Skip to main content

Rev. Al Mulder Honored for Diversity

October 20, 2021

Rev. Al Mulder, who has worked in various capacities for the Christian Reformed Church in North America, especially in support of diversity and inclusion, is to be honored today by Calvin Theological Seminary for his many years in ministry.

As part of the event titled “A Celebration of Servant Leadership in Advancing Diversity,” Mulder’s daughter, Rev. Bonny Mulder, was to speak about her father’s longtime efforts in diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Sponsored by Denise Posie and Dave Beelen, the seminary’s diversity, equity, and inclusion discipleship coaches, this is the first year the award has been given, and plans are in process to make this an annual event.

Posie and Beelen say the award “will be given to celebrate a person or group who has shown servant leadership for people of color and women in navigating the CRCNA culture, church polity, journey toward ordination, and ministry.”

Mulder “has been an encourager and advocate for numerous people of color and for women in ministry in the CRCNA,” they added.

A reception for Mulder was scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Prince Conference Center.

“I'm honored as the first recipient to be recognized in support of this important value. I am also thankful that several out-of-town family members will be present to celebrate with me,” said Mulder.

Here is an example of Mulder’s work in diversity, inclusion, and equity.

While serving as clerk of Classis Grand Rapids East back in 2020, Mulder found himself reflecting on the unique role the classis could play in breaking down barriers and providing opportunities as well as encouraging and supporting member churches regarding racial diversity and inclusion.

These issues are close to Mulder’s heart, but he wasn’t sure how to proceed with leaders of classis. So he talked with some people he knows, including Reggie Smith, director of Diversity for the CRCNA, and came up with the idea of commissioning a Calvin University sociology class to help tackle the issue.

In March 2020, the class launched a research project, speaking to pastors and church leaders in Classis Grand Rapids East and going through denominational documents and statements on racism, and in early May they handed Mulder a report called “Diversity and Inclusion in the CRCNA and Classis Grand Rapids East.”

Mulder examined and tweaked the report and brought it before classis at its meeting on Sept. 17, 2020, and, after extensive discussion, delegates adopted it.

“The objective of the research was to inquire into the status of racial diversity and inclusion within Classis Grand Rapids East, and – more particularly – the potential role of a classis in encouraging and supporting the work of racial reconciliation in and by member churches,” said Mulder at the time.

In addition, a story published in CRC News in 2011 offers a brief biography of Mulder, sketching how the idea of becoming a pastor came to him at the age of 10 after the untimely death of his brother.

The article notes also that in the summer after his brother’s death, Mulder attended a nearby vacation Bible school and was challenged by one of the teachers to commit his life to Christ and to missions.

And later, at Calvin College and then at Calvin Theological Seminary, he says, he imagined serving as a missionary abroad. However, being ordained at the age of 24, Mulder was too young to serve as a CRC missionary. In 1960, he said, the Christian Reformed World Missions hiring window was between 25 to 40.

Unable to serve overseas, he took a church in Kansas — a pleasant and productive time, he said — and, from there, he was asked to get involved in mission work at a large boarding school for Navajo students in Utah.

“That is when I got my first real introduction to cross-cultural ministry, and I loved it,” he said in that story.

Mulder eventually became pastor of a CRC congregation in Gallup, N.Mex. During his time there, he helped it transition from a Navajo congregation to a multiracial church, and he got involved in supporting the nearby Rehoboth Christian School and in helping to form Classis Red Mesa, composed mainly of Navajo members.

Mulder and his family served in New Mexico for 16 years. In 1984, he was asked to come to Grand Rapids to serve on the staff of Christian Reformed Home Missions.

In various capacities since then, he has been with Home Missions — now merged with Christian Reformed World Missions as Resonate Global Mission — working mostly in the area of church planting.

“God has called his church to grow, and the only way for that to happen is through change and to make space for others,” he said. “The whole move toward a more multicultural church — I continue to champion that.”

Mulder also helped to put together a book published in 2006, Learning to Count to One: The Joy and Pain of Becoming a Multiracial Church.

In the 2011 news story Mulder said: “Our home is decorated with southwestern art. Our gallery of grandchildren includes faces with Hispanic and Navajo features. . . . The congregation I belong to is African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and white. In God’s kind providence, I am learning to count to one.”