Churches and other ministries of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) are forging closer ties with the Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco, Calif.
Newbigin House (NH) is an initiative of the Reformed Church in America (RCA). For the last four years, it has been providing theological education to lay people in the RCA and increasingly in the CRC.
Meanwhile, Newbigin will soon launch its four-year distance-education masters of divinity program. And as that occurs, Calvin Theological Seminary will be exploring joint programmig with NH.
Overall, these collaborations and links with Newbigin, say CRC and RCA representatives, exemplify the growing spirit of cooperation, on various levels and in many ways, between the denominations.
More than 80 lay people in the RCA and CRC have gone through Newbigin’s church-leadership and education program, which focuses on training people who are already working in jobs and have careers but are seeking theological education.
“Newbigin House is trying to think of the whole house not just the clergy,” says Scot Sherman, director of the Newbigin House of Studies.
“We are here to provide theological, cultural, and spiritual information for anyone interested in a wise and engaging missional impact in an increasingly secularized culture.”
Calvin Theological Seminary will be joining with Newbigin through the work of Rev. Michael Goheen, who was recently named as a professor of missiology at Calvin Seminary.
According to a news story on the CTS website, “In addition to his appointment at Calvin Seminary . . . Goheen will also be working with the Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco and the Surge Network of Churches in of Arizona.”
The network is a growing leadership training program in the Phoenix area.
“One of the major tasks I’ll be working on for the three institutions is a missional curriculum,” says Goheen.
“That is, if mission is central to the church’s being how would that influence biblical studies, systematic theology, church history, and so-called ‘practical’ theological subjects.”
Newbigin was founded with missionary and church leader Lesslie Newbigin as an inspiration.
Newbigin went to India in 1936, where he served as a missionary and church leader.
After leaving India, he worked as an international church leader and as a scholar and missions specialist in England. The author of many books, he also had a vision for missionary work in the US.
Many of Newbigin’s writings are included in the NH program.
“Spiritual renewal will only happen when local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as a sign, instrument and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society,” Lesslie Newbigin once said. He died in 1998.
Spurred and supported by Western Theological Seminary (in Holland, Mich.) and City Church San Francisco, Newbigin House “seeks to embody the spirit of Lesslie Newbigin in our 21st Century context,” says the NH website.
An important part of the ministry of NH is the Newbigin Fellowship, which focuses on lay people and has been a way in which the CRC and RCA members could discuss programs and develop approaches to work together in missions.
An example of lay involvement: City Church in San Francisco, and City Life Church, a CRC congregation in Sacramento, are connected through the Newbigin Fellowship program.
Nearly 25 RCA/CRC Fellows were enrolled last year.
“A yearning for depth is what drew me to the Newbigin Fellowship,” says SJ Lu, a member of City Church who attended the Newbigin Fellowship.
“The experience taught me how the Gospel sheds light on the grandest and the most intimate parts of life.”