Blog

Tough dialogue ought not be feared but can bear gifts to those who dare the journey. Which of these tips best offers a way for you to stay longer in tough dialogue?

June 14, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

During today’s morning session, a delegate stood up and voiced his concerns on the length of reports and amount of reading required to prepare for synod. Should his concern be addressed?

June 13, 2016 0 2 comments
Blog

During Synod 2016, The Network will be selecting a “Tweet of the Day” to be featured, as well as 2 honorable mentions! Could it be your tweet? 

June 13, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

During Synod 2016, The Network will be selecting a “Tweet of the Day” to be featured, as well as 2 honorable mentions! Could it be your tweet? 

June 10, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

The first day of synod can be a lot to process! For that reason, we’d love to hear some of your first impressions on opening worship, the election of officers, and more. 

June 10, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Since we had so much fun following your tweets during Synod 2015, we decided to bring back the series for Synod 2016! Look for the first featured tweets to be posted tomorrow. 

June 9, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Devotional

To keep prayer at the forefront of our minds, check out these daily devotionals created for the 30 days leading up to (and during!) Synod 2016. 

June 9, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

As stodgy as the rules of order seem, following Robert's Rules allows a church to have non-manipulative, open, low tension, thoughtful, and deliberative dialogue that leaves space for the Holy Spirit to speak a word to us if we are attuned.

June 6, 2016 0 4 comments
Discussion Topic

As I'm going through the Agenda for Synod 2016, I found the report from the Liturgical Forms Committee is worth our attention. And I'm left wondering. . . what does it mean for belonging in the church? 

June 3, 2016 0 2 comments
Resource, Devotional

To keep prayer at the forefront of our minds, check out these daily devotionals created for the 30 days leading up to Synod 2016! 

June 2, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

As delegates, committee members, and the church as a whole prepare to discuss the topic of same-sex marriage, let’s share our short and simple three-word prayers.

June 1, 2016 0 24 comments
Discussion Topic

We owe it to ourselves to listen to what the Doctrine of Discovery Task Force has to tell us. Does all of this make you feel uncomfortable? 

May 30, 2016 0 1 comments
Resource, Devotional

To keep prayer at the forefront of our minds, check out these daily devotionals created for the 30 days leading up to Synod 2016! 

May 26, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Synod 2015 voted to bring back women advisers when the number of women at synod is fewer than 25. Why is this still a challenge in the CRC? 

May 26, 2016 0 7 comments
Resource, Devotional

To keep prayer at the forefront of our minds, check out these daily devotionals created for the 30 days leading up to Synod 2016! 

May 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Did you hear the big change coming to Synod 2016? For the first time EVER, deacons will be delegates. Is this decision overdue? Do you have any concerns? Are you going as a deacon?

May 17, 2016 0 9 comments
Resource, Devotional

To keep prayer at the forefront of our minds, check out these daily devotionals created for the 30 days leading up to Synod 2016! 

May 10, 2016 0 4 comments
Blog

We know our report asks hard questions and probes into corners we might want to forget. But we also know that hearing hard truths and questions, while painful, can set in motion a process of healing. 

April 26, 2016 0 17 comments
Resource, Article

In the heat of an election year in the USA when debate and emotions run high, we are invited to dialogue in such a way that reflects the Jesus we seek to follow. So friends, be excellent to one another. 

April 11, 2016 0 3 comments
Resource, Article

David Gushee recently wrote on how the inclusion of sexual minorities in the church is redefining the evangelical landscape. Though we feel the squeeze, struggles like this aren't new.

April 4, 2016 0 1 comments
Resource, Report

The Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church in North America met in February 2016 at the denominational offices in Grand Rapids. During this meeting the Board...

March 8, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource

A working group in the Mennonite Church USA has created a 43-minute documentary entitled "The Doctrine of Discovery: In the Name of Christ" that is a good introduction to understanding the Doctrine of Discovery.

January 29, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

As official preparations are underway for Synod 2016, it seems like the stakes are higher; the concerns more pressing. Join me in praying for unity in the CRC campground. 

January 26, 2016 0 5 comments
Discussion Topic

I just read this week's CRC Communications email and the link to Dave Schelhass' article in The Des Moines Register. I would like to point out to Dave and others that by combining several separate phrases from the CRCNA "official position" he reads into the statement some boldness to statements...

December 30, 2015 0 0 comments
Q&A

About a month ago, we received an email from our Stated Clerk to discuss the 3 Synodical Study Committee reports. My question is: how do I best lead these discussions?  

December 29, 2015 0 2 comments

Pages

RSS

"Lord, Forgive Our Presumptions!"    (See committee report, Section V.,  Principles, V.E. admonishing us not to be presumptuous re "intimate sexual relations." and thereby assuming sinful behavior re CRC 1973 distinction between attraction and behavior.)

 

My prayer: that we pray with and for our LGBT+ youth, and baptized and professing members who know that we [the by-national CRC] again are talking about them.

Our Synod delegates and Denomination's talking next week also will rekindle the fears and protracted stress within the lives of hundreds of parents, siblings, and extended families, friendships, and congregation members who also, in many ways, for years have been driven underground because they wanted and needed to know more about what it is to be an LGBT+ sister/brother, and to give and receive an "as lived" Jesus embrace and affirmation from one another.

If we pray for 'unity'; then, the prayer must come from within an inclusive embrace of all who have been baptized, profess Jesus to be their Saviour, and are or would be members ofa Christian Reformed Church.

 

The news media will only be interested in one thing and we all know what that is.

I am interested in how the CRC churches can attain healthy status and what is the definition of that? Two items on the agenda for synod will give a bit of a glimpse into this.

1) The task force report on sustainability and

2) Iakota overture to restructure Ministry Shares.

I have just completed a review of the 2015 year book of the CRCNA stats. There are interesting trends.

The church has about 250 thousand members of which 175 thousand are eligible to pay ministry shares.

The CRCNA has 1089 churches (there is probably some error in this because the way emerging congregations are counted).

Of these 715 or 66% have less than 100 families. The trend in the decline of families has been showing up for some years.

A church of a 100 families costs about $150,000 per year to just pay operating expenses. 100% ministry and classis shares add about $50,000 to that.  That means each family has to donate about $2,000 per year.

If we assume a healthy (financial) congregation is one that pays, say, 75% of Ministry shares I look forward to the finance gurus of the church to provide a list of congregation who exceeded that amount.  The famous "paredo" rule will suggest that 20% of the churches contribute 80% of the ministry shares. I would like to see how close the church comes to that rule. If it achieves 40/60, financial health would be above the "paredo" norm. If it achieves 50/50 we could indeed have healthy congregations.

Those who attend church meetings should know and understand the rules. Unless they are formally changed, well before a meeting, Roberts Rules have met the test time.

A very healthy reminder for al participants in the upcoming Synod meetings! God bless the officers of Synod.

The meaning of Sankofa (African word) is looking back to know where we came from to understand today and know where we need to be tomorrow. I paraphrased this to say it is important to know what happened

yesterday to see where we are today, however more important is where we are going to be tomorrow .

thus a three stage process is vital for our successful future.

Our descendants will determine tomorrow's outcomes, so what we do today will be their "past."

Let us pray together that we do not stumble by only looking in the past too long.

Great points.

civility is key.

Reliance on the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our individual and collective lives.

 

Unity.  Discernment. Humility.

"Thy will be done" (I know that is four)!  I hear these thoughtful words in this new song.

Thanks so much for your encouragement and comments, Len. I would certainly agree that it would be good to focus more on baptism and what it means in our theological understanding. It is a beautiful and powerful understanding of what God does in/through/for/with us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ in our lives.

I should have stated that this is all a "work in progress", and I really appreciate the feedback...maybe what you're saying here will make it into the v. 2.0 of this presentation/blog posting!

This is a very fine presentation of the dynamics and elements of belonging to Christ and his church, and I appreciate the way in which the author urges a greater sensitivity to the levels of belonging that are present in any given congregation. 

My only caveat is that baptism is only mentioned once, and in passing, whereas baptism is the central sacrament of belonging in the NT. Almost every time there is a call to faith, baptism is the first step. Also, baptism is the standard by which people are to judge their belonging, and the life that entails. (See Romans 6: 1-12) 

Public Profession of Faith is closely connected with baptism. In the case of infant baptism, it is one's personal response to the belonging Christ and his church that baptism signifies and seals. In the case of adult believers, it accompanies baptism as one's personal commitment to follow the Lord which their baptism signifies and seals. 

So, anyone who is baptized already belongs to Christ by virtue of their baptism. This is not the same as just anyone affiliated with a congregation in some way, but is the central mark of their belonging. I don't think this changes the graceful description of the ways in which we deal with the various levels of belonging in this post, but I do think that baptism needs a bigger emphasis as it does in the NT.

It also is important when thinking of Public Profession of faith as a response to one's baptism. In that case it is an important and necessary landmark in the process of belonging. And this is where the quotation from Romans 10: 9-10 comes in. If a person is baptized as an infant, it is important, and perhaps necessary, in my opinion, for that person to acknowledge publicly, as he or she has been baptized publicly, their faith in Christ. 

Amen, Darren. Though I wonder sometimes (many times, these days) if those Robert's Rules need to be stretched a bit in new ways considering the multiplicity of backgrounds with which we are faced. I know, for example, that even among those of us who are used to Robert's Rules and the sort of euro-centric parliamentary procedure there are those who are just too shy to voice their opinions, feelings and concerns. Those same people invariably have, just as often as any of the rest of us, valuable things to say. Thus, sadly, their voices are often not heard. 

Also, for those who do not come from our cultural context, the "Robert's Rules" way of doing things can still seem very aggressive, and it can be the case that those who come from a background where "consensus building" is the name of the game feel unwelcome to share. And, my experience has been that, Robert's Rules or not, it is still often the case that a few dominant voices are heard repeatedly, while others are not heard at all. In fact, I know that I have, on many an occasion, been one of those who is "heard" a little too often!

What I have been experiencing in the past number of years that has been a refreshing light in the midst of our meetings has been a kind of blending of "Robert's Rules" with some of the methods of Restorative Practices. In this way of doing things, on many significant issues, the chair will, for a few moments, prayerfully "pause" the normal function of Robert's Rules and will solicit the views of the entire body one-at-a-time going around a circle. Also, the chair may pause the conversation for a time of prayer. The body itself may explicitly declare that there are certain additional rules of respectful, safe dialog, using reflective listening techniques and direct communication between members on a particular topic....

I very much hear and agree that, for the most part, Robert's Rules are a Godsend to us as a church! However, I think there are times and places where a different set of "rules and procedures" need to be put in place--both to encourage those who are more shy, and those who are of differing cultural backgrounds, and to provide the time for a more contemplative, less adversarial and more consensus building model for our deliberations.

Dear God, help us discern......

What really matters

"Help us, Lord." 

"Hokmah yirat YHWH"

Psalm 119: 169, 165

 

That scripture may be Synods guide.

Humble, contrite, tremble.

"But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word." (Isaiah 66:2)

Or are they tearing down the dikes and filling in the channels previously built?

There is a famous phrase "let the water seek it own level". We have too many people (in the church) building dikes and channels.

You have neatly written out the other half of the comment, regarding children. A related post from 2009 talked about official 'youth' attendees at synod who were aged 18 to 26. In my 'youth' I had four children and people of that age were the elders of the church. Nowadays youth lasts until you're forty.

Children should be attending synod, and they should be heard. I'm speaking about littlies aged 4-14. They don't need to be paid up, done their profession of faith, respectable, coached, scripted, and rehearsed. They can and should be asked for their opinion in matters that affect them, while respecting their tender years. 

Come on, people! You are smart enough to figure out a way to make that happen!

Thanks for posting this, Staci. In going through the Agenda, it looks like there will be 44 women delegates to Synod this year, roughly 23% of the delegates, which I am guessing is a record. Since 25 of the women delegates are deacons, it seems that the change we made last year to seat deacons at Synod certainly has made an impact. Rev. Chelsey Harmon is the only woman serving as a Minister delegate, but I know that there are women filling the "Other" slot who are ordained.

I am hopeful that some day soon we will not need advisors to Synod in any category, but the slots we fill with delegates to Synod will be more representative of our congregations by including the people of color, women, and young adults in our pews.  

Trena, 

Thanks for talking about your own personal experience at synod. Helpful thoughts. I haven't checked out the number of women going this year but the 2016 Agenda would give us the names. 

Praying and trusting with you that God is at work as the delegates prepare for the hard, important work of synod. 

Staci 

 

An addendum to the above: while the use of "settler" is suitable for the European, the term is hardly appropriate for those who came her by force in the slave trade. The removal of the Cherokee, the vacating of the Choctaw claims and other actions of in South were both a direct consequence of the Marshall court decisions, and actions that set the necessary foundation for the development of the plantation system of the South. The American society's treatment of Blacks and of Natives intertwines and reinforces the narratives of presumptive racial supremacy; likewise, the resistance to this mistreatment of these peoples also shares common narratives both in the Gospel, and in concepts of human rights. The use of "settlers" for blacks pulls apart these shared narratives; it does not, cannnot erase DuBois' "color line."

I would suggest that report is fundamentally unclear as to its purpose. Is it to address the mission at Rehoboth? Is it to urge reconciliation with my Native neighbor? Is it to engage in repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery (whatever that might mean)? Each of these are more than sufficient for serious reflection and action, together they result in a report that is long in generalization, but frustratingly small in specifics.

In particular it is difficult to see how the Doctrine of Discovery is sufficient to hold all these ideas together, primarily because as used, the DOD refers to three different items: a set of papal bulls, reflective of the cultural setting in 16th Century Europe; as a warrant for an ongoing stream of decisions in the US Supreme Court and with it the structuring of US federal government and tribal relationships; and third as a sort of symbol of Euro-centric claims of cultural and moral superiority over the Other. 

As the report itself discloses, not all of the European powers acted in ways that matched the moral superiority claims of the DOD. E.g. the Dutch treatment of Haudenosaunee (or for that matter their treatment of Native populations as having clear title to their land); and especially in the two hundred years of French relations with the Native communities of the Great Lakes. The European relations in short, were far more varied than the simplistic notion of Christendom = racism narrative that creeps into the report. Specifically, one may want to consider the deep indigenisation efforts of the Jesuit and Moravian missions. As one might expect from a five hundred year history, the European Christians brought a number of approaches to their dealings with Natives, not least including outrage at the massacres.

But of course the legal questions are something else again. One does not need to assert some sort of moral animus to explain the law, the mere presence of financial gain is sufficient for that. However, it is precisely here that the report fails. Having recognized the impact of the DOD on Supreme Court decisions, it passes by any possible action or advocacy relative to the legal framework. I care far less whether the Pope repudiates the doctrine (Rome believes it has in subsequent papal bulls), than I care that SCOTUS repudiate this premise which has caused so much harm.

As to reconciliation with my Native neighbor, I only wish that the report had demonstrated an awareness of the peoples who still live in our cities and regions. Oddly, their invisibility in the document reinforces the dominant cultural narratives that Indians don't matter, or that Indians belong to some other time, some other place. These are conversations that should be undertaken.

 

 

It would be helpful in responding to this to know how many women are delegated this year.  And was it necessary to implement the role of Women Advisers for Synod 2106?

I was at Synod twice as a Deacon Adviser.  It was a challenging and very worthwhile experience.  I did not feel as the woman quoted in the report about Synod 2015 that it was an "old boys club" atmosphere--at least not anymore for the women than for the men who found themselves in this setting for the first time; I had a conversation with several men about this very topic. Each Synod has a significant percentage of first time delegates.  And for all it is a learning experience--kind of by the end of the week you understand the rhythm and the ropes--and then it's over. 

At classis this spring, I did try to encourage a couple of women deacons to make themselves available.  They said no.  For them being a deacon was relatively new.  Coming to classis was even newer.  Thinking that they might go to Synod was really new.  For some of the people of ethnic diversity at classis, I think some of the same steps were being felt--each step was new, how many did they dare to take.  It takes time.

But I noticed that even the men who were in the majority at classis and for the most part had much more experience in denominational roles weren't exactly jumping up and down to volunteer either. There were many qualifiers uttered as the roll was taken and the question of availability for Synod was asked.

It is hard work preparing for Synod.  It is hard work being there.  We trust that it is God's work we are doing. 

 

While I don't believe women should be excluded by rule from any church offices, I also don't believe we should seek mathematical, or even approximate mathematical, gender parity in church offices, nor in delegation to classis ir synod.  Rather, we should allow that to happen as it happens, which means differing local contexts will aggregately and ultimately determine the delegation make up at the broader assemblies.

To do otherwise is just more "rule from the top," a perspective not consistent with our church order, nor conducive to the unity of CRC churches.

In other words, if indeed "churches are seeking a more complete representation of the body at synod," then those same churches (plural) will send delegates that represent what they seek, and the broader assemblies (and BOT and bureaucracy) should simply acquiesce in that result.

This report clearly pronounces a few things about the century-plus work of the CRC/CRCHM at Rehoboth.   First is that "it was wrong" for the CRC to even go there.

I take it that "wrong" in this case translates to "sinful."  Does anyone here agree with that the CRC/CRCHM merely going to Rehoboth was wrong, or sinful? 

Secondly, the report pronounces, even if a bit indirectly, that the CRC/CRCNA regarded the native peoples in the area to be less than human, that when CRC/CRCNA people referred to native people's as "pagan" or "heathen," they were thereby considering them as less than human.

Does anyone here really believe the CRC/CRCHM, including the individuals who worked in the Rehoboth area with the native peoples there, considered the native peoples to be less than human?

Third, the report pretty clearly accuses the CRC/CRCHM of intending to take from the native peoples that which belonged to them when establishing Rehoboth for the sake of the CRC/CRCHM.

Does anyone here believe that?

But if your mandate was as you say, Linda, you also exceeded it in some ways.  The report clearly condemns going to New Mexico in the first place, and establishing Rehoboth in the first place.  It says, again quite clearly, that the CRC, the CRCNA, and all those who took part should simply not have done this, that it was a bad thing to do.  It was not sinful, as this report claims, to go to Rehoboth.  Going to Rehoboth was not, as this report claims, a DOD inspired effort of the CRC to make theirs that which belonged to others.

And then the report seems to support these conclusions, attempts to justify it's conclusions, to its readers, by relaying a concentrated brine of "bad things" in the life of an effort that happened over a century of time.  To boot, the report provides no context.  The word, "pagan," for example, was a perfectly good (descriptive) word decades ago, devoid of the overtones it has today. "Pagan" does not mean subhuman, nor did those from the CRC/CRCHM who put years and sometimes lives of effort into Rehoboth consider anyone in that community subhuman.  That is the report's accusation, even if made a bit indirectly  (by saying that is what the DOD said, which in turn was the influence that brought forth Rehoboth).

Perhaps even more troubling, to me at least, is that this reports essentially declares that the efforts of this community, 13 years ago, to deal with the sins of the past, were inadequate, and that those in charge of this report know better than the local community, including all sides of the local community.

 

Hi Trena: 

Anyone can flag a comment for review based on Comment Guidelines. Thanks for checking!

Staci

As a member of the committee, I would like to respond to those posts critical of the report's discussion of one aspect of its content--the Southwest ministries. In reading our report (I hope people will read it in full and in its context--chronology and complementarity are important), one should start with the mandate. We were not mandated to tell the story of the CRC's ministries in the Southwest; we were charged with documenting and tracing the "principal" and "continuing" effects of the Doctrine of Discovery in the U.S. and Canada, including the effects in related CRCNA ministries.

As Peter Vandermeulen pointed out, the larger stories of those ministries have been shared and published; these stories were among the many archival resources that figured into our research. If people are not familiar with the positive aspects of the ministry, sharing them in full seems far beyond the scope of our report as mandated. A note acknowledging this and directing readers to the aforementioned published documents for that aspect of the ministries would be a good addition to the report. But our investigation of the archives was directed by our mandate: we looked for evidence consistent with those historical effects of the Doctrine of Discovery in Canada and the U.S. Obviously, the basic premises of the Doctrine of Discovery--that "pagan," "infidel," "heathen" natives were subhuman and their lands could be rightfully claimed by Christian nations--was extremely negative and unChristian, and our findings trace the effects of that sinful thinking in North American culture, religion, and law that are encoded in our social and legal systems. That's not a pretty story, certainly not the kind we prefer, but seeking to reveal the sin seems pretty biblical to me.

I'd like to specifically address some comments suggesting that the American boarding school experience was not as bad as the Canadian; this is directly contradicted by every respected historian's research on the Indian Boarding Schools and the testimonies of survivors (the stories do not change as one crosses the border). Zitkala Sa's memoir, published in the Atlantic Monthly shortly after her time at the Carlisle School, is a good place to start. The education systems in the U.S. and Canada were somewhat different in structure, but the stories reveal similar abuses, trauma, and negative effects on the Native nations. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has failed to sponsor any type of truth and reconciliation programs similar to those in other countries to address this dark history.

I note those who are offended by the report admit that many things were done wrong in the Southwest ministries (I appreciate that admission but note that the wrongs are not clearly delineated, particularly from a Native perspective), but then the comments reflect a preference to consider the good things that were done and how things are done differently now. I am deeply grateful for these positive reforms, but there is still much work to do. Our faith tradition makes clear that sin--including collective sin--has consequences that carry through the generations. If we would take the time to listen to the stories of those who were abused, oppressed, and traumatized by the sinful thinking that is the legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, we would see that OUR (we and our ancestors are all in this together) mistakes have resulted in extreme generational and systemic trauma among Native Americans and First Nations: these negatives effects are still very much evident. Unfortunately, we have not heard many of those stories because the trauma is so serious that many survivors do not feel safe in coming forward. I hope that we can agree on the importance of the report's recommendation to provide safe spaces for these brothers and sisters to be heard.

I pray that our defensiveness will be subordinated to our compassion for those who have suffered. I pray that we can empty ourselves and listen to those whom we have wronged. Like the Psalmist, we--the Church--should ask God to search our hearts and uncover that collective sin we have not fully recognized; we cannot confess and repent if we don't fully know our trespasses. I believe such a process of study and examination can lead to confession, lamentation, repentance, forgiveness, and ultimately reconciliation of the Body of Christ. I believe the power of the Holy Spirit stands ready to move in a mighty way if Christians would do this work together.

Kris,

I don't think that the concerns expressed suggest  that there should be a table of pros and cons with a tally sheet included to make sure that for every negative a positive is presented.  Your question makes light of serious concerns the readers have.

What seems clearly to be missing as evidenced in part by the responses coming from the Rehoboth and Zuni church councils is that the circles of conversation did not invite some major components of the CRC mission efforts to participate.  If the DOD was to be connected to the CRC work anywhere, then CRC participants from those tribes should be part of the circles.  The real story of the CRC mission impact specifically in the Navajo and Zuni tribes of the American scene was not heard but blame was placed in part as guilt by association. 

I am not saying at all that the report's evidence from the past isn't true and regrettable.  But in many ways that has been addressed in the present by the forgiveness exercise at Rehoboth's anniversary as mentioned by another respondent.  And it has seriously been addressed by the actions of both campuses and ministries in modern times.  The leadership of both missions and the content of curriculum now reflects local leadership, culture, and expressions of Christianity.  That, by my estimation, is the best evidence of acknowledging that the past is now past. 

Another difficulty I have with the report is the equating of the Canadian and US experiences and the implied ties to the CRC. 

Trena Boonstra

 

 

Staci,

I thought I submitted a response yesterday.  But now I don't see it.  What happened to it? 

 

Trena

There's been some great discussion on this post and I'd love to see the conversation continue. Just a reminder that per the Comment Guidelines, please refrain from targeting CRC ministries or individuals in your comments. Thanks much! 

Is this where the conversation about the DOD is going to center? Is the main topic of our conversation going to be on if the report is balanced enough? 

The report does not say there were zero good intentions or there were zero positive outcomes in our history of missions in the Southwest. The report does not "deny" that side of the story or call it untrue as some comments imply.

The purpose of the report is to look at how culture economics and worldly values may have clouded our judgment in the past. I hope no one would deny it--that happened. 

Just like the prayer of confession during a worship service isn't the whole story of all of the gospel and all that God is up to in the life of that congregation this report isn't the whole story of world missions or the entire history of the CRC and it's interactions with culture in North America. At the same Synod where this report is discussed we will also celebrate the work of world missions world renew and many other CRC ministries. We will give thanks for what God has done and look forward to what God will do in and through us in the future. God will also be honored if we take time at Synod to confess our mistakes and make a plan to learn from them. 

It seems to me that no matter how thoroughly the DOD committee reviews the historical records, or how "balanced" it presents its results, or how pure its motives are towards some form of reconciliation, the exercise itself will inevitably be some form of historical revisionism.

As such it seems short-sighted to focus on the DOD. Perhaps it was fact that the papal bulls articulated some sort of rationalization for the obvious exercise of raw power in the subjugation of indigenous peoples in the new world. It gives us something to argue with, some words to declare true or false. 

But we should not be under any illusion that the treatment of indigenous people in the Americas was any different than the treatment of any people who somehow stood in the path of a powerful conqueror. Neither should we be under any illusion that the historical record of such events would have ever been written to make the victors look bad. That's what it means to be the victor: you get to be in charge of the narrative of what happened.  

That the version of the narrative written by the victors reads different from the version written by the victims goes without saying. That the experience of those who won felt different from the experience of those who lost goes without saying.

It so happens that the DOD makes for a convenient starting point. At this particular moment in history the stage was set for indigenous people in the Americas to fall victim to the all-powerful Europeans. But any historical revisionist worthy of the name would not stop there. Where did those "indigenous" people come from? And how many less fortunate tribes were slaughtered in their path as they migrated from Asia, via the Bering peninsula,  and into their new world?

The bible itself tells many stories of how God's people were able to settle the land of Canaan after they returned from Egypt. But how would the story of Jericho read from the point of view of its former residents? (not to mention the point of view of the citizens of the city of Ai) Or the story of Samson, from the point of view of the Philistines?

Historical revisionism is a tricky task for those who believe in the sovereignty of God. On the one hand we want to believe that history is the story of God working out His plan to redeem the entire world, and we point to the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Babylonians in biblical times to prove our point. On the other hand we want to sit in judgment of whatever more contemporary demographic realignments happened. The spread of Christianity using the roads of the Roman empire was good, even though many indigenous slaves died building those roads.  The crusades were bad because it set the stage for our present Middle East conflict. But getting the Moors out of Spain was good for it opened the way for.....wait for it.......the Spanish inquisition, which was bad. 

And therein lies another pitfall of historical revisionism: it is altogether too much like Monday Morning quarter backing. It has the feel of people who had no say in the game creating the illusion of power by declaring how the game should have been played.

It is also said that those who ignore history are more likely to repeat it. Perhaps we do well to learn of the consequences of our interventions in other people's lives, but only if we are prepared to adjust our present actions in the light of our findings. What does it mean to respect and affirm indigenous cultures today? What sorts of interventions are intrusive, and even hostile and destructive? What is being taught at Calvin Seminary today about cross-cultural ministry? How much does God want "them" to change, ....... and how much does God want "us" to change?

Just asking

John Vandonk

 

 

Pages