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In the past, the Office of Social Justice has spoken out on state and local issues including a ballot initiative to create more bus routes in Grand Rapids. If this is in fact a new policy, I am good with it. However, it will be important to hold the denominational staff accountable to this policy. 

Sincere question: how is this issue demonstrably different from Kinism which Synod recently took decisive action on? Were the Synodical Reports on Race and Racism given a different weight than those on Human Sexuality? 

The Confessions do not govern behavior of members nor are they intended to be an exhaustive guide to church discipline issues. They are intended to regulate the teaching of the church, meaning all office bearers, especially pastors are held accountable to them. If a pastor was, for example, preaching that glutony in certain context was a created good then yes, said pastor ought to face discipline up to and including deposition. 

It is worth noting that the elder statesmen of the denomination have been willing to speak strongly on issues such as climate change and immigration but have been mostly silent on the marriage issue in the U.S. and Canada. I am not sure if this has to do with their political leanings, those of key donors or something else? Whatever the case, there seems to be great apprehension to ruffle the feathers so to speak of more progressive constituencies over this issue.

I will say that it is crystal clear to me Henry. Again, just as we've established that Kinism is outside the bounds of Scripture and our Confessions, I would say that the same is true regarding revisionist views of human sexuality. The Confessions need not explicitly address race or racism etc. for us to discern that an ethical framework opposing interracial marriage is outside the bounds of our Confessions and historic small "c" catholicity of the church. In both cases, members may struggle with temptation to various degrees, but I am reasonably comfortable disciplining teachers who promote either one. 

Agreed. Reformed Polity while not a panacea against abuse is certainly one good layer of safeguard. In recent decades too many of our churches have chosen to defer to a more corporate staff model not only opening up potential for abuse, but also putting our Ministers in positions that they may be ill equiped for. 

I doubt that there are many (any?) in the church who would object to the type of work outlined here. The church has spoken out on human rights and established hospitals since the beginning. There is concern over "social justice" when defined as political advocacy especially when it appears to be closely wed to a secular ideology or political party i.e. statements often made by the likes of Franklin Graham or Jim Wallis. 

One part of the piece the strikes me is this excerpt:  "Many applaud when the denomination publicly speaks about abortion, same-sex issues, and medically assisted suicide. But when the topic is welfare rates, immigration, economic justice, and earth-care, the same people resort to “the church has no business telling politicians what to do!” What divides us is not the channels by which the denomination speaks to government and addresses politics. No, we divide on choice of topics and on what should be said. It is not about the messenger as much as the message. Our differences about the message will not be resolved by re-assigning the messenger."

If only this were true. While leaders of the CRCNA regularly speak out on immigration issues and attend Climate Change rallies, one would be hard pressed to show a time they took a stand on the marriage issue. In fact, I would say that they have pretty much dodged it. 

Now as to the issue of Calvin's 2 Kingdoms doctrine which seems to have been largely abandoned by the current generation of the clergy, I do not see it as at all abandoning the church's role in calling out social injustice. With regard to abortion, a competent minister ought to be able to proclaim the evil that is elective abortion from the pulpit. We can also make general statements calling on Congress or the Canadian Parliament to curb the practice. The problem comes in when the church endorses House Bill XYZ or suggests, as some do, that Christians need to call their Senators to confirm Judge So & So. Some may see this as a distinction without a difference. I see it as respecting the conscience of believers to have differing reasons for supporting or opposing various bills, judges etc. To point out the absurdity of the OSJ's positions, they have endorsed or opposed very specific tax and spending bills. Appropriations by definition require compromise between competing political factions. There is no discernible, biblical position as to what Corporate Tax Rates ought to be or what levels of funding the USDA should receive, yet the OSJ has spoken on them. 

Finally, I am a bit tired of Donald Trump being injected into these debates. I am far from a fan of this President, but I do not take seriously anyone who feels he represents an imminent threat to themselves, much less the Church nor does his election somehow justify practices on the part of our denominational elites many of us have criticized for the past couple decades. 

Glad to give credit for the quote where it is deserved :)

In all seriousness, Nick, you bring up the immigration issue. I would agree calls to base nativism would be an unbiblical attitude for a believer. However, virtually every modern nation-state has an immigration system and regulates who can emigrate and who cannot. I would contend this is a legitimate role of the state, consistent with Romans 13 we believers are not anarchists.

However, when we get into the word "restrictive" we are getting highly subjective. Even Donald Trump's proposals, which I do not support, would leave the U.S. taking in the most legal immigrants of any developed nation. As with Just War and other principles of government, we should expect the state to balance justice and mercy. I am neither a theologian nor an attorney, but the actual Synod report dealing with "Comprehensive Reform" seems to be a reasonable framework. That is I agree we should want mercy for neighbors whose only crime is entering the U.S. illegally sometimes decades ago. At the same time, we need to accept that at times people will be deported as laws are upheld and national security is maintained. As with Augustinian Just War principles, I think Christians can respectfully disagree on the specifics while agreeing on a framework. The problem is that the OSJ has often advocated in lock step with one side of the political aisle even at the expense of potential compromise on issues like DACA.  Frustration with this type of advocacy is where I see the other overtures coming from. 

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