Skip to main content

The November issue of The Banner includes an article called "Adopt the Belhar" by Rev. Peter Borgdorff. The online version of the article includes five discussion questions.

The new Banner website (ETA January?) will allow for online comments and discussion. But, in the meantime, feel free to discuss these questions right here on The Network.

  1. Are the roots of apartheid present in our society, community, and church? If so, where?
  2. Rev. Peter Borgdorff believes that the Belhar Confession speaks clearly to the principles of unity, reconciliation, and justice — themes that are not clearly expressed in our confessions. Do you agree? Is that a strong argument for adopting the Belhar as another confession?
  3. Borgdorff argues that we should adopt the Belhar because of our "lack of unity ... need for reconciliation ... and participation in matters of injustice, including racism." Share examples of where that is so. Do those examples demonstrate sufficient cause for adopting the Belhar or a confessional statement like it?
  4. Would it be sufficient to adopt the Belhar without giving it the status of another confession?
  5. Should the Belhar be adopted by Reformed denominations worldwide?


No, no, no, yes, no. Not in North America. Apartheid was the name given to a collection of South African legislation. Since 1964 apartheid has been outlawed in the US and the Canadian Constitution is even more restrictive on one's personal preference in the public arena. In the history of the world every attempt at legislating moral attitude has failed. We don't need a new list of rules to be ignored. Our entire body of dogma could be replaced by "Jesus died for your sins and reconciled God to us. Now be reconciled to God. Love God and be a good neighbor."

Essentially I agree with billwald.  Consider what is proposed: the Belhar if adopted as a confession will be on the same level as "what is your only comfort in life and death..."

I do not believe that it can or will operate at that level.  For it to do so the de facto segregation that Ron Feenstra cited in CTS as a reason for the Belhar must at the operative level be reversed by all CRC Christians.

In my opinion what that means in the Grand Rapids context is that all the RCA/CRC people who joined white flight to places like Hudsonville, Caledonia, Ada, Jenison etc. are obligated to move back to more integrated neighborhoods.

In Grand Rapids, if you own a home worth much over $100,000.00 you have segregated yourself de facto from diversity.  If that is it is agreed that most minority populations are income/asset disadvantaged, meaning one can easily segregate oneself by the price of the home one purchases.  I live on a street that has gone from "Dutch ghetto" to predominantly African-American in orientation and I can say with some confidence that my diverse neighbors cannot afford to live in the communities I cited above.

With the adoption of the Belhar will the RCA re-open all the inner-city churches that it has abandoned over the last 30 years?  I think of Immanuel Reformed, Garfield Park Reformed, Oakdale Reformed, Bethany Reformed just to name some. I believe they must if they are to live up to their Belhar or live in the institutional sin it identifies.

Quite frankly after thirty years of observing neighborhood transition I do not believe most RCA/CRC people know what they are getting into with the Belhar nor will they be willing to.  Being an accidental diversity tourist by driving miles and miles from a relatively homogenous neighborhood to an inner-city church while admirable as far as it goes, does not entirely cut it either.

40 years ago we moved out of Seattle because we did not want our children to be a part of a failing social experiment. Back then Seattle lost 100,000 people and the school district population dropped 40%. Only recently did Seattle go over 500,000 population and now only San Francisco has a fewer children per capita. Have read that half the children in Seattle go to some sort of private school or are home taught.

Another 40 years and the majority of people living on the Left Coast will have brownish skin color and people will choose their mates on a basis other than skin color. But until that happens I don't want my grandkids to take part in a failing social experiment. It might be a new world when the great grandkids are are old enough to leave home.   

Was trying to demonstrate that reasonable people will put the best interest of their children ahead of any theoretical improvement in the moral climate of their local community which may be advanced by a new confession. 

My  response was irrelevant to people who opt out of the public school system so their children will not be told the universe is more than 10,000 years old. The secondary effect is that most CRC children will not be exposed to inner city children and inner city public schools. Forgive my waste of bandwidth.

Yes, it has recovered but it is not the same city. In 1962 it was a great family city and a blue coller family could afford to buy a house in a safe neighborhood.  Now the only working people who can afford to buy inside Seattle city limits are high income people who can afford to send their kids to private schools.

During the the "Boeing recession" the population of King County increased at least as much as a Seattle shrunk. The new cities of Bellevue and Redmond on the east side of Lake Washington grew explosively.

This, I believe, was due to Seattle School Board policies and the end of red lining. The professional black people moved out of the Central Area and I suspect mostly across Lake washington.  The vacancies were filled by dopers and hippies. In the old days, the Rainier Valley was mostly blue collar people, lots of old Italian families, and was called "Garlic Gulch."  There were many old family run businesses on Rainier Avenue.

After the effects of the 1964 Civil Rights Act the Valley became a dangerous wasteland. (People who live there say it is still dangerous to ride the number seven bus.) I was working in Chinatown during the trashing and rebirth of Seattle. Pre-freeway Seattle's Chinatown was cut in half by the freeway and the east half became vacant lots, dopers, prostitutes, and wino taverns. The rest of Chinatown became "seedy" and run down and stayed that was for 10 years until Bob Santos started a push to turn it around.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam was winding down and Seattle became the port of entry for the poorest of the refugees - those with money went to the Gulf Coast and California. The people in the welfare housing complained, "Theys taking our housing and welfare money."  (The 2nd generation became small business owners, the 3rd generation are earning the school awards, doctors, dentists, lawyers . . .  the trash people have the projects to themselves.)

What turned Seattle around? There were many vacant store fronts in Chinatown. The Vietnam refugees rented them because they were cheap and had cultural ties to the locals.  They lived in the back room. The wife sold veggies and tourist stuff in front while the husband worked two or three low paying jobs. 

One family who had a store in the 600 blk of South Jackson, the husband worked three jobs, saved enough to buy half a vacant block on So. Jackson just east of the freeway. He built a strip mall which included a big store for himself.  Other refugees began to follow his example and the renewal spread south along Rainier Avenue almost to city limits. The refugees made it safe for white people to start moving back and the city did some beautification along Rainier.

The safe area spread east into the Central Area and the land was mysteriously rezoned for high rise yuppy apartments and condos. The low income minorities (can't say "trash" on this list) called it "gentrification," which means removing the old washing machines from the front yards, and moved south to Renton and Kent, causing "big city" problems in those towns and school districts. 

The public school district has gone over 50,000 kids (was 90,000 in 1962), from 12% minority to 40% minority (the city is  about 30% minority) and is still closing school buildings for lack of children - been closing schools for 30 years.    





Nothing tough about it. I loved working in Chinatown.  If you lived through those days in Seattle I would be pleased to read your version.

I appreciate billwald's honest attempt at the historical record.  I do not see this as "holding on" to anything. 

I come at this from a somewhat different angle:  in what turned out to be the absolutely safest move our family could make, we didn't.  We didn't move along with the rest of the "white flighters" and their churches.  As a result the hockey rink remained a 5 minute, 35 mph drive away, as did the trumpet teacher, the violin  instructor, their inner city Christian school from which they walked a mile home through the "hood," the athletic fields etc etc.

Meanwhile, it was sad to read of those who moved to the suburbs for the safety of their children, that their children were killed in auto accidents at alcohol/drug-induced rates of speed and sometimes in drug overdoses. 

In one year in our county there were twenty-two homicides:  11 within the city limits, all African-American and 11 in the suburbs/exurban, all European-American.  That of course on top of the number of European-American young people mentioned above killed in auto accidents and drug overdoses. 

It also somewhat inoculated them against the euphemisms on diversity of their teachers, preachers, and professors.  Anecdotes in this regard could go on forever but here is one: at the age of twenty .my eldest met across the street with two of his youthful playmates, Pollo and Marquiz.  A friendly nostalgic conversation ensued which ended in the amazement by Pollo and Marquiz that at the age of twenty my son had not fathered any children.  They each had about three or more "that they knew of."

I am very concerned that the Belhar will be used for euphemisms.  I should mention in addition to Dr. Feenstra's citing of de facto segregation in the CTS Forum, that Dr. Borgdorff also emphasized it in a class on the Belhar that I took this past Spring.  The implication I pointed out had to be "white flight" being reversed if the Belhar occupies the same status as "What is my only comfort in life and death..."  I doubt very many people will operate at that level and I appreciate billwald's observation of that.

There are other observations I can make but suffice that for now.


 I agree that right now a city is generally safer than the suburbs as long as you have local knowledge and stay away from dangerous places. For example, bars and taverns after dark. <G>

I'm not frustrated because I don't take other people's problems personally. It's probably a mental quirk. Group injustices rile me  . . . Stalin said something like, "Ten people die, a tragedy. Ten million people die, history." I take the opposite tack. For most people, "You made your bed, lie in it. For a person with normal health and smarts who grew up in the US there is no economic or political reason to be on the bottom of the food chain. There might be theological reasons. <G>


For me, I lived through the best times (post WW2) and the best place (USA) the working person has seen since Adam got thrown out of the Garden and I am very thankful to God for it. In 70 years I never unintentionally missed a meal. How many people can say that? All five of our kids turned out to be decent people, good neighbors. All the grandkids are doing fine. It's a miracle from God.

But I think the post WW2 middle class bubble is deflating and we are regressing to the world historical norm of 80% working poor and unemployed poor. The grandkids will have a tougher row to hoe. The reasons don't matter because it is a done deal. There will still be much opportunity in the middle of the food chain. 


Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post