After more than 150 years of separation, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and the Reformed Church in America (RCA) will be meeting together in June on the campus of Central College in Pella, Iowa, to conduct at least one formal piece of business.
Although the CRC’s Synod 2014 and the RCA’s 2014 General Synod will be conducting their business separately for most of the time, they are set to worship and meet together and hold one plenary session to consider a joint resolution, says the Rev. Peter Borgdorff, deputy executive director of the CRC.
“This is a great idea and a challenge,” said Borgdorff. “We never had a joint synod like this. We will now be coming together for at least this one joint session.”
The synods will meet in an officially convened session on Saturday evening, June 14 to discuss the “Resolution of Relationship Between the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America.” Delegates from each synod will vote on the resolution separately.
The resolution asks churches to “reflect on the costs of the lack of faithfulness that have marked the history of separation of our two denominations” and asks churches to “celebrate the new realities being created through expanding initiatives of partnership between the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America.”
In addition, the resolution asks the churches to “declare that the principle that guides us, and the intention that motivates us, is to ‘act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel (us) to act separately.’”
It also instructs the Boards of Trustees of the CRCNA and the general Synod Council of the RCA, “in looking to the future relationship between our denominations, to be guided by this principle.” “We hope that this joint resolution will give spiritual energy to our partnership,” said Borgdorff.
Borgdorff emphasizes that the resolution is not one whose endpoint is a formal merger between the denominations. Instead, it is about the mission that the churches share now and for the future.
“This resolution is intended to convey to the community that we are serious about the journey we are on. We will have false starts, but we will learn and move forward. This is about the motif and not the details.”
In the last year, the denominations have launched what is called the Reformed Collaborative, an initiative that highlights the many ways that the CRC and RCA are already working together.
The denominations are sharing resources in some 60 areas, including disability concerns, disaster response and development, seminary education, leadership training, church planting and urban ministry, information technology services, employee health care services, and joint publications.
To spread the word about this collaboration, the Rev. Joel Boot, executive director of the CRC, and the Rev. Tom De Vries, general secretary of the RCA, traveled to 12 communities earlier this year to hold “spaghetti dinners” at which they discussed the collaboration with churches.
The term “spaghetti dinner” was a way of describing the informal nature of these meetings.
“We have been talking about the many places where engagement in missions is happening between us,” said De Vries in late April at the Prince Center on the campus of Calvin College here. “Collaborations are significant. As we share in many activities, we are able to more clearly see our foundation and that we are committed to a common cause.”
Also at these events, they shared stories and asked people to talk about their faith, touching on how by joining with members of the other denomination they can be “better together.”
In addition, they showed a video describing the Reformed Collaborative.
The CRC Synod 2014 and the RCA’s 2014 General Assembly open with a joint worship service on Thursday evening, June 12.