With very little discussion, Synod 2016 agreed that the Christian Reformed Church needs to do more about religious persecution and liberty.
To that end, it adopted recommendations that were part of a study committee report commissioned by Synod 2013.
In the words of Kevin den Dulk, who headed the study committee, the reality of persecution was “crying out for a response from the church.” The committee’s mandate was to propose actions to empower the church to walk alongside those who are subject to religious persecution or denied religious freedom at home or abroad.
Den Dulk told synod delegates that violations of religious liberty and persecution affect church members in different, if not direct ways. The goal of the church must be to seek ways for churches to foster “shalom,” including religious liberty as it affects the situation of an increasing number of refugees in the world.
Acknowledging the complexity of the topic, synod recommended several personal, congregational, and denominational actions. Congregations are encouraged to appoint a prayer coordinator who will keep up on religious persecution, advise office bearers, and foster regular prayer for those suffering.”
The CRC’s Office of Social Justice will be instructed to expand the practice of urging congregations to participate in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. World Renew and the CRC’s Centre for Public Dialogue are asked to communicate up-to-date information for congregations on issues of religious persecution.
Chris DeWinter, Classis Niagara, urged delegates to be careful about speaking about suffering from privileged positions, while others are facing death. He called for pastors to be prophetic in speaking to their congregations.
Henk Bruinsma, Classis Toronto, said it was his classis that asked for this study committee and that the committee’s report did not fulfill its mandate. “The Christian community still lacks tools to understand religious liberty,” he said.
Synod also encouraged “all members of the CRC to actively live out love for God and for others in every area of life, despite the relative threat of persecution.”
For continuous coverage of Synod 2016 including the live webcast, news, video recordings, photos, liveblog, social media links, and more visit www.crcna.org/synod.