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Synod Repents the Sin of Racism

June 14, 2007

Synod decided today that the Christian Reformed Church will publicly repent for a 1920 decision that synod said “was motivated in part by racist values.”

Denominational leaders will gather with synod delegates tomorrow morning to confess and repent of the sins of personal and corporate racism.

“In what we’ve done personally and as an institution, we are filled with the sin of racism,” said Rev. Jerry Dykstra, the denomination’s executive director. “The 1920 decision is the public example of [our racism] that is in the permanent record.”

In 1920, the CRC chose to send missionaries to China instead of the Sudan for reasons that Synod 2007 said were prejudiced and racist.

Several delegates suggested that the apology should be taken a step further.

“Listen to [someone of a minority] and take that personal step [of apologizing] for yourself – not for this body, but for yourself,” said James Van Zyl, an elder delegate from Classis Illiana.

Carol Veldman Rudie, one of synod’s women advisers, said: “I’m concerned that repentance from racism has to be not just in words but in structure. The way that we have incorporated ourselves and structured ourselves has created systemic racism here at synod.”

“Praise God that the CRC continued its work with China,” said Irene Bakker, one of synod’s ethnic advisers. “Rejoice that Chinese and Africans are serving the CRC today. We sit down together at the same table.”

Classis Pacific Hanmi to Continue

The CRC’s only Korean-speaking classis, Pacific Hanmi, will continue to exist past its original mandate, synod has decided. The classis, created as a unique environment in which Korean-speaking congregations could flourish, was originally intended to exist for only 15 years.

There were concerns at synod 1996 that the classis would function in isolation from the broader CRC. But the committee monitoring Classis Pacific Hanmi recommended, and delegates agreed, that the life of the classis should be extended indefinitely. Synod encouraged classis leaders to continue their work of training and bringing churches more fully into the life of the denomination.

“We are still learning,” said Rev. Ji Hyun Jun. “It’s a great opportunity to help Korean immigrants. We especially want to give thanks for those who have fought so hard for us.”

Synod also expanded the mandate of a committee that is to study how ministry shares, the denomination’s way of funding its ministries, are collected from the churches. In order to maintain a system that is widely admired by other churches and charitable organizations, synod decided that it needed to seek improvements.

Today synod decided to have the committee widen its investigation to include “the denomination’s covenantal commitment, especially as it relates to financially providing for our institutions, agencies, ministries, and churches.” The whole system will get a careful look. The committee is to report back to Synod 2009.

Look Ahead

Tomorrow morning, synod will hold a time to confess and repent of the sin of racism, particularly the decision of 1920 regarding some of the reasons for not sending missionaries to Africa.

(Roxanne VanFarowe, Dan Postma & Bob De Moor)