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The General Synod of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) begin meeting today at Central College in Pella, Iowa. It will be an historic event for the church as it is billed as the first since the 1857 division when the Christian Reformed Church split from the RCA. For some this fosters talk (and reaction!) of re-union and merger. (There has been extensive chatter here at the Twelve about this in the past.) Mostly it is an example of the broad reality of collaboration taking place across these two pretty similar denominations.
As a minister within the RCA I find this to be a very good thing, something we ought to celebrate. And as a delegate to General Synod I hope this can be more than inspirational dog and pony show trappings but an actual expression of what we believe and desire to live out.
That said, there will more than likely be ways of speaking about the church in the days ahead that will undoubtedly express our ministry and mission through the language of polarization and division. Partly this is a human tendency certainly, partly an aftereffect of our Reformed heritage, and especially the cultural context of this generation, we will divide ourselves as “us and them.”
We believe in unity and talk about it often enough, but we practice division and polarization.
Obviously for righteous reasons of course!
The “us and them” may sometimes be between the RCA and the CRC, but much more so are the divisions within our respective church bodies.
Therefore, going into this year’s General Synod I would like to lift up from our confessions two themes or attitudes. The first is our oft quoted First Question and Answer from the Heidelberg Confession:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
But I will also carry this one with me prominently:
Q. What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?
A. I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.
I want to remember that I and everyone else at synod or in our various churches belong to Jesus and his one holy catholic church. Simple enough, but certainly not easy.
Along with this, I’d like to request that we—myself included—not make everything about two sides. There is so much more.
Finally, I’d like to personally commend to you the following resource from Room for All, the video series entitled BODY AND SOUL: WE BELONG. Because lets face it, one of the elephants in the room that so many people seem so worried about deals with our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers, so here’s a helpful resource.
Now, I must get on the road. I have about 450 miles to cover before I get to Pella.