Photo: Karen Huttenga
Joel Zuidema asked delegates to consider a special request to help immigrant churches.
Photo by Karen Huttenga

At its beginning, the Christian Reformed Church in North America was a denomination of immigrant people. Today, immigration continues to be a part of the CRCNA’s growth, which might be why Synod 2018 spent significant time considering how to better assist immigrant churches who wish to affiliate with the CRCNA.  

Classis Atlantic Northeast and Classis Illiana, two regional groups of churches within the Christian Reformed Church, asked Synod 2018 for $25,000 to assist with relocation and transitional expenses for immigrant religious workers, administrative expenses associated with immigration requests, and to offset immigration lawyer expenses that immigrant pastors might face.  

Delegates initially declined this request. Instead, they tasked Steve Timmermans, the executive director of the CRCNA, to “work with the appropriate agencies and ministries to explore the potential processes and necessary resources to facilitate enfolding immigrant churches into the CRCNA.”

This decision was made in light of the fact that there are already several CRCNA ministries that focus on church planting and can assist new churches. Delegates also felt that the need for support for immigrant churches will be ongoing and will need a long-term funding plan not just a one-time commitment.

This didn’t quite meet Joel Zuidema’s needs. Zuidema is a delegate from Classis Illiana. He requested that in addition to this task for Timmermans, synod also commit $10,000 of immediate assistance.

To support his request, Zuidema told the story of a Chin-speaking, Burmese pastor who is eager to pastor the Syracuse Chin church, but is struggling with immigration hurdles and expenses. Synod’s support would strengthen his visa request.

While delegates were sympathetic to Zuidema’s story, they were reminded that a synod is unable to pass a motion for a new ministry program without also indicating how it will be funded (Acts of Synod 2016 p. 857). They simply couldn’t agree to Zuidema’s request.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. During a break, Zuidema met with Timmermans and found a potential solution. When the plenary resumed, Zuidema joyfully reported that he had been directed to the Financial Shalom Project Fund as potential source for the necessary funding to help the Syracuse Chin Church meet their need.

For continuous coverage of Synod 2018 including the live webcast, news, video recordings, photos, reports, liveblog, social media links, and more visit www.crcna.org/synod.