In my childhood, church life was split between Central Reformed Church and Beckwith Hills Christian Reformed Church, both in Grand Rapids, Mich., my hometown. I experienced a fluid unity between the two.
In my childhood, church life was split between Central Reformed Church and Beckwith Hills Christian Reformed Church, both in Grand Rapids, Mich., my hometown.
My family worshipped in both churches because my parents were musicians. My father directed the choir at Beckwith Hills, and both my parents were paid soloists for the superb music ministry at CRC.
According to my father, he would often shuttle us kids back and forth in a Volkswagen Beetle. I grew up feeling comfortable in both congregations. I never remember my parents criticizing either church. They never suggested that one was superior to the other. No hint that one was “the true church.” I experienced a fluid unity between the two.
On June 16, I attended the joint session of the synods of the CRC and the Reformed Church in America. I went as a delegate from Classis Holland (Mich.) of the CRC. This was a historic event, the first time the synods of the CRC and RCA met in a joint session.
For 90 minutes, we met for official business, and then we spent 90 minutes worshiping together. During the business, time we heard stories about RCA/CRC ministry partnerships that are currently under way: church multiplication efforts, overseas missionary work, a CRC/RCA union church in Muskegon, Mich., and Faith Alive Publishing.
In addition to these reports, the joint synod approved a new translation of the confessional statements that the RCA and CRC share. Confessional statements have lost their currency in today’s world, but this was a major development because it updated the translations and made a formal statement that the CRC and RCA embrace the same theology.
I believe that meeting and its decisions came about as much by the leaders of our institutions as it did through the spirit of unity percolating up from local congregations. The generations of CRC and RCA people who were insistent on forming their own identity in contrast to each other are fast fading. Newer generations of Christians have arisen, and for them, the main concern is how Christians are to be a peculiar people in the world at large.
Collaboration around kingdom purposes and the unity of the spirit of God are a groundswell force that will overcome the mindset of dis-unity and sectarianism. In the end, the petty differences to which we often cling will be no match for the relentless drive of God to make us one in the purposeful love of Christ.
The work of unity takes a long time and requires relentless vision. I’m grateful for all who have tediously worked for unity between the RCA and CRC, and I am grateful for the Holy Spirit, whom I picture shuttling many of us back and forth in a VW Beetle until the work is done.
Perhaps the next step will involve Catholics and Protestants. The Spirit may have to upgrade to a VW bus.
The Rev. Chris DeVos is senior pastor at Pillar Church in Holland, Mich. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.