO sense for what the CRC is saying when an ecumenical organization of which it is a part adopts a confession? I do realize that question cannot be a precisely answered. Still, it is a meaningful question for members to ask.
I probably agree that the CRCNA, as a church institution, should not play its mission in complete isolation. My concern is that the close I look at the WCRC, the less "reformed" I see, the less "church" I see, and the more "political organization" I see. Still, before coming to too many conclusions, I feel the need to thoroughly fact find. Thus, my questions -- and appreciation for your willingness to provide some answers.
I think your argument that "not being binding" does not equal "the CRC isn't saying anything" is a valid one. The article is making the point that local congregations and members of the CRCNA are not bound by a decision of the WCRC and may freely disagree with it. Only when the CRC synod ratifies that decision must they respect it and feel bound by it. But of course you're correct in saying that people will draw their conclusions from the fact that we are members of that ecumenical organization. Our voting representatives to gatherings of the WCRC will have the opportunity to deliberate, persuade, argue and ultimately vote on an issue and even have the opportunity to register a negative vote or submit a protest. In that case members and journalists would be well advised to refrain from attributing to the CRCNA what the WCRC has decided despite the CRCNA's objections. As for the adoption of Accra by the WARC, I am not totally aware of how that process went. I'll e-mail Peter Borgdorff and ask him to weigh in, particularly when it comes to your first and second questions. As a member of the EIRC, he would be in a much better position to respond than I am.
I would be very interested to know how delegates to the WCRC meetings (synods? conventions? assemblies?) are chosen and what power to address and vote they have. I have heard nothing about this.
I'm not aware of any "relatively new push" to participate in WCRC; I think we have been involved with its forerunners for decades. What does seem to be new (or maybe only recently more prominent) is an extremely politicized agenda on the part of the WCRC, which seems, at least, to be dominated by mainline liberal churches. The Accra confession is a very one-sided and extremely politicized (not to mention anti-American) document that has been subjected to some penetrating critique, e.g. by Calvin College Economics prof. Roland Hoksbergen ( http://www.calvin.edu/admin/cccs/rcc/chapters/Hoksbergen.pdf ) and South African economist Stan DuPlessis ( http://ideas.repec.org/p/sza/wpaper/wpapers101.html ). I agree that ecumenical organizations are important; but I'm not sure WCRC is a healthy place for the CRC to be; I'm not sure our voice would be heard, and I wonder who would be presuming to be our voice within that organization. I am not confident that every denominational agency represents the full spectrum of CRC opinion. We don't fit into NAPARC (because of their regrettable decision to expel us over women's ordination), but I don't think we belong in an organization that officially (in the person of its general secretary) claims that John Calvin would support the Occupy Wall Street movement ( http://wcrc.ch/node/694 ) and pushes the confessionalization of socialism. I would equally recoil from any canonization of capitalism or right-wing politics. It's the princple of the thing: What unites us: The Reformed theological tradition or some politicization of the gospel? Persons in the CRC span the political spectrum; to exercise a "preferential option" for one side or the other will inevitably lead to schism and a skewing of the church's genuine mission.
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