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One of my biggest joys when working for the CRC denomination for 25 years was the opportunity to get a birds’ eye view of the church. At times it was more like a high flying 30,000 foot view. My work lifted me out of my own individual church and community to see ministry happening in the United States and Canada and the world! I was given the opportunity to go out and encourage and equip those in ministry - but the truth was that I was learning so much from those I ministered to. My eyes were opened to the beauty of the unique CRC churches from east to west, north to south. I was able to experience and enjoy diverse experiences in cultures and languages in places very different from my own. 

And more than my eyes being opened, my heart grew to love all the differences and uniquenesses. I believe God gave me glimpses of The Church, the Bride of Christ that is so much bigger and beautiful than I ever imagined. 

Now that I’m retired from that official work, my heart still cares deeply for the CRC and all that she is. So much has changed in a few short years since I left the office during Covid. Ministry has always been difficult. But now the difficulty of leading and serving a denomination seems to have reached a whole new level.

I wish everyone could have the experience of having a ministry acquaintance in an east coast church and a west coast church, a Canadian church and an U.S. church, a Spanish speaking church and a Korean speaking church, a suburban church and a city church, a prison church and a rural church, a 100+ year old church and a new micro church, a Ukrainian church and a Chinese church, an African church and….you get the idea. 

I wish everyone could have that birds’ eye experience because if we truly knew people in these churches and cared deeply about them and their unique ministry, maybe we would understand our need for each other in a whole new way. I wonder if we would see that what holds us together isn’t what we do, it’s what Christ did and continues to do every day. I wonder if having a friend in so many diverse places would increase our desire to learn from each other, even if it meant learning from someone very different from what we currently know. 

I wonder with great sadness sometimes, because I’m afraid for the CRC. It’s no secret that we’ve become polarized with groups sectioning off around different interpretations of scripture and what each thinks the church should look like. 

It seems that we’re at a crossroads. We can follow the historical road where our protestant predecessors have taken us and split…and split again….and again. But why? Someone once said to me, ‘we’ll go our way and you go yours, and then we’ll all meet up in heaven someday.’ What sense does that make? Does that make any kind of ‘Christian sense’ to you? 

It may seem easier to keep splitting to allow us to be with like-minded people and to worship and serve in comfort and without opposition. But If we choose to surround ourselves with those who share our way of thinking and have none other to stretch it or refine it, we are not being challenged in our version of the truth. Do we then become pharisees who are trying to do church right according to us? 

I talk to many people and pastors who consider themselves to currently be somewhere in the middle of the modern day issues. They like being in the middle, even though it’s messy to have people to the right and left of you who don’t agree as you are searching for wisdom. We live in a society and even a church that tells us we need to choose sides. But if we are all forced to align with a side someone has chosen for us, there is no middle. This cutting off of those with differing thoughts and beliefs, in my opinion, is one of the greatest dangers we face today. If push comes to shove, many will consider themselves shoved out of the CRC. Dangerous times. 

This makes no sense to me. My birds’ eye view and experience gives me a bigger perspective. I believe we need each other and that our differences are needed to make a more beautiful and complete whole. I don’t feel complete without you, even if we disagree on some matters. What we agree on is so much greater - that Christ is the head of the church. It is God’s idea. It is powered by the Holy Spirit. God is with us, of whom shall we be afraid?

Bottom line, I believe we need each other more than we need to weed each other out of the garden. I continue to pray that in spite of ourselves, God keeps pruning us, watering us, feeding us, and shining on us. And I pray that we and those who lead us will make choices to stay in the same garden, diverse, beautiful and productive for the benefit of others. 

Prayer: God, remind us that you are Creator and we are created ones. We are branches grafted into the Vine to bear fruit. We are not the Vine. Forgive us for believing that the church belongs to us, and that it is up to us to build it, to grow it, and protect it. You alone, God, are the Lord of the Church. You alone have done the work of saving and redeeming those you have chosen and called. You alone build your church. Help us to trust you with it and serve you with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

 

Comments

Right on!  Lately I've seen this term used re. the CRC, "irreconcilable differences."  We have irreconcilable differences, and so we need to split.  This is the language of the divorce court, used to justify a split.  It is not Biblical.  According to the Bible, the church is like a body-- "the body is not made up of one part but of many."  No part can say to another,  "I have no need of you."  The Dutch Americans in the CRC need the Koreans.  The US needs Canada-- and the other way around.  Those who are "affirming" need those who "abide," and the other way around.  "But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body"  (see I Corinthians 12:12-20).   I get it-- the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and the RCA split over issues we are facing today.  How has that worked out for them?  We say the Bible is our guide-- why don't we put our egos aside, listen to what it says, and follow its teaching, as challenging as that may be?

 

I believe you "hit the nail on the head", Diane. It is unfortunate, perhaps even tragic, that Synod has voted to prioritize uniformity over unity, law over gospel. I believe their action is to the short-term and long-term detriment of the CRCNA.

The situation seems to emulate the U.S. Congress. Right or Left, but no Middle. Jesus' prayer for the church was that "they all might be one." (John 17:21) It seems like we are headed in the opposite direction.

Your post clearly points out that unity needs diversity to have any meaning. Uniformity is nothing more than an idol to be worshipped - something requiring compliance.

Jesus' invites all to his Table.

 

 

 

Thank you so very much for this heartfelt and candid blog. Not to cater to stereotypes, but rather to express a feeling that I believe is accurate and fitting here, I offer this grateful comment: Your touching memories and hopes profoundly exemplify what I have come to love and respect in many women's contributions to the CRC and many other confessions all over the world. That is, you write with an emotional and spiritual engagement that I see as one of the very finest traits of feminism--tenderness, love, tempered lament and above all Hope. Simply put, that is not how many men in church leadership in every nation where I have lived and work understand and practice "church life." 

Rather, we have seen, as you note, a deepening and widening polarization and a rationalizing method of interpreting Scripture and running synods that have tried to make life simple, though it never was, isn't and won't be. The Holy Spirit doesn't have room to work in such a rigidly closed headspace. 

You, though, have lovingly reached back into your long history of service and education in the CRC to remind us of when we were more truly the Body of Christ than it seems we are becoming. I pray that your memories and experiences of different ethnicities, varied worship within the CRC's culture and a recognition and acceptance of all those and more differences  might shake up all readers and spread to all leaders members within the CRC to open our arms and sanctuaries widely and lovingly. That needs Spirit-breathed imagination, creativity and love--which has become sadly more and more absent in our fight to be right. Thank you again. 

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