Eric Nykamp is the Director of Worship Design at Madison Church's North Campus in Grand Rapids, MI. He also is the producer of the Antioch Podcast: Conversations About Biblical Antiracism.
Posted in: Blessed
I have no words to express my sorrow.
I know God is sovereign.
i know God calls us to live in unity.
I know God calls us to both speak the truth and speak it in love.
But on Sunday I will sit with people whose decisions will intensely impact the marginalized in society in extremely negative ways. Many do so in utter ignorance of the pain this decision has on people who don't look like them. It is mystifying to them.
And I know that the church has been called to reconcile around the table since its inception... but I would be lying if I didn't say that I think we have lost our way as a church... and I weep. Not metaphorically. I've been crying a lot these past few days, and not just weeping with those who weep. Weeping when I'm alone too.
I fear it will get much worse before it gets better.
Posted in: Belhar—Up, Down or Sideways?
I'm more concerned for what it could mean if we do not adopt the Belhar, what this could mean for our denomination. I have for a long time been concerned that our denomination has made really wonderful, and often interestingly written policy documents. Where I don't see us being very effective is in the area of developing church policy that guides how we interpret the Bible through our actions. I believe that if we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength that we need to take seriously that "faith without works is dead." If, as many are concerned about, the Belhar brings up issues that muddy the waters of the CRC coming out and officially condemning racism (which is hardly a controversial idea) ... we should boldy go and write a document that does so in a way that is acceptable. From my vantage point, our denomination has not had documents that clearly set forth a widely-held understanding that compels us to stand against or even recognize our own incivility towards other humans, or to speak to many of the social evils of our time now. We are more guided by political ideas than scripture, which I believe is sad. Did we have a theological understnding of justice to stand against moving Native Americans to reservations or later to boarding schools? Did our theology guide us to rise up against the racism that was rampant both in our own denomination and our society through the late 19th, 20th, and 21st century - racism that expressed itself through red-lining, mobs, and race-riots among other things? Have we taken to heart the scriptural precidents that have always fused our faith to caring for caring for the poor, widows, and immigrants in the contemporary debates over immigration and care for the poor with healthcare reforms in the United States? Have we confessed and taken seriously the divides in all our cities when we so often voluntarily segregate along racial lines on sunday mornings, when so many people of all colors worship the same God but do not choose to do so in the same pew? Does our denomination have widely accepted documents that help us avoid these kinds of sins, or do we feel that this is a tolerable place to remain comfortable and unchallenged? I pray that we do not. I pray we have the boldness to find ways to agree to live our faith in our socieities, with boldness and distinctiveness that is guided by scripture.
I fear that what will happen instead is that we vote it down and subsequent generations will see this as one more reason to continue to leave the denomination of their birth who seems to be retreating from speaking relevantly to the world we inhabit in this day and age.
I pray we will act with boldness. I fear we will not.