Sunday, April 25, 2010

SPAM-ATTACK!

The Returning Church blog has finally succumb to the SPAM ATTACK and much declare defeat! No, this is not the end of the Returning Church (see an interesting discussion about that on the Returning Church facebook page), but it does mean this avenue of communication is going to be ceased. The number of spam comments overwhelms any legit comments - it's become too cumbersome to manage. We apologize for the inconvenience.

We will keep the information and previous posts on this blog out there in cyber-space - so please stop back for reference. But any active discussions will be happening over at our facebook page - join us there. If you don't have facebook, join just for the Returning Church discussions. You control how sucked-in to the rest of facebook world you get.

Go to www.facebook.com, search for "Returning Church" and ask to join the group - you'll be in. You can also keep in touch by joining the email list - just send an email to returningchurch@yahoo.com. Speaking of keeping in touch - please do.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More on the Belhar...

In seeking for the CRC to be a confessional church, the proposed Belhar Confession certainly rises to the top of the issues discussed. We hope to pass along various resources evaluating the Belhar and balancing some of the information that has been passed on to the congregations in the CRC already. If we are to truly study and evaluate it, we need to have good information.

Below are two resources that will be beneficial to the discussion:

Belhar Overture - from Riverside CRC in Wellandport, ON
"Why Not Belhar?" - essay by Rev. Kevin De Young for Reformed Perspectives

Friday, December 04, 2009

Manhattan Declaration


Since one of the primary goals of the Returning Church is to encourage the CRC to be a committed confessional church, it's important to know what the means. Historically, for the CRC, this has meant understanding the Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and Canons of Dort) and the Three Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian) as faithful interpreting and reflecting the Scriptures and then standing upon this commitment.

Today, we seem to have many confessions/declarations/statements being made which pastors, churches and layfolk are beign asked to sign their names to in agreement. Most recently, the Manhattan Declaration has come out with good statements on the sanctity of human life, the fidelity of marriage and also religious liberty. There have been other such statements that have been floating around - certainly we know about the Belhar Confession in the CRC as of late. More liberal Reformed Churches have kicked around the Barmen Declaration (which isn't all that new). More conservative Reformed folks have signed their names to documents like the Cambridge Declaration, the Danvers Statement or the Chicago Statement. This just names a few.

Are these statements "confessional" in how we understand what it means to be a confessing church? Do they have a place in the life of the church? Do too many statements/confessions/declarations water down each other down - just become to much to digest? What do you think?

Winter Classis Meetings

The number of important topics and issues the CRCNA is dealing with on a denominational level at this time in history is a bit overwhelming. What are your churches and classes discussing or what should they be discussing right now??

Sunday, September 13, 2009

We're Still Here!

No, recently we haven't been posting any blogs... or is it blogging any posts... whatever. We've been watching others' blogs/websites/etc and, of course, just trying to keep up with the demands of local ministry.

We will be starting the process of planning for our spring event (yeah, summer's not even over yet and we're already thinking "spring" - we'll it's been cold here in West Michigan this summer). Any thoughts on speakers/topics would be appreciated. Our goal is help strength and encourage local CRC congregations to be Christ-adoring, lost-seeking, truth-loving, grace-extending, Word-centered, Bible-saturated and confessionally-Reformed. That's still pretty broad, but we've been encouraged by the results of our meetings over the past couple of years.

Most of the action in terms of events has been in West Michigan - but we would encourage congregations to meet together in other areas as well - to encourage one another and discuss the challenges and blessings facing us as a denomination and churches in general. If you're interested in networking in your area, let us know and we can try to help make some connections.

Friday, June 12, 2009

CRCNA Synod 2009


Pastor and elder delegates from classes all across the United States and Canada will begin converging on Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL, Friday, June 11, to convene Synod 2009. There are the usual items of business on the agenda: new candidates for ministry, budgets, appointments, agency and committee reports, etc. On top of that there seems to be quite a bit of business from the Inter-Church Relations Committee, headlined by the proposal to study the Belhar Confession (see earlier posts and comments on this topic) with an eye to approval as our fourth confession in 2012.


For more information on Synod, you can go to the official Synod web-site by clicking here. If you have time, you may be interested in watching a few moments of the live webcast - and I think Twitter and facebook will be buzzing with Synod news as well (every means of communication, but do we really have that much to say?!). If we receive any updates from the floor of Synod thoughout the week, we'll be sure to post them. Be certain to leave your thoughts and comments about the proceedings here as well. Yeah, even the Returning Church is on facebook if you prefer that format.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Thoughts on the Belhar

Since our previous post on the Belhar Confession there have been several comments made that are insightful and helpful. Recently, the Belhar Implementation Team from 1st Seattle CRC sent out a communcation with some of their research to the churches. We encourage you to take a look at that, as well as the study report from the Inter-Church Relations Committee (IRC) printed in the agenda for Synod. To give some balance to the evaluation you will find the following links helpful:

Kevin De Young in the RCA Church Herald
Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Kevin De Young Audio from 03.26.09


We were greatly blessed through Kevin De Young at CTS on March 26, 2009. Not only did we get a good analysis of the emergent church movement but also a challenge to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our churches. The audio is here. You can go to www.sermon.net/returningchurch to get the podcast, etc. This is the cleaned up version. For some reason the entire Q&A was not recorded. We apologize and wish we had it to give to you. Enjoy and feel free to share this with your friends and collegues.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Belhar Confession

It's been a couple of years since the CRC has been introduced to the Belhar Confession. We are supposed in a time of reflection and study to see if it would be appropriate to add this as a fourth "confession" along with the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession and Canons of Dort. Still, it seems that the Interchurch Relations Committee (IRC) certainly knows what we should do with it as seen in the title of their report: "The Belhar Confession: What the CRC Can Do with This Gift." If we view it as a gift, why wouldn't we accept it, right?!? (Yes, you correctly read a bit of facetiousness there). What are your thoughts about the Belhar? Is this something we need to adopt as confessional in status? Be assured that you won't be labelled a "racist" by offering a critique nor will you be tagged as a "liberal" is you find some merit. If you have any links to good reviews of the Belhar or if your church would like to share it's reponse, please post that here as well.

For a copy of the IRC's report to Synod, click here.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Details on March 26 "Not Emergent" Meeting


The meeting with Rev. Kevin De Young on March 26 will begin at 7:00 p.m. and is being held at the Calvin Seminary Auditorium in Grand Rapids, MI. Seating is first-come, first served. Ted Kluck, co-author with De Young of Why We're Not Emergent, will not be present due to a prior commitment. For more information, see the post below. If you would like a copy of the promotional poster, just send at email to returningchurch@yahoo.com.

Pastors' Gathering at the Piper Conference

Below is a letter from Rev. Jack Gray (Sully, IA, CRC) reporting on a small gathering of pastors during the Desiring God Pastors' Conference in Minneapolis at the beginning of February.


Dear Brothers,

Most of us CRC pastors who attended the John Piper Pastors’ Conference were truly inspired and energized by the event. It was great to hear God’s word straight and clear without any nuance to what God says. It is great to be in a company where God’s word is held without reservation. No 'Did God say . . . ?', but 'This is what the Lord says...' In my view this is the defining issue among us in the CRCNA, what we do with the Bible.


Eleven us present at Piper’s Pastors’ Conference went to dinner together on Tuesday night and two ideas surfaced in our discussion.


First, we are aware of Reformed Churches and their leaders who do not like the drift they are seeing in their denominations. Perhaps this idea was spawned because of the next speakers coming to address the Michigan Returning Church movement from University RCA. “Why We’re Not Emergent” is a great topic presented by men, Kevin De Young and Ted Kluck, who likely share our vision for Reformed orthodoxy, though I do not know these men’s views personally. Should we open the Returning Church to RCA pastors and congregations who desire to see their denomination also return to a solid foundation of Biblical, Reformed thinking?


Second, many of us find great support in events like Piper’s Pastors’ Conference, R. C. Sproul’s Conferences, the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, and others like them. We are looking outside the CRCNA for guidance, direction, and support. We can all cite reasons for the drift in the CRCNA, but one of them in my judgment was the immersion of pastors and leadership persons from congregations who were paid to attend events at the Crystal Cathedral or Willow Creek. This shifted focus from our great gift to the body of Christ—solid, Biblically Reformed thought— to other priorities that now drive the CRCNA agenda. Could we find some benefactors who would support pastors and church leaders to attend the conferences and events that are so encouraging and uplifting to us? I discovered on the last day of the Piper Pastors’ Conference from one of their staff people that the reason many churches have several people there is that they consider all elders to be pastors. Could we arrange for some persons to finance pastors and their church leaders to attend conferences like these that stress our Biblically Reformed theology and faith? If we could, we might significantly influence the atmosphere of our congregations and eventually our denomination.


We wish you Michigan Returning Church men well in the upcoming event at Calvin Seminary and the Philadelphia Conference. I went to the Philadelphia Conference several times the years I served in New England, and then several us started a conference patterned after it that is still going. We need the camaraderie and mutual support to stand strong for our Reformed faith in the current church culture of our time.

For the preachers have a great day Sunday as you bring God’s word, which is after all, what we really are—preachers of God’s great word. For you who listen Sunday, keep praying and working for the church to return to its historic Biblical Reformed roots.


Yours, Jack

Friday, January 16, 2009

RETURNING CHURCH EVENT: "Why We're Not Emergent"

“You can be young, passionate about Jesus Christ, surrounded by diversity, engaged in a postmodern world, reared in evangelicalism and not be an emergent Christian. In fact, I want to argue that it would be better if you weren’t.”

Some of you may be asking, "What is the emergent church?" Others of you may be interacting with emergent Christians every day. The emergent church is a strong voice in today’s Christian community. And they’re talking about good things: caring for the poor, peace for all men, loving Jesus. They’re doing church a new way, not content to fit the mold. Again, all good. But there’s more to the movement than that. Much more.

The Returning Church has invited Rev. Kevin DeYoung (University RCA, East Lansing, MI) to speak the evening of THURSDAY, MARCH 26 (preceding the PCRT Conference in Grand Rapids area) at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of Calvin Theological Seminary. Watch for more details to come. Seating is first-come, first-served.

Kevin and Ted are two guys who, demographically, should be all over the emergent church movement. But they’re not. They've co-authored a book called "Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be)." They also have a web-site: http://www.notemergent.com/. Check that out for more information. We hope to see you there - and your young people. This event will be especially applicable for the younger generations - but something we all need to be aware of.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Conference Season

On the liturgical calendar, the time after Christmas and Epiphany is labelled "Ordinary Time." Maybe we should call it conference season. It seems that as winter lingers people are looking for something to do - so bring on the conferences. One goal of the Returning Church is to encourage the local congregations with good, biblical teaching. Highlighting conferences that draw deeply from the Word is a way to do that.

We've chosen not to highlight conferences within the CRC - we all have access to that information through The Banner. The conferences listed below broadens our perspective throughout the Reformed, evangelical family.

Here are some great conferences that are coming up for both pastors and for layfolk. As you know, it would be impossible to attend all of them - so if you do get there, share your thoughts and observations in the comments below. Also, if you are attending any conference, please leave you name in the comments section along with the conference you're attending - it is always good to connect with other at these conferences.



GENERAL CONFERENCES:

Ligonier National Conference
March 19-21 in Orlando, FL
Theme: The Holiness of God
(pre-conference on Calvin's 500th birthday)

Speakers: Thabiti Anyabwile, Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, Steven Lawson, Albert Mohler, R.C. Sproul Jr., R.C. Sproul, Derek Thomas

Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals)
March 13-15 in Sacramento, CA
March 27-29 in Grand Rapids, MI*
April 17-19 in Greenville, SC
May 1-3 in Philadelphia, PA
Theme: "Right with God: the Doctrine of Justification"
Speakers: Jerry Bridges, Ligon Duncan, Michael Horton, Steven Lawson, Al Mohler, Richard Phillips and/or Philip Ryken.

*Hosted by 1st CRC, Byron Center. The Returning Church will also be holding pre-conference event again this year the evening of Thursday, March 26. Please watch for dedicated post coming for more information.

Ligonier West Coast Conference (& Cruise)
September 28-October 2 in Seattle, WA
Theme: The Resurrection of Christ
Speakers: R.C. Sproul



PASTORS' CONFERENCES

Desiring God Conference for Pastors*
February 2-4 in Minneapolis, MN
Theme: "Commending Christ: the Pastor, the Church and the Perishing"
Speakers: John Piper, Mark Dever, Michael Oh

*The Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is holding a pre-conference event with D.A. Carson in Minneapolis the morning of February 2. Click here for more information.

Workshops on Bibilical Exposition (The Simeon Trust)
February 4-6 in Philadelphia, PA
February 23-25 in Madison, WI
March 17-19 in Spokane, WA
March 24-26 in Calgary, AB
March 25-27 in Toronto, ON
March 31-April 2 in New Castle, PA
May 13-15 in Wheaton, IL
September 29-October 1 in McMinnville, OR*
Theme: Recovering the Centrality of God's Word, Preached Expositionally
Speakers: varies by location (Phil Ryken, David Helm, Kent Hughes, Barry Webb, D.A. Carson to name a few)

*Co-hosted by Sunrise CRC

Entrusted with the Gospel (The Gospel Coalition)
April 21-23 in Chicago, IL
Theme: "Living the Vision of II Timothy"
Speakers: Bryan Chapell, D.A. Carson, John Piper, K. Edward Copeland, Ligon Duncan, Mark Driscoll, Phil Ryken, Tim Keller, Ajith Fernando, etc.

Basics 2009 (Truth for Life)
May 11-13 in Cleveland, OH
Theme: Expository Preaching
Speakers: John Piper, Allistair Begg, John Lennox

Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference
May 26-28 in Grantham, PA
Speakers: Sinclair Ferguson, Alistar Begg, etc.


And just to dream a little... The Calvin Quincentenary in Paris, Strasbourg, Bern and Geneva... June 30-July 10, 2009 - celebrating John Calvin's 500th birthday.


If you know of others that would be good to recommend, please leave it in the comment's section.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rev. Jeff Voorhees (1971-2008)

Some of you may have heard already, but on Friday, November 21, Rev. Jeff Voorhees of Drenthe CRC, MI, was killed in a automobile accident. He leaves behind his wife Kate and their four children; Calvin, Hannah, Felicity and Gabriel - ranging in ages from 9 mos to 6 years. Before taking the call to Drenthe a big year ago, Jeff served at Pine Creek CRC in Holland, MI. Needless to say this has been devastating to Kate and their family and also very difficult for the Drenthe Church. Jeff was also active in the Returning Church discussions, having a head and heart for both the truth of the Gospel and the lost. Pray for the Voorhees family as well as Drenthe Church, calling upon our good God's grace, mercy and comfort for them.

If you would like to read more about what has happened - and even how God is already using this for His glory - you can go to one of the following links and search by name:

Drenthe CRC (includes information on memorial fund for family)
Holland Sentinel
WXMI Fox 17 News (search "pastor," "Voorhees" and "Drenthe" in videos)
Grand Rapids Press

Monday, October 27, 2008

Third Wave Pentecostalism

Synod 2007 took up the first Third Wave Pentecostalism reports but withheld action because they failed to provide "sufficient biblical study and theological reflection on key aspects of the third wave movement." The task was recommitted to a "beefed up" study committee which will be presenting this new report to Synod 2009.

What are your thoughts and comments on the report specifically or on the whole topic in general?

Click here for a copy of the updated report.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Revitalitzation or Rejection??

In a comment to the previous post Dave Watson from Kent, WA, brought up a good discussion point that warrants its own post. He asks:

"I guess I'm just wondering whether The Returning Church group (I realize it's not a very tightly knit organization) is going to have a somewhat lasting impact on the CRC or if you are just going to move on to greener fields when you can't stomach the direction of the CRC leadership anymore (like the URC folk)."

Those involved with the Returning Church discussions have stated their commitment to the CRC and bringing revitalization to the denomination. Being an unorganized "organization" the Returning Church has so far sought to be a forum for networking and sharing ideas as well as encouragement. How can this best be done in the CRC? What sort of "lasting impact" do you see the Returning Church discussions having... if any? Or are we just setting ourselves up to bolt from the CRC and form yet another Reformed denomination/federation/fellowship??

This discussion is open to anyone and given the looseness of the Returning Church organizationally, your thoughts and reflections are very important in determining where this should all go in the future.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Summer Youth Conventions/Camps


Summer youth conventions/camps have been almost ritual for our high school youth for the last many years. Some of the churches involved in these discussions have attended the Youth Unlimited convention in Bozeman this past weekend and others the Reformed Youth Service (RYS) covention in Minneapolis last week... maybe your congregation went somewhere else, like a Young Life camp or wherever. Your eyewitness reports would be very helpful to all of us. We would love your comments, evaluations - good/bad/etc, especially as we are thinking about faith formation as a denomination. What role does "convention" play?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blogging from the Floor #5

Well, Synod 2008 is over... we finished Thursday night around 9:30 p.m. It was good to finish the week of business and talking (and talking and talking) with a time of worship and prayer together. But before we got to the finish line there was a bit of a long sprint...

We had a lot of business to cover, but the officers thought we could get it done by Thursday. We did a bunch of house-keeping items throughout the day - like ratifying the work of the synodical deputies. One interesting note - since last year 2 became ministers via article 7 (exceptional giftedness), 25 via article 8 (other denominations - mostly Korean) and 43 became ministry associates (which is a wide range from evangelists to youth pastors to music directors).

There was an overture requesting that an option be provided at the synodical worship service for delegates to receive the elements from males only. Interestingly, the first recommendation from the Advisory Committee was not to accede to the overture, yet their second recommendation was to urge the convening church to show sensitivity to both views on women-in-church-office - which, as the overture's author stated, was what they were asking for. I'll tell you, when an Advisory Committee does their work clearly and thoroughly, there is little discussion. But when they try to muddy things up - the flood gates open... which is what happened here. We spent much more time talking about the whole women-in-church-office issue than the agenda would have led us to believe. But it needed to be done during this "historic" synod. I believe the point came across that we still officially believe the historic biblical position on this is valid. It seems many people had forgotten that.

Other things we did were to adopt a resolution to challenge the president of Zimbabwe on his treatment of the people there. Both the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa and Reformed Church of Zambia representatives pleaded with us for our prayers and action. Sounds like just an awful situation there - so if you know any political representatives in the U.S. or Canada, give them a call.

We also recommitted the Abuse Victims Task Force report back for another year of fine tuning and further study. This issue is too big - spiritually, emotionally and legally - to rush into.

The most tenuous issue for the day was the revised recommendation from the Interchurch Relations Advisory Committee regarding our relationship with the Protestant Churches of the Netherlands (PCN). Like I said earlier, we, in what they thought would just be procedural housekeeping, ended up completely severing our relationship with the PCN and couldn't find a way to approve re-establishing it within our current ecumenical charter. So the Advisory Committee came with another muddy proposal - the PCN won't be in full ecclesiastical fellowship or in ecclesiastical dialogue (our only two categories currently) - it will be somewhere in between or something completely other or who knows. The recommendation kind of left it up to the Interchurch Relationships Committee and Peter Borgdorf. Many of us weren't comfortable with that, but I think the Synod was "smelling the barn" - to quote Jerry Dykstra - and didn't have the energy to go through another lengthy debate. This was approved - but I don't think many really know what it means.

We approved a new Form of Subscription revision committee - looks like a good slate. We'll just have to wait for what they come up with. Mark January 1, 2010 on your calendars!

The Advisory Committee for the Candidacy Committee responded to overtures regarding Article 8 and 23 by basically saying, "Let's wait and see how the new director of Candidacy does." I think this is probably a good approach. There is a tension between the centralization of the process and grassroots development of leaders. I received the impression that the new director, David Koll, has received this message. So nothing has changed in regard to these routes to ministry. Just a note - the Candidacy Committee is engaging in some discussions about article 23... so give them your input!

As I was walking back to the dorm to pack up my things and head home I bumped into the pastor of a Samoan congregation in California. He joined the CRC just a few years ago and is actively working on drawing ten other Samoan congregations into the CRC. He came to the CRC, he said, because He loved our theology, our creeds, our confessions - our love for the Word of God. He loved our high standards (and is insulted by the talk of minorities needing an easier route to ministry). He said, "Don't lower your standards and never give up on the truth." Of everything that happened at Synod I don't think God could have encouraged me more than with this wise man's words. Why is God blessing us by drawing men & women like him and congregations into the CRC? I don't dare presume to know God's eternal decrees, but could He through them be calling our attention back to our first love - Him... His Word... His Son, our Savior? Let's pray that He does.

Chad Steenwyk
delegate from Classis Holland - signing off...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blogging from the Floor #4.2

Wow, it's taking three posts to cover the whole of Wednesday at Synod 2008. Just a couple of more things:

The Board of Trustees had recommended that only one name be required to be presented to Synod for the various board positions throughout the denomination. This would mean that a simple yes or no vote would happen rather than voting between two persons. The rationale was that it is difficult to get people to commit themselves to the long process of nomination. The Advisory Committee ended up actually going against the B.O.T. on this saying it would give the impression of more centralization (I would argue that it would actually be more centralization). I was glad to see they recognized that in principle at least. Synod passed the committee's recommendation and will be voting between two nominees in the future. Granted, just going through this yesterday, there were many individuals I did not know and had to make a prayerful decision based on what information had been given to me so far. But if the agencies, committees and B.O.T. give names of appropriately gifted, qualified persons to Synod, then it at least gives the churches input into which way they would want these agencies to go. The other related item of business was that Synod approved the B.O.T.'s recommendation to eliminate the alternate positions - just for the B.O.T. itself.

It's amazed me how just-below-the-surface the whole issue of women-in-church-office is. Now, I said this before, but personally I have found the tenor here to be very respectful - maybe even cautious. Particularly, women delegates have been gracious. Some of the men seem to think they need to be the knight in shining armor though. There was a recommendation from the B.O.T. to eliminate the Women Advisers now that women can be delegates directly. They gave a straight forward recommendation which the advisory committee felt compelled to amplify with celebratory language. This, of course, was binding on the consciouses of several delegates and led to another lengthy discussion - but one that continues to be needed. How can delegates who have a complementarian view vote that their classes should encourage the full participation of women at Synod. That was the first recommendation, which passed.

The next recommendation dealt specifically with eliminating the women advisers. Again, the committee added some unnecessary language - which this time was eliminated after the motion was defeated. A pared down version was approved, thereby eliminating the position of women advisers (by the way - 8 women advisers have served Synod for many years, en lieu of delegates - a compromise from years back). I spoke against the motion from a different angle. I know women from a complementarian perspective will never serve as elders and deacons - not because they are being held down, but because of their own godly, biblical convictions. Yet, I think in an advisory role, they could be a beautiful light for truth at Synod meetings. Interestingly, many came up to me afterwards and thanked me for that perspective. There seems to be an assumption that all women who are serious about their service to God's church aspire to be deacons and elders - oh, we have some wonderful ladies for them to meet! Maybe more on this as Synod approaches next year.

Well - off to another day... possibly the last, but those things can never be predicted.

Chad Steenwyk
delegate from Classis Holland

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blogging from the Floor #4.1

It's amazing how quickly it is 11:00 p.m. over at Synod - lots of talking. I'll be looking forward to a week of vacation and some good child banter. We didn't take up the issue of the PCN again tonight, which was a relief for most, I think. The Advisory Committee has to go back to work with the IRC to come up with another option. We'll find something on our tables tomorrow, I'm sure.

Tonight we took up the issue of the Form of Subscription. We've written and posted quite a bit on this topic here (check older posts). There ended up being 10 overtures and 1 communication - all against the proposed changes. The Advisory Committee did a great job evaluating the complexity - and seriousness - of this issue. They identified it as a rock bed foundation of what holds us together. They recommended that the whole matter be re-committed to a new Synod appointed study committee (as opposed to the study task force which was appointed by the Board of Trustees that came up with the proposed Doctrinal Covenant). This passed overwhelming with little debate.

The Synod was then quite firm that it wanted to appoint the committee and whole-heartedly turned down a motion to have the B.O.T. appoint a new one. Anyway, the recommendation passed and the new study committee of 11 will be appointed tomorrow morning from suggestions we gave tonight (so if any of you get calls - say "yes"). That commmittee will present a revision - not a document that alters the meaning of the FOS - to the churches by January 1, 2010. They'll have 18 months to gather input before it has to be presented to Synod 2011. Sounds like a long time out, but this is how long the old committee wrestled with it - and still completely misread the denomination. We actually spent more time on trying to determine the make-up of the committee than we did debating the recommendation - so many were against what was being proposed - HALLELUJAH!

Earlier today we heard from fraternal delegates from the RCA, Associate Presbyterian Reformed Church and the CRC in Nigeria - all good reports, however, the APRC guy was just hillarious... had to be there. But I've said we need to do more church planting in the south! The APRC is centered in South Carolina.

There are some more things to mention, but check back tomorrow. Time for bed here.

Chad Steenwyk
delegate from Classis Holland

Blogging from the Floor #4.0

Since I reported late last night I'm reporting early today. The big topic of the day (all day in fact) has been our relationship to the Protestant Churches of the Netherlands. For many out there you may say, "Why would that be a big deal??" Well, there is a huge historical connection between the CRC and the PCN (which was formerly the GKN, our "mother" denomination, so to speak). Anyway, the Interchurch Relations Committee was asking that we establish full ecclesiastical fellowship with the PCN. When it was the GKN (which merged with two other denominations to form the PCN) we restricted our relationship because they began ordaining practicing homosexuals and there are some questins on how they view Christ (click here if you're interested in some of what they believe and practice on this). Now, under the CRC's new ecumenical charter which promotes broader and less restricted relationships, the IRC would like those restrictions removed.

With underlying practices such as those, you can imagine there was a ton of debate. That began in the Advisory Committee as they ended up with both a majority and minority report basically as follows:

  • Majority Report: enter into full ecclesiastical fellowship with the PCN
  • Minority Report: enter into a relationship of dialogue with the PCN

Full ecclesiastical fellowship is a deeper relationship which allows for fellowship at the Lord's Supper together and exchange of pulpits. Dialogue means just that - a talking relationship. So do we overlook these differences in the spirit of Christian unity or do we continue to send the message we've been sending them that their practice is sinful - but we're willing to maintain contact in the hopes that God's Word will prevail in the future.

Over the course of the debate, it came out from a poll done in the Netherlands that 14% of the pastors in the PCN consider themselves atheist or agnostic. Yes, you read that right. 39% of PCN pastors cannot deny the statement that God is a figment of human thought... eek!

But it was also reported that the percentage of atheist pastors is going DOWN (correction from earlier) and the number of orthodox pastors is rising - so God is bringing some hope there... Praise the Lord!

Procedurally, there were a couple of recommendations. The first was to declare the restricted relationship with the GKN moot with respect to the PCN because it was in effect a new denomination. That passed - so we didn't have any officially relationship with the PCN. Next the majority report to establish full fellowship was table almost immediately and the minority report taken up. That was debated for a long time but then defeated by less that 10 votes. The majority report was taken off the table and discussed for quite a while again, but that was also defeated, but a little more than 10 votes. So back to the drawing board - and for a few hours today we have no relationship with the PCN - the committee is meeting to come up with a third option - however, our new ecumenical charter doesn't have a third option... so what'll they come up with next???

More than the specific relationship to this church is what does this mean for the CRC. Does hopping in bed with the PCN give defacto credence to homosexual practice and loose Christology?? Or is it our opportunity to be a witness to them? I guess if we look back on the 20 or 30 years of strained relationship we've had - trying to be a witness to them - have we had more effect on them for orthodoxy or they on us for liberalism? An unrestricted relationship would only give us more of the same.

On top of that, what does our relationship with them convey to our local congregations?? To other denominations (the fraternal delegates from the CRC in Nigeria were fairly vocal about this in the gallery)... to our communities?? Lots of implications.

I won't go through all the debates, but the parallel I drew was to I Corinthians 5:9-13. If that doesn't speak here, it doesn't speak anywhere. Of course, we speak the truth in love... but we still speak the truth. But does God's Word mean that much to these kind of debates?? By now you know my answer to that question... maybe I should make that a motion on the floor to see what Synod thinks on that. More later....

Chad Steenwyk
delegate from Classis Holland

Blogging from the Floor #3

Sorry to all for not reporting in last evening - sort of feels like I'm in college again! We had a gathering of folks last night that turned into a great time of encouragement and fellowship. I just hope I don't fall asleep in Western Civ again today... wait... fast forward 15 years... in plenary session.

Yesterday was the first full day of plenary sessions. I'm not going to report on every detail or decision, but I'll describe the day the way I did to Roxanne VanFarowe from the Banner; "respectful." Particularly when it comes to the women-in-church-office issue there has been a good spirit. Joe VandenAkker from Classis Minnkota (the Classis that was sort of slapped on the wrist Monday night for sending a Communication as a classis that they were sending delegates in protest of the seating of women at Synod) set a motion to clarify that Church Order states classes may send Communications on pretty much anything. Synod doesn't have to act on them but may just receive them for information. That's what should have been done Monday evening. That led to some good discussion - rather lengthy - longer than it should have been had we acted correctly the night before. But basically the principle from Synod 2007 of making room was applied and the Advisory Committee that slapped the wrist had, as one delegate put it, "their noses smacked with the newspaper."

We spent yesterday rummaging through a whole bunch of business - probably the biggest thing was the proposed changes to the Contemporary Testimony. It was decided to not take amendments from the floor - which I guess happened back in 1986 and accounts for much of the cumbersome language for the now old CT. Some were concerned with what seemed like political statements toward the end of the document and also that the churches hadn't had much time to review the most recent revisions. Regardless, it passed.

We spent some time giving input to the Faith Formation Commmittee over lunch - particularly in regards to children at the Lord's Table and I Corinithians 11. We also interviewed and approved Mary VandenBerg as a new professor of systematic theology. I'd like to write more but my suitemate is breathing down my neck to go for breakfast. I'll be back!

Chad Steenwyk
delegate of Classis Holland

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blogging from the Floor #2

Monday was another packed day - lots of committee work and it seems like most of the advisory committees were pushed right up until dinner - which was an incredible picnic on the president of Calvin College's back lawn. He knows how to throw a party!

Plenary sessions began this evening - it felt good to get some business under our belts. Most items warranted little discussion. 53 candidates were approved for Minister of the Word and Sacrament. They explained that the number is artificially high because a recent change in the program. We will be welcoming them Tuesday morning. We also approved the retirement of 41 pastors - just imagine all the lives that have touched for Christ through all their years of ministry.

Two items did garner some chatter though. One was the overture from Classis Zeeland encouraging an evening worship service. They requested Synod to encourage the practice of an evening worship service. It was a very good discussion, although fairly brief. No one who spoke seemed to dismiss it as being antiquated or anything like that - although some informal chatter around Synod leaned that way. The point came across that we need to gather for worship and not neglect the means of grace. The recommendations from the advisory committee highlighted what Synod 1996 said:

a. "Synod affirms the rich tradition of assembling for worship twice on the Lord's Day and encourages existing congregations to continue and new congregations to embrace this tradition for the building up of the body of Christ."
b. "Where congregations are exploring alternatives to the second service, synod encourages those congregations to ensure that such alternatives are part of a strategic ministry plan with full accountability to their classis."

The Reporter from the advisory committee emphasized the last line of point b. above - the need to hold each other accountable in our classes. It was good to hear the Synod using those words - now it's up to us to encourage that among one anothers congregations.

The only other issue that caused some conversation was a Communication from Classis Minnkota that said they were sending their delegates in protest to the seating of women at Synod this year. The advisory committee basically said that this was the wrong way to go about it and that the individual delegates should have registered their protest on their credentials instead - point noted for the future. However, it did seem a bit dismissive since a Classis can really send a Communication about anything it wants - as serious or silly as the matter is.

Tomorrow will be a full day of plenary sessions... thank you for your prayers.

Chad Steenwyk
Delegate from Classis Holland

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Blog from the Floor #1

Well, o.k., we're not in session on the Lord's Day (even after one day it was a welcome break - what'll we do by Thursday!), but we'll be blogging about the events from the floor of Synod. After orientation for the new delegates (57% of the delegates are first-timers) on Friday evening, Synod met Saturday morning for its first plenary session. We spent a couple of hours going through introductions and trying to figure out the electronic voting system - which as the I.T. folks said is about 120 years old in technology years, but seems to work o.k.

The only signficant action was the election of officers. Several were nominated but Joel Boot from Ridgewood CRC in Jenison, MI, was elected president and Thea Leunk from Eastern Ave CRC in Grand Rapids, MI, was elected vice-president. Les Kuipers and Laryn Zoerhof were elected 1st and 2nd clerk respectively. Elections went quite smoothly - except the fact that there were cheers after Thea was elected V.P. I understand the "historic" nature of this synod, but it's always good to reverse situations like that to see how "rub-it-in-your-face" it can be. Suppose a staunch conservative who was vocally opposed to the ordination of women was elected an officer and there was cheering - more than a few would be hurt or even offended. Now I know, people are going to go on about how long they've waited for this moment. I understand that fully... but the fact is, we say there are two equally valid interpretations of Scripture on this issue. That fact that clapping only occurred after her election makes the motivation clear (I do have to take that back a bit - after Les Kuiper was elected 1st clerk there was some clapping... but that may be because his name was listed as Leslie Kuiper...hmmm). It is out of place, immature and rude to celebrate it knowing people are, as a matter of biblical principle, grieving this time. With that said, most of those who are not comfortable with this say they are making every effort to work with all of those who have been delegated to Synod and I've seen nothing contrary to that. It just makes for some awkward situations that we're going to have to learn to deal with.

The rest of the day was filled with advisory committee meetings - that will produce more action over the coming week. A few evangelical and more conservative delegates met Saturday after the day was concluded for mutual support and encouragement. This was a blessed time - as was this day of worship! It is good to be re-rooted in why we are here - to serve the Lord and His Church! So pray that we all sense the joy that surely comes with that task.

Chad Steenwyk
delegate for Classis Holland

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blogging from Synod

Several pastors who have been involved in the Returning Church movement will be attending Synod 2008 as delegates. We will be posting blog entries periodically throughout the week. Synod is alway interesting and what happens there affects the whole denomination. If you have any thoughts for us in return, leave them as comments. So check back here throughout all of next week - not just for information, but primarily so you will be able to pray more specifically.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Synod '08


The CRCNA Synod will begin meeting Friday, June 13 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and run until Saturday, June 21. Please keep the delegates and all the deliberations in your prayers. The focus of attention by many is on what will happen with the status of the Form of Subscription (a.k.a. Doctrinal Covenant of Office-Bearers) - and more importantly, the confessional/biblical foundation of the CRC. Also, this is the first year women will be seated as delegates - a matter to be kept in your prayers as well. There are certainly many more issues that need our prayers. You can keep up-to-date on the schedule and happenings - even watch a live web-cast beginning the first Saturday of Synod - by clicking here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More FOS Overtures

It looks like the discussion over the proposed revision of the Form of Subscription is going on all over the CRC. This is wonderful and a vast majority of the overtures and communcations coming out of the churches and classes demonstrate a strong desire to maintain confession unity in the CRC. Keep in prayer for the delegates of Synod this summer as they deliberate over this (as well as many other matters).

All of the overtures that we have posted previously have been compiled, along with some others, in the Agenda for Synod 2008. Go to page 235 for the study committee report and 288 for the first of the overtures.

Additional overtures and communications have been submitted after the printing of the agenda. They can be seen by clicking here. The overtures begin on page 69.

Other updates and additions will probably be posted. Those can be found by periodically checking here. Also, for some of the other response letters sent by church councils, scroll through previous posts on this blog.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Report on April 17 Meeting

We had a good meeting in Byron Center, MI, on April 17. Dr. Robert Swierenga set the tone for the evening by giving an historical sketch of the use of the Form of Subscription, primarily in the Dutch Reformed Churches, to which the CRC has historical ties. Over the years, different denominations have watered down their FOS resulting in similar results across the board: a move away from Scriptural truth. In fact, there is not one example of a denomination disconnecting from its confessional foundation that is flourishing today. Just the opposite is true. His conclusion was that a FOS does not guarantee orthodoxy, however without a FOS orthodoxy is impossible. Why should we be so arrogant to think that we can repeat the same behavior as many others have done and expect different results -isn't there a word for that...?

The whole discussion of the FOS was framed by the issue of truth; what place does truth have in our congregations - especially in light of the post-modern society in which we live. The panel included Dr. Swierenga and Revs. CJ denDulk (Trinity CRC, Sparta, MI) and Tom Groelsema (1st CRC, Byron Center, MI). They fielded a variety of questions from the audience of about 70 or so on the topic at hand. Although many things were discussed, it came down to the vital need we have for the truth of God's Word. The confessions offer to us a unity around Scripture that allows us to go about the work of Christ in His kingdom. There was a common concern that this unity would disipate if the proposed Doctrinal Covenant was adopted by Synod this summer.


It was also encouraging to have Rev. Duane Kelderman from Calvin Seminary present, as well as a number of seminarians. Rev. Kelderman was not an official representative of CTS, but he did offer words of encouragement and solidarity. He noted that the seminary is very concerned about watering down our confessional foundation (which can be seen in the most recent edition of the CTS Forum).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Returning Church Meeting in April

The Returning Church will be holding a meeting in Michigan on Thursday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. We will again be hosted by 1st CRC in Byron Center.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss "The Vibrancy of Confessionalism" and the place of biblical truth in our local congregations. Dr. Robert Swierenga (Research History Professor at the VanRaalte Institute and CRC member) will be giving a brief background on the role of the Form of Subscription in the Reformed churches to set a starting point for maintaining biblical truth in a denomination. His speech will be followed by an open forum/panel discussion on the broader topic of the place of biblical truth in our local congregations and the role of our confessions. In light of rampant post-modernism - even an all-out assault on truth - in our society and even in our churches, this topic could not be more timely.

There is no need to preregister but PLEASE HELP US GET THE WORD OUT. You can cut and paste this posting and email it to your friends and fellow church members. You can also print off and copy a half-page bulletin insert/flier (MS Word) to be passed around by clicking here.

P.S. This conference is held on the eve of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (see posting under "Conferences 2008!" below). So if you are from outside West Michigan, make it a weekend. You can find more information on the PCRT by going to www.alliancenet.org.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Overtures/Communications Related to the Form of Subscription/Covenant of Ordination

There have been several overtures and communications working through church councils and classes in the past several months. Here are a few of them. If you know of others, please comment and we'll post them here.

Classis Alberta North - overture requesting Synod to reject the proposed Covenant of Ordination (Scroll down through classis agenda)
NEW: Classis Columbia - overture rejecting the proposed Covenant of Ordination.
Classis Holland - overture re-emphasizing confessional unity in the denomination
Classis Minnkota - overture requesting Synod to reject the proposed Covenant of Ordination
Classis Zeeland - overture re-emphasizing the Form of Subscription (see Agenda below)

NEW: Also, there are also overtures and communications listed in the 2008 Agenda for Synod from Classes Northcentral Iowa, Iakota and Lake Superior and Erie. Click here for a PDF version of the agenda.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Conferences 2008!

Attending a conference is a great way to get good, solid biblical teaching and also broaden your perspective of Christ's church. There are several good conferences this spring - and most of them aren't just for pastors! If you have any others to add to the list, please post a comment. Here are some links:
  • February 4-6 Desiring God (John Piper) National Pastors' Conference, Minneapolis, MN: "The Pastor as Father and Son"
  • February 29-3/2 PCRT (Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology), Sacramento, CA: "Precious Blood: Christ's Atoning Work"
  • March 13-15 Ligonier National Conference, Orlando, FL: "Evangelism According to Jesus"
  • April 4-6 PCRT, Atlanta, GA: "Precious Blood: Christ's Atoning Work"
  • April 15-17 T4G (Together for the Gospel), Louisville, KY
  • April 18-20 PCRT, Grand Rapids, MI: "Precious Blood: Christ's Atoning Work" There will again be a Returning Church event the evening before the PCRT begins. Watch the blog for more details.
  • April 25-27 PCRT, Philadelphia, PA: "Precious Blood: Christ's Atoning Work"
  • May 27-29 Banner of Truth Ministers' Conference, Grantham, PA

Friday, November 23, 2007

Returning Church on Facebook


Facebook? If you're older than 25 that's probably your first reaction. Facebook.com is an increasingly popular social networking site used primarily by our young people (but there are a few seniors poking around too!). A Returning Church facebook group was created and has become an active forum for discussing the issues facing the CRC and the broader evangelical, Christian church - especially among our seminarians. There is a link posted on the right-hand column of this blog. Feel free to check out the Discussion Board there and even join the group yourself.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Responses to FOS Revision Committee

Several church councils and individuals have indicated that they are formulating responses to the Form of Subscription revisions, a.k.a. Covenant of Ordination. Below are a few of them. These do not necessarily represent a completely unified vision but do carry a similar tone and theme. If you have one you'd like to post, please forward a copy to returningchurch@yahoo.com.

1st CRC, Muskegon, MI - Letter from Council
Dr. Randy Blacketer, Neederlandia, AB
Central Avenue CRC, Holland, MI - Letter from Council
1st Byron Center CRC, Byron Center, MI - Letter from Council
Transcona CRC, Winnipeg, MB - Letter from Council

Rev. Stan Scripps of Graafschap CRC, Holland, MI, highlighted some concerns with the FOS Revision Report. You can see them here.

For an OVERTURE regarding the Form of Subscription click here.

There are also some comments on CRConnect

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

REPORT on Recent Meetings

On September 13 there was a meeting of the Returning Church in Oskaloosa , Iowa , organized by Rev. Marv Leese (Bethel CRC, Oskaloosa) and Rev. Jack Gray (Sully CRC, IA). There were about 85 in attendance, which is a good starting point and a show of God's blessing.

Rev. Leese opened the meeting with a mediation on John 17:20-23 and Jesus' prayer for unity in the church, followed by Rev. CJ denDulk (Trinity CRC, Sparta , MI) speaking on II Kings 22 and Josiah's reforms based on the discovery of God's Word. Unity and God's Word certainly were central themes for the evening.

There was also a Q&A time where various issues and topics were raised, including biblical complementarianism, nurturing our covenant youth, the "Form of Subscription" revisions (see below) and other challenges to ministry. It was noted that the CRC has always sought to be biblical, and that must be encouraged and insisted upon going forward.

The question was asked, "What are you 'returning' to?" That is a great questeion and one that needs to be brought up often. The reply went something like this - we are prone to wander - as individuals, as congregations and as denomination. And recognizing that fact we must return to God every day, seeking Him at His Word. This Returning Church movement is not issue-centered, as some have claimed, but focused on returning us back to God and living for His glory each and every day.

This meeting in Iowa was almost one year to the date of the first Returning Church meeting in Byron Center, MI. God has seen fit to draw many people into the discussion around both the U.S. and Canada . May God answer our prayers and bring genuine revival and reform to the CRC.

The following day, Rev. Henry Reyenga (Family of Faith CRC, Monee , IL ) and Rev. Ben Tol (1st CRC, South Holland , IL ) invited several pastors to meet at 1st CRC in South Holland , IL , to further the discussion about particular issues and to introduce others to the ideas behind this movement. Many expressed a growing need for theological classes – where churches can show their unity in working together without binding their consciences. Again, biblical complementarianism and the "Form of Subscription" were discussed.

We encourage the gathering of pastors and elders in your area and when you do, to stay in contact with us. We will advertise on this blog and also via email, if you'd like. In the meantime, keep our denomination a matter of your prayers. We certainly all need it as we tread these waters and seek to faithfully minister to the congregations and community in which God has placed us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Covenant of Ordination (f.k.a. Form of Subscription)

The proposed revisions by the synod-appointed committee to the "Form of Subscription" - proposed to be called the "Covenant of Ordination" - has already raised significant discussion (see comments under "Nederhood's Banner Article" post below and the CRC-Voices discussion group). Does the "Covenant" essential end the CRCNA's position as a confessional church or are people over-reacting? Since all office-bearers will sign it going forward and it will guide who leads our church into the future, it is a vital topic to discuss.

Click here for a copy of the report and proposed revision.

Click here for a copy of the current "FOS".

Dr. Raymond Blacketer wrote a response letter which you can find on the CRConnect blog by clicking here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Nederhood's Banner Article

Most of you have probably read Dr. Joel Nederhood's article "Our Dangerous Journey" in the September issue of The Banner (If not, click here for a link). What are your thoughts? If you have been part of this Returning Church discussion you're probably sensing some level of danger for the current journey of the CRC. Is it possible for the CRC to "move beyond" the women-in-office issue as we stand today? Or has it unfortunately come to define who we are as a church - pro or con?

Monday, August 20, 2007

PK's Reflections on the CRC and "Righting the Ship"

George Pierson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois and an elder in the Palos Heights CRC. As a PK (preacher's kid), he offers some interesting and provocative reflections on church life and what it takes to "right the ship." Click here to read his thoughts and please leave your comments by clicking below.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Returning Church Meeting in Iowa

On September 13, a group of pastors in Iowa are planning a "Returning Church" meeting. It will be held at Bethel CRC in Oskaloosa and will begin at 7:00 p.m. Revs. Marvin Leese (Bethel CRC, Oskaloosa, IA) and Jack Gray (Sully, IA, CRC) are planning the meeting. In addition, Rev. CJ denDulk (Trinity CRC, Sparta, MI) will be speaking and giving background to this movement. It is hoped that this will be another forum to proactively discuss how the CRC can be a biblical, Reformed and confessional church while at the same time being mission-focused to reach our communities with the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please check back here for more details as they develop. If you have any questions or comments, please email returningchurch@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rome's View of the Church

The Vatican issued a statement saying that all non-Roman Catholic Christian churches are not "true churches." This certainly has implications on the discussions we as a Christian Reformed Church have been having with Roman Catholic bishops and theologians in the last several years and Synod 2006's decision regarding Q&A 80 of the Heidelberg Catechism. In a letter to the Vatican, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC - of which the CRC is a part) says, "It makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the Reformed family and other families of the church." To read the CNN article, click here. For the Fox News article, click here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Vacation Bible School

No doubt many of our churches will be engaging in Vacation Bible School this summer. This is both an important evangelistic tool to reach the children and families of our communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and an opportunity for our covenant children to grow in their faith. With the plethora of VBS curriculums available, what have you found that faithfully represents the Gospel and teaches the Word without getting lost in the hype? Maybe you've found a more effective way to reach children in your community. Your comments would be appreciated here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Synod 2007


Synod met from June 9-15 this year at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They dealt with many issues this year that you can catch up on by clicking here to go to the Synod's homepage. A summary is posted there. We've prayed the God would lead and guide the delegates by His Word and Spirit. It is disheartening when so many things are advanced merely on personal experience and emotion. Continue to pray that God brings sweeping renewal to the CRC and a revitalized heart for His Word as the rule for both faith and life.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"R" Words

Renewal. Reformation. Return. Revitalization. Rejuvenation. Restoration. Restructuring. There are plenty of "R" words to go around. It seems there is a growing tide within many denominations of those concerned with theological, and subsequently spiritual, drift. For your information and our discussion, we are posting links to various efforts in other denominations to call for faithfulness to God's Word and also to maintain integrity to their respective confessions:

RCA Integrity (Reformed Church in America)
Confessing Church Movement (Presbyterian Church USA)
New Wineskins (PCUSA)
American Anglican Council (Episcopal Church USA)
Evangelical Lutheran Confessing Fellowship (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
Biblical Witness Fellowship (United Church of Christ)

A Broader, Non-Denominational Effort:
Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

*Note: We do not necessarily endorse any of these groups, but notice some similarities to the CRCNA. Pray that God's Spirit blows the wind of biblical renewal in His Church universally.

Friday, May 11, 2007


If you would like to be added to the email list, please send a message to returningchurch@yahoo.com. Please include your name, church and town/city. Don't worry, you won't be barraged with emails. We send out messages maybe once a month with updates on up-coming various events related to this discussion or other items that may be beneficial for the edification of the church.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Report on April 19 Meeting

On April 19, several members of CRCs in Michigan, the Midwest and Canada met to further the conversation about bringing biblical, confessional, Christ-centered renewal to our congregations and the CRC as a whole. There was an informal agenda that covered two basic areas: position papers and the “Year of Faith Formation.” Also, time was given for more general questions and comments.

First, Rev. CJ denDulk presented a copy of Trinity CRC’s (Sparta, MI) recently adopted “Position Paper” and then Rev. Tom Groelsema presented a draft of the “Elder Covenant” 1st CRC (Byron Center, MI) is considering (Trinity’s document can be found by clicking on this link: “Trinity’s Position Paper.” We hope to add 1st Byron’s “Elder Covenant” soon). Other churches at the meeting indicated that they’ve adopted similar statements and they have served to provide unity for the congregation. It is hoped that documents such as these can lead the congregation into biblical discussion and definition of issues facing our churches and denomination.

Since the CRCNA has declared the 2007/2008 church year to be a “Year of Faith Formation” in conjunction with the denominations 150th anniversary, several discussed how faith was being “formed” in their congregations as an encouragement to others. The importance of catechetical instruction was discussed. Rev. Chad Steenwyk of Central Ave CRC (Holland, MI) presented an after-school catechism program they are looking to implement next year for elementary-aged children. They will be using Great Commission Publications “Kid’s Quest Catechism Club.” While based on the First Catechism, they plan to integrate the Heidelberg Catechism/Compendium into the program. This will also be a program that will actively be opened to the whole community. Rev. denDulk spoke about the existing program at Trinity which includes grades 3-12 every other Wednesday. They catechize 65 kids and have great enthusiasm and support by the elders and congregation. They use various materials, with much of it coming from Inheritance Publications in Sioux Center, IA, as well as some from Faith Alive. For greater detail on their program, click here. Rev. Tyler Wagenmaker presented an “all-ages” catechism program that is being developed in-house at Beaverdam CRC (Hudsonville, MI) with the help of a seminary intern. The hope is to bring the whole community in to the development of faith through learning together. Contact Beaverdam CRC directly for more information.

Rev. Henry Reyenga also spoke about Home Discipleship Ministry which focuses on families and equipping them to be places of faith nurture through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading/memorization and worship. Rev. Reyenga is the pastor of Family of Faith Church in Monee, Illinois. If you’d like to know more about his ministry, go to www.homediscipleship.org.

During the open time of questions and comments, many who were in attendance expressed that they have been greatly encouraged by these meetings and the ability to connect with other members around the CRC. There was a desire to hold additional meetings like this one in places like Chicagoland and the Midwest. It is our prayer that pastors and office-bearers from those areas will step forward and beginning planning such events. We would be more than willing to help out in any way. If you are thinking along those lines, please contact one of us.

We would love for you to interact about things at this meeting or other items you’d like to discuss. Please leave a comment or two.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Growing Interest in Synod 2007


It appears that Synod 2007 is generating a lot of interest around the CRC (and certainly in the West Michigan media). Not only will it be marked with the celebration of the CRCNA's 150th annivesary, several hot-button issues will be discussed, including paedo-communion, women's ordination, the Belhar Confession and so on. From reports of classes, overtures and communications are lining up on all sides of the issues. Please be in prayer for our denomination and pray that God's Word would prevail in all areas. Also pray that the protests and demonstrations that are sure to come will not develop into a power struggle, but that those who are involved will submit humbly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

To keep folks informed, two groups have formed to promote the deletion of the word "male" from Church Order Article 3 and the seating for women as delegates to synod. You can learn more about these groups by going to www.synodcloudofwitnesses.org and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hearts-aflame/. If you know of other developments on this or other issues for Synod 2007, please post them here to help us all stay up to date on what's happening. Also, any comments on the above are welcome as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Upcoming Meeting

Elders and pastors are invited to a meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, 2007, at First Christian Reformed Church in Byron Center, MI. We hope to continue the conversation about bringing God-centered, biblical renewal to the Christian Reformed Church. There will be discussion of position papers, the “Year of Faith Formation” and also where we go from here. We need your help to broaden the conversation so please prayerfully consider attending. Please R.S.V.P. to returningchurch@yahoo.com or call 616-396-6230.

This meeting is being held just prior to the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (PCRT) to be held at First Byron from April 20-22 (see next posting on this blog). We strongly encourage you to take in the conference as well.

Further, you would help us greatly by publicizing the event with those you know who might be interested in such a meeting.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology


One of the goals of this site is to encourage CRCs and all Christians to stand firmly upon the Word of God. There is coming up soon a conference that will help do just that. The Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (PCRT) will be held in four sites around the U.S. this year: Sacramento, CA; Jackson, MS; Grand Rapids, MI and Philadelphia, PA. The theme is "The Word: Above All Earthly Powers" - what a fitting topic! Go to www.alliancenet.org for more information and click on "PCRT" on the left-hand side.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Office-Bearers

Churches who end their church calendar in the summer are no doubt beginning the process of nominating new elders and deacons. Has your church had difficulty gathering enough names for office-bearer nominations? Yes, it is a common problem all over North America. Are we just too busy? Have mixed-up priorities? Have our elders and deacons become just "managers" or "board members"? What lies behind the problem and how can we encourage men to faithfully stand up to shepherd our congregations? Click here to see a letter First CRC in Byron Center, Michigan, sent out to its congregation. Let's use it as a springboard for discussion.

History of the CRCNA


Robert P. Swierenga (author of Dutch Chicago and many other historical titles and articles) gave a lecture in 2000 that resulted in an article posted on his personal web-site entitled, "Burn the Wooden Shoes: Modernity and Division in the Christian Reformed Church in North America." It provides an good overview and critical analysis of events in our beloved denomination. Check it out at this link: http://www.swierenga.com/Africa_pap.html.
ADDITION: One of the comments mentions the future of the CRCNA with reference to Rev. Sam Hamstra's March 2007 The Banner article entitled "A Modest Proposal." Rev. Hamstra has also set up a blog for discussion on this at http://www.xanga.com/ACRC. We aren't necessarily endorsing his "proposal," but think it is good for discussion.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Biblical, Confessional, Reformed Worship

We are hoping to provide a forum on a variety of topics as they relate to the Christian life. Certainly central to our lives is worship. What is biblical, confessional, reformed worship? Do those adjectives flow from one to the other or not? Have we been missing the ball somewhere? Or are we more in danger of "throwing the baby out with the bath water"? Anyway, a few questions to ponder. Please - leave your comments.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Redirection in the RCA


Because of our close ties with the RCA it was particularly interesting to see these articles regarding a biblical renewal and redirection effort in that denomination. The face of the conflict in these articles is primarily homosexuality in the church, but there is a common root that stands behind many of the challenges we are facing as the CRC. Maybe there is some wisdom we can glean.

Here is the renewal effort’s discussion page:
http://rcadialogue.blogspot.com/

We’d love to have your comments – not so much in regard to the RCA (we’ll respectfully and prayerfully let our brothers and sisters in the RCA work through the challenges they are facing in their denomination) – but in light of bringing renewal to the CRC.

[Thanks to the folks on CRC-Voices for drawing our attention here]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sabbath Observance

A few of us have been getting together once a month to work our way through John Piper's "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals." Chapter 21 lended itself to a great discussion on legalism. In CRC circles, talk of legalism quickly turns to Sabbath observance. We all have our memories of "no bikes on Sunday" or "swimming - but no splashing!" Seriously, even sincere attempts at Sabbath observance are quickly tagged as legalism today. How do you balance the fight between legalism and the call to live holy lives in respect to the Lord's Day?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Please read before POSTING COMMENTS

We welcome your comments to any of the topics brought up in this blog. To keep the dialogue open and honest, we ask that you do not post anonymously. We appreciate if you will indicate your full name and hometown. It is too easy to make bold statements pro or con behind the veil of anonymity. We don't want this to become an exercise is cowardice.

We have changed the settings for the blog and you now have to be registered user of Blogger to leave comments. This helps weed out some of the anonymous comments. It is a simple process that doesn't cost a thing. Thanks for your cooperation.