I am an elder at Sonlight CRC, Lynden, WA
Posted in: CRC Pastor of the Decade
My friend Ken Koeman was not just the pastor of the decade--for me he was my pastor and friend for five decades. Post graduation from Calvin College in 1968, my wife Colleen and I moved to Ft. Wingate, NM to teach in a large Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school for Navajo kids. The Koemans, Ken and Kay, had just moved to Albuquerque to serve the Chelwood CRC. We stopped in on Fall Saturday, and thus started a 50 year friendship. The 125 mile distance between us did not diminish our relationship.
Fourteen years later, we moved back to our hometown in Lynden, WA, where the Koemans had accepted a call to Sonlight CRC. Now we were neighbors, and forever friends, a friendship so rich and deep. I miss him so very much, because he was also my pastor, even after he retired, I viewed him as such. I was honored to speak at his funeral, but more honored to be his friend. Thanks be to God!
Peter and others:
There is much to respond to, but will limit to four comments:
1. Your Task Force makes the very unfortunate assumption that people of our church are fully informed of the positive stories surrounding the CRC effort in the SW. Most are not, and will never become informed unless documents/reports like yours, if they are read, will tell the fuller story. Surely, you would not be pleased if CRC people only read your report, and thus carried around a distorted image of Indian missions for years and decades to come.
2. One of your writers clearly was trained in the craft of historiography, but what he chose to “cull” seems to have been set up by the narrative your task force chose to report. And his sources were clearly quite limited. Further, one of the writers was Mark Charles, who is not a trained historian, which his writing and speaking reflects.
3. I believe the communication from the Rehoboth CRC does a good job of showing that much of what you consider “bad” language is indeed biblical language. Further, words change meaning over time: Negro, Black, Colored, now people of Color? I recall a conference I attended where two speakers, both Indian/Native, were debating if they should be called Indian or Native—and they could not agree.
4. I wish your Task Force had driven around the Navajo Reservation, an area the size of the state of West Virginia, and driven to Pueblo Pintado, Toadlena, Pinon, Shonto, just a few of the remote areas of the Rez and asked a simple question—how will these Native children receive an education? I wish you would have driven just 30 miles on rutted, Reservation roads and considered whether a school bus could travel those roads, especially in rainy season or winter time? Where you aware that early Anglo missionaries sent their children away during their high school years to Grand Rapids, or Ripon CA, or Wasatch Academy boarding school? If the boarding school wasn’t an option—what ideas might your Task Force recommend? Or in your judgment, would the children, Native or Anglo, have been better off without an education?
Hmmmmm? "In knowing the fullness of our shared story in a spirit of grace and commitment to truth, we can know each other as the new family that Christ intended." So you say!
1. I might wish the report reflected the "fullness" of our shared story, including stories of God's redeeming work via the CRC in the Southwest among Navajo and Zuni people.
2. While your report is a worthy telling of an important part of our story, it seems to lack "a spirit of grace" toward missionaries and other workers, Native and non-Native, who did heroic work in trying to bring the gospel to Native people.
3. "A commitment to truth" means you are obligated to tell the whole truth. As the catechism teaches (Q and A 112 re false witness), we ought not "join in condemning anyone without a hearing" and we ought to "guard and advance [our] neighbor's good name."
It is my hope and prayer that if Synod discusses the report this summer or delays it for a year, they will include instruction to give the report more balance. That will disrupt your current narrative and may require a new or more representative task force, but the current report should not be approved. It doesn't measure up to quality historical work, or the fullness you claim to desire, or what the church deserves and needs.