Despite mutual roots in The Netherlands, the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and its sister denomination, the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) have not always been friendly. The relationship may not have mattered as much here on the East Coast, but in the Midwest or in Canada, where the two denominations have shared the same geographic areas, the contrast between the two could run through entire families. Yet even here, in the East, the CRCNA has never just been a virtual reality, since many of our Reformed church folk have personal roots somewhere in the CRCNA.
The times are changing. We are of comparable size; we suffer dwindling resources, and we are tired of the old institutional boundaries and searching for new ways. Today, numerous of our congregations have dual affiliation. On a denominational level, we have been working together for a number of years. Some of the areas are
- Chaplaincy Support Services,
- The Children and Worship approach to Christian Education,
- Disability Ministries,
- Joint publications
- Our common witness on the World Council of Reformed Churches.
This past year, our Board of Benefit Services joined with the corresponding CRCNA body to form the Reformed Benefit Association.
Currently, the General Secretaries from both denominations are hosting events in 12 regions of the country in order to explore ways in which we can grow even closer. Having missed the event in New Jersey, Lolly, Susan and I attended the one at West End Collegiate Reformed Church in Manhattan on February 8. There we met David Groeneveld, a pastor from our Classis.
As representatives of an open and affirming church, we were a bit anxious. We had heard too many people simply summarizing the CRCNA as “much more conservative”. But what does this mean? I knew their liturgy to be freer because it is not constitutionally bound in the same way as ours. From my years on the General Synod Commission on History I knew Calvin Seminary as an institution of very high academic standards. And at the event on February 9 I learned that the work of integrating gays and lesbians has also begun in the CRCNA. They have a counterpart to our Room for All; it is called All One Body. As Room for All, it is not officially part of the denomination. Yet, it is there facilitating change in many ways.
We were encouraged in Manhattan to conceive of the growing togetherness as a form of family reunion without the intended goal of a merger. Collaborative seems to be a better word. This may be a good path to pursue. However, as we proceed it will be our task to make our voice heard and to ask that really all the children in the two families be included. If other groups and ministries do not need an official imprimatur to be pictured in brochures and videos promoting collaboration, why should Room for All and All One Body? Or take this a step higher: It may be here that the increasing centralization in our denominations is something that concerns us all.