I wrote this comment for the discussion of the purpose of the Banner on the Network
My fear for Synod is my expectation of a comment discussion, that we will spend time wandering around debating sex, science and the worthiness of our present editor. Discussions of sex, science and the worthiness of whatever editor we presently have will always be with us, it seems to me foundational question is the question of this article, “What do we want from The Banner?”
I think most of us will agree the denomination needs to be able to manage a number of missions at once:
1. Prescriptive Faith formation and doctrinal instruction. The assumption of the Banner for this mission and the felt betrayal by the two articles in question and the editorial decision to put them through is what is drawing all the heat. OK. but if this is the mission of the Banner then we should say so.
2. Creating space for exploration. Tolerating divergent even heterodox ideas. When I work with people, in and out of the church I encourage them to speak their minds and their hearts and I value honesty over correctness in this mode. Most of us get this as a necessary part of a process for individuals and communities to work out their faith and figure out how what they believe fits, or does not fit with the catholic church. Should The Banner be a space for this? Our current “mission statement” for the Banner seems to suggest it, and given the limited media modes of communal conversation in most of the 20th century it fits. The question is whether it fits the present realities of The Banner as print medium combined with its promotional mission (which is a separate mission from points 1 and 2 here).
When the matter of adopting the Belhar arose the most interesting question for me was “how would our denomination manage a communal conversation and decision of this magnitude?” My conclusion based not necessarily on observing the outcome as much as the process was “not very well”.
Questions of sex and science along side the matters of power and privilege which the Belhar sought to address are large and broad conversations that the church must engage because society is engaging them. If the church wants to have both influence and a voice we will need to figure out how to do so.
James Schaap has been the CRC historian for the late 20th century. The piece he wrote for the 150th anniversary of the CRC noted that the reality of our place in our time is that we’ve lost the ability to control the question. CRC minds and hearts, of laity and pastor alike are shaped far more by voices outside the CRC than inside. No decision on the Banner will change this. We will not have the kind of voice in the Banner that we had in the days before TV and then the Internet took possession of the agenda. The question we must ask is how will we steward the conversations we