Confessional Conversation Again

If you recall in 2016 (and the years before) I made a case that the CRC needs to have a far deeper conversation BEFORE we talk about WICO, SSM, IVF, Cohabitation, legalized pot, prostitution, pornography, polyamory, power, senior-non-church-weddings, marriage, confessionalism itself in fact. Increasingly I’m convinced we need to have a conversation about philosophy of being and sacraments. If I were to sit and think a bit about making a list it would grow long indeed.

Right now we look over a battlefield that looks like WW1. Lines are entrenched. The conservatives are like the Germans. They fear that their loss is only a matter of time. The Allies feel that their victory is inevitable and once they win they will set history straight. They will go into peace treaty negotiations looking to make darn sure Germany never tries this again. There are some Woodrow Wilsons out there who believe that progressivism will yield peaceful prosperity in a new world older that if everyone adopts the League of Nations will make war illegal. (yes, that was the language.)

I continue to believe that the CRC will not flip on SSM partly because of watching the RCA. Now some point to some young people who are going to church AND affirming SSM, but their numbers are pretty small and it seems unlikely they’ll wait around for the CRC to take some half measure. Has opening the door to WICO somehow brought parity to men and women in ministry? Hasn’t it sort of festered on even now a couple of decades later? On Twitter this morning I saw someone tweet out looking for a church of 800+ with the female Senior Pastor. Oh you might find a few but how many churches of 1000+ were planted by female church planters? Does Joyce Meyer count? There are high profile celebrity female Christian writers. Nadia Bolz Weber is known more for being an author than founding a mega-church (which she hasn’t).

It isn’t that the progressive CRC and the conservative CRC are divided by a few issues, they increasingly have divergent, conflicting and opposing visions of what the church is and even what the Bible is. We’re not going to manage these divisions one at a time without inflaming the kind of conflict that Snapper has already noted leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and in many cases drives people from not only the CRC but church in general.

The report being worked on is designed to give CRC traditionalists a document that will reinforce their own position for people that already hold it. That report is clearly well on its way to doing just that. No one has any illusion that this will do anything but inflame a lot of people even without them reading it.

Remember, churches split right and leak left. Churches that grow have a cohesive (usually counter cultural) vision and mission that makes sense of the world and attracts people to a compelling vision of God and his work in Christ.

After a year plus of doing the YouTube thing I’m increasingly concerned that most of our half measures are simply too small. I don’t have answers.

Ma and Pa CRC’s marriage is in trouble and both of them know that the divorce will be so costly that both will likely live in poverty.

I’ve been fascinated lately by videos of people living in their cars. I found a whole channel of videos by a guy who profiles mostly poor retired people who are trying to live on social security alone and they do so by living in their car. For most of the women (and most of the videos I have seen ARE of women) the line “after the divorce” is important to highlight.

So we’re three years later down the road. In 2016 when I was pushing my little blog posts I got a little bit of interest from young CRC conservatives but I got a resounding “NO” from some on the left. They are the Allies. They think they will win. They are imagining they will go into the divorce and come out of it with the house, the car and most of the pension. I think they’re nuts.

We need to be talking about far more basic things than these inflamed issues. We need to talk about what the church is for, why we need it, what it calls us into and what it will cost us. Anything short of this will likely result in a bunch of camping gear and building a cot in the 2005 Grand Am. pvk


Some people ask me about an eventual overture. An overture might happen, but overtures don’t succeed, especially one this audacious in a vacuum. A lot of overtures succeed because they are riding a wave outside the denomination: sex, power, environment, politics, etc. Not this one. This one would have some fuel from some of those waves but it is the kind of work we quite sanely often wish to avoid. It is no fun renegotiating a marriage when you’ve got a mortgage, jobs and plenty of kids at home. 

Things will have to get desperate indeed for people to be willing to get serious about these foundational issues. Some people mention the moderates. There are many for whom the denominational structure is “good enough”. I can understand this. No one is looking for more work especially when most of us rightly feel that the most important work is the local, face to face work. 

The CRC used to be something of a movement with passion and drive that produced something quite unique and powerful. It was expressed in rather impressive ways, intellectually, well funded ministries, a sense of community covenant, etc. We can all feel it receding. 

Many denominations are something between lowest-common-denominator service structures (benefits, pension, cooperation facilitating administration…) and communal virtue signaling mechanisms (“we have women pastors!” or “no gay marriage here!”). 

Vision plus leadership creates movements. I don’t know that we’ll get another narrative arc in the CRC. I just hate to see a good story end with a shrug.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in CRC, Saved CRCVoices Posts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Confessional Conversation Again

  1. Kristen says:

    You mention there was a time when the CRC used to be something of a movement..when was this? Civil Rights Movement? Vietnam War era? Reaganomics? I find practically no collective story-telling that conveys a powerful and impassioned movement of Reformed believers who helped shape and inform the broader culture. I rely on others to help me capture the vision and imagine what it might look like if we serve together. Story-telling is absolutely critical.
    In reading this post, I was especially struck by the video included of the homeless woman living in her car. First, that there’s a guy sharing best practices with others to “live well” in a car and second, a community of people who follow this guy and want to share how they’ve put his tips into practice. My heart breaks knowing that even in desperate circumstances, there is an overpowering need for belonging and connection. I wonder if our important conversations about WICO, LBTQ, SSM et al somehow assume a common foundation but quickly devolve into two camps. I’m tired of study committees and overtures that lift up important ideas but then leave it to the winds of change to see actions follow, if ever. Confessional conversations may offer an opportunity to bring us back to the basics. Considering God’s call to love others and show hospitality to all…What could be the impact of a larger conversation that begins with these questions:
    –Think of a time in your life when you were loved well. Share this with a partner. We will hear from everyone.
    –What are the characteristics/behaviors/attitudes of people who love well? Make a group list.
    –What does scripture say about loving others?
    –When we don’t love well, what might be the result?
    –Identify places in your community where people might need a loving touch. How might God be calling you to extend a hand of generous hospitality?
    –What will you do in the coming week in response to this conversation? How will you share your findings?

    • Eric Van Dyken says:

      Hi Kristen. Good thoughts. I like your emphasis on going “back to the basics”, ala discussion, appreciation, and application of love. That discussion needs to include a basic definition of love, as even something as basic as a definition of love is not to be assumed in our current context. Love is often nowadays flattened to some bland notion of acceptance, affirmation, or a feeling of warmth. If I define love as submitting to *your truths*, then I answer your questions above very differently than someone who understands that true love will often smack me squarely between the eyes with hard realities that may not align with my deceptive heart. In the end, we cannot move forward on such a basic conversation until we answer your most important question above: “What does scripture say about loving others?” The answer to that must be much deeper than “Do it”.

      All of these confessional type of conversations that Paul is asking for (which I wholeheartedly support) must include carefully defining our terms, many of which have been redefined in modern times.

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