The Kerux is very excited to announce that Albert Strydhorst has offered to submit a regular column about global ministry entitled “Global Conversations.”
At one point in the June 2013 Synod, Rev. Joel Boot, the Executive Director of the CRCNA, was asked, “How significant is it in our ecumenical relations that the head of the CRC is ordained?”
After a brief pause, Boot replied, “Very.”
Which got me thinking, “How significant are our ecumenical relations in any decision we make at Synod?” Does it matter what our ecumenical partners think about what we think about?
The CRC has “ecclesiastical fellowship” with 21 churches around the world – 14 from the global south (pejoratively, the “developing world” – largely Africa, Latin America, much of Asia) and 7 from the north (“developed world”). We’re in formal “dialogue” with 12 others, 10 of whom are southern. We’re also part of the 260-member World Communion of Reformed Churches, 185 from the global south and 75 from the north. Southern Christianity increasingly carries the numerical weight and vitality of the faith. To recall Prof. Lamin Sanneh’s provocative title, “Whose Religion is Christianity?”
I realize we don’t have the kind of accountability among Reformed churches that, say, the Catholics have – or even the Anglicans. When the Pope speaks it’s for Catholics around the world; lesser, the Archbishop of Canterbury for Anglicans. But they also need to pay attention to their flock around the world. Just ask the Anglicans what it means when church membership from the global south carries the numerical weight in the global Communion, and they’ll probably tell you about Lambeth 1998 and its resolution against homosexual conduct – much to the chagrin (“sputtering rage”) of many northern bishops.
The CRC would do well to hear from our southern partners on issues considered at Synod this year. Unfortunately – or not! – not yoga. But what about the study committee on religious persecution? Or even more daringly, the one formed to provide pastoral guidance on the issue of same-sex marriage?
Are we ready to listen to our partners from the global south? I suspect vigorous discussions about contextualization of the gospel would ensue – discussions that have always been part of the best missionary activity.
Anyway, back to Boot’s very good answer. After further discussion, Synod decided that non-clergy candidates may be considered to lead the CRC. I’m not sure the preferences of our ecumenical partners were a serious consideration, but I’m glad someone asked the question. It’s even more significant for upcoming issues.
CTS Missionary in Residence, 2012-2014