CRC News Looks at 2023
As we step – perhaps a bit warily – into 2024, let’s pause a few moments and look back on some of the CRC News stories that helped to inform and shape our life together in the Christian Reformed Church in North America over the past 12 months.
In early January last year, we learned that Resonate Global Mission had, over the previous 18 months, sent a total of 30 new missionaries. Some of these missionaries had already lived in a range of countries before joining with Resonate to share Christ’s love and the Word of God in places familiar or unfamiliar to them. Places to which the new missionaries were sent included Uganda, Eastern Africa, and Japan.
Also last January, Monica Guzmán, a popular journalist and an interview host with the program Crosscut, appeared at the Calvin University January Series and, in a world at odds with itself in many ways and in many locations, reminded us it is possible to build bridges between people who disagree, and to overcome divisions in society. Guzmán suggested that curiosity and listening can be powerful tools in bridging divisions between people with differing opinions.
In early February, World Renew announced it would respond to the first of many disasters to befall the world last year. In that dire situation, two massive earthquakes rocked and shook southeastern Turkey near the border with Syria, killing thousands of people as they slept. The earthquakes, which took place on Feb. 6, also injured thousands more and reduced many-storied buildings to piles of rubble. In freezing, snowy conditions, rescue teams then worked to rescue survivors from the debris.
In further news of the CRCNA at work overseas, we learned in March about Natalia, who savored a rare moment of calm after spending long hours serving tables at a local restaurant in Riga, Latvia. Her toddler was finally asleep, so she quietly turned on the radio. As a Ukrainian refugee, she wanted news of what was happening in her homeland. Instead of the usual updates and chatter, Natalia heard the voice of Lika Roman—a fellow Ukrainian and a member of the ReFrame Ministries’ Russian-language ministry team. “Natalia felt as if Lika spoke right to her,” said Sergei Sosedkin, ReFrame’s Russian-language ministry leader.
The healing balm of Christ’s love was also evident last April when G’awna and her boyfriend, then living in a motel, found out she was pregnant. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do. She couldn’t afford to care for another child. She was fighting a drug addiction and trapped in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend, who was struggling with his own drug use. A motel room wasn’t the streets, but it certainly wasn’t home. She felt hopeless. But then she met a volunteer from Jesus on Colfax, a Resonate Global Mission partner ministry in Aurora, Colo.
At a time when various issues are causing some denominations to splinter, some happy news came on May 1, 2023, when two Reformed denominations in the Netherlands reunited after more than a half-century of separation. Dr. Zachary King, general secretary of the CRCNA, visited there to participate in a service of reunion May 12 as an ecumenical guest and to share a blessing.
In mid June, Synod 2023 concluded. During the meeting, several important decisions were made, including the appointment of people to serve in leadership roles and the adoption of a revised Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders, recommended for all leaders in congregational and classis ministries throughout the denomination. In addition, synod held deliberations related to Synod 2022’s decisions on human sexuality and deferred discussion on various points to Synod 2024.
Thrive, a new agency of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, officially began on July 1. Thrive is a consolidation of nine former, specialized ministries of the CRCNA, each of which had its own synodical mandate and budget: Chaplaincy and Care Ministry, Faith Formation Ministries, Disability Concerns, Diversity, Safe Church Ministry, Pastor Church Resources, Race Relations, Social Justice, and Worship Ministries.
On Aug. 20, CRCNA general secretary Zachary King participated in the 2023 Blessing of Students, an annual time of prayer in Grand Rapids, Mich., for students starting or returning to school. King led a responsive reading as part of the event and prayed individually for students who wanted prayer at the end of the service.
In early September, the U.S. Ministry Board of the Christian Reformed Church in North America voted to put the denominational office building at 1700 28th Street SE in Grand Rapids, Mich., up for sale. The building has served the denomination for more than 65 years.
Soon after the militant Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel and killed about 1,200 people on Oct. 7, the CRCNA issued a statement that, in part, said, “Many of us were shocked and horrified to hear about the unexpected attack that happened in southern Israel. . . . Even as the numbers of those injured and killed continues to climb, we recognize that this weekend’s atrocities are just the latest examples of hate and injustice that have existed in this region for years.”
A CRC News story in November highlighted the Glenwood Drive Community Garden in Truro, N.S., which began 10 years ago with a dream and what one member of John Calvin Christian Reformed Church described as “an empty, soggy field” behind the church building. Today that land is providing over 30 families with garden plots, along with the benefits of fresh produce, time spent outside, and a sense of community.
As Christmas 2023 rolled around, general secretary Zachary King offered a reflection on the turbulence and accomplishments of the year. Among other things, he said: “From the perspective of faith, we celebrate the birth of our long-awaited Savior and Messiah. For many of us, joyful anticipation fills our hearts as we look forward to tender moments with loved ones around the dinner table or at a candlelight service. Others are haunted by thoughts of empty chairs—resulting from broken relationships or the loss of loved ones to diseases or accidents. . . . For most of us, Christmas is complicated—a mix of joy, grief, hope, and some minor annoyances.
“The theology of Christmas can feel a bit complicated as well. . . .
“Whatever complicated physical, emotional, or spiritual reality you are facing this Christmas, know that Jesus is not just a baby in a manger surrounded by Joseph, Mary, and some shepherds. Jesus is in you.”