See also Justice.
For full reports and exact statements of the CRCNA position on a particular issue, see references provided below.
God created the world rich in diversity and yet unified in himself. God's mission for the world, though temporarily broken by sin, is for the reconciliation and uniting of all things. That mission is and has always been racially and ethnically inclusive. Through the Holy Spirit, God gives power to the church to break down walls of separation and create a community that transcends divisions of race, ethnicity, and culture. The church is God's strategic agent for embodying, proclaiming, and promoting the unity and diversity of the new creation in all aspects of society in this world. For Christians, to be in Christ is in principle to be reconciled as a community of racially and ethnically diverse people. To ignore the calling to turn this principle into practice is sinful according to God's Word and the Reformed confessions.
The whole church is called to pray and work for the increased enfolding of ethnic-minority persons and to ensure their equitable representation and meaningful participation in leadership and influence at all levels of denominational life. Congregations are called to articulate the biblical vision for a racially and ethnically diverse and united family of God, to evaluate their life and ministry with regard to it, to develop diversity by all appropriate models and strategies, to witness publicly against racism in defense of all people as imagebearers of God, and to promote interracial and cross-cultural relationships.
The CRC's Office of Race Relations is mandated to "initiate and provide effective and collaborative training" for the purpose of dismantling racism in all its forms (Acts of Synod 2004, p. 558). Along with sponsoring youth events, scholarships, multiethnic conferences for pastors, Women of the Nations events, and All Nations Heritage celebrations, the Office of Race Relations has developed an acclaimed antiracism training curriculum for use in North America and around the world.
The CRC began to deal with the matter of race relations in 1957 in connection with the issue of segregation. Two years later it adopted a set of declarations from the Reformed Ecumenical Synod (RES), which became its stand on race relations. These declarations were affirmed and others were added in 1968, 1969, and 1977. The Christian Reformed Board of Home Missions began to design and implement programs regarding racism through a new Race Commission.
During the 1960s and 1970s the church dealt with the issue at home as it struggled through a race-related case regarding Timothy Christian School in Cicero, Illinois, and abroad as it held discussions with the Reformed Churches in South Africa regarding its policy of apartheid. Building on the work of the Home Missions Board, Synod 1971 established the Synodical Committee on Race Relations (SCORR). It became a standing committee in 1981, appointed its first director in 1986, and in 1995 became known as the Office of Race Relations.
Synod 1992 formed a Committee to Study a Racially and Ethnically Diverse Family of God at the request of the Multiethnic Conference, a biennial meeting of multiethnic church leaders which developed in the 1980s out of Calvin Seminary's orientation program for such leaders. Synod adopted the recommendations of that report, "God's Diverse and Unified Family," in 1996, and it serves as the current position of the CRC on race relations. In response to joint meetings with the Multiethnic Conference in 1998, synod appointed a committee to develop strategies that will continue to move the church toward becoming a more diverse and unified family of God. The agencies and institutions of the CRC have begun an intensive initiative in antiracism and have committed to involving all staff in antiracism efforts.
To better represent ethnic minority communities in the CRC, Synod 1995 approved the position of ethnic adviser to synod, and in 1996 synod welcomed its first ethnic advisers to participate in synodical deliberations. Synod 2000 reaffirmed the position, and Synod 2005 adopted a recommendation to “continue the position of ethnic adviser as long as the number of ethnic minority delegates is fewer than twenty-five, after which time it shall be discontinued” (Acts of Synod 2005, p. 756). At Synod 2014, because the number of ethnic minority delegates was twenty-eight, the position of ethnic adviser was discontinued; but then before synod adjourned, it also adopted a motion to “reinstate the practice of including ethnic advisers at synod” in case the number of ethnic minority delegates might drop below twenty-five in future years (Acts of Synod 2014, p. 576). As stated in guidelines approved two days earlier with a report about synodical advisers, ethnic advisers “are representative voices of ethnic minority communities in the membership of the CRC that are not adequately represented in the delegations by the classes” (Acts of Synod 2014, p. 537).
Synod 2004 received and approved a statement of vision and a revised mandate for the Office of Race Relations, paving the way for Race Relations to "initiate and provide effective and collaborative training" for the purpose of dismantling racism in all its forms (Acts of Synod 2004, p. 558). In addition to sponsoring a first-time Women of the Nations event in 2005 and an urban conference for senior high teens in spring 2006, Race Relations developed a curriculum for antiracism training, Dance of Racial Reconciliation (DORR), piloted in September 2006 and receiving highly positive feedback. In 2008 the Office of Race Relations planned to expand DORR training into Latin and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa. In Canada the training is known as Widening the Circle.
Synod 2009 called for “an ethnically inclusive group to develop a statement of vision and strategy for increasing multiethnic representation within the leadership of the denomination and to report to Synod 2010” (Acts of Synod 2009, 589). While a group was formed and work had begun, the group did not have a report ready for Synod 2010. In response, Synod 2010 adopted motions to “re-affirm its commitment to ethnic diversity in the CRC” and to call for a yearly report “on the status of denominational efforts to address issues of ethnic diversity and racial justice” (Acts of Synod 2010, p. 884). Synod 2011 received a report from the Diversity in Leadership Planning Group, affirmed its direction, adopted several of its recommendations, and appointed an expanded task force to review the original group’s work and address additional concerns, requesting a revised report by September 30, 2012 (Acts of Synod 2011, pp. 858-61, 866-68).
In response to an overture from Classis Lake Erie, Synod 2012 called the denomination to “continued repentance” of “personal and institutional racism and other forms of discrimination” and to review “material raising our understanding of racism,” including the Facing Racism video (distributed to all churches in 2011) available through the Office of Race Relations for education and small group programs. Synod also reiterated its 2010 instruction to the Board of Trustees to submit a yearly report on the denomination’s progress in attaining goals for diversity in line with those stated in “God’s Diverse and Unified Family” (Acts of Synod 2012, pp. 757-58).
Synod 2013 received the report of the Diversity in Leadership Planning Group II, adopting significant recommendations for recruitment, training, equal opportunity action, job descriptions, the nomination process for denominational leadership, and the role of the Office of Race Relations. To implement these decisions, synod approved a two-year budget allocation from existing funds and instructed the executive director “to develop a comprehensive strategy and organizational alignment that addresses all of the multicultural and ethnic minority concerns that need to be considered” in order to bring us closer to the goal of “more closely reflecting the diverse communities we inhabit and the visions expressed in the book of Revelation” (Acts of Synod 2013, p. 632). A Diversity in Leadership Planning implementation team assembled by the executive director provided a status update on its work in the Agenda for Synod 2014(pp. 45-52). In 2014 a Diversity and Inclusion Working Group (DIWG) was created to implement the DLPG directives of Synod 2013, and the DIWG submitted a progress report to Synod 2015 and a final report of its work to Synod 2016. In response, Synod 2016 adopted the DIWG’s various recommendations to ensure that all CRC diversity and related initiatives continue. These include ongoing “training and communications on the issues of race and diversity” throughout the CRC, annual diversity reports from each agency and ministry, “procedures to ensure diversity in hiring and promoting” employees, and other measures. A team called the Collaborative for Diversity and Inclusion continued the work completed by the DIWG to monitor overall progress toward achieving the plan and concepts outlined in the final report (Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 828-29). Since 2021, the work of monitoring progress and advancing the work of antiracism within our denomination has been assumed by the denominational Antiracism and Reconciliation Team.
In 2018, in response to concerns about descriptive terms that identify people groups and how such terms “change with time and geographical context,” synod called on the Office of Race Relations to search out appropriate current language to use “when referring to ethnic and gender diversity in denominational reports” (Acts of Synod 2018, p. 450). In 2019, after a review of the CRCNA Editorial Style Guide and subsequent interviews with staff at Calvin College, two universities, and ethnic ministry leaders and organizations, the Office of Race Relations reported that it found the CRC’s current terminology sufficient with regard to both ethnic and gender diversity, and synod concurred (see Agenda for Synod 2019, pp. 54-59; Acts of Synod 2019, p. 794).
Synod 2019 received an overture from two classes requesting that Kinism be declared a heresy because it teaches, against biblical truth, that interracial marriage is sinful and that Christians should be separated according to race. Synod agreed, stating that “Kinist theology is neither biblical nor Reformed” and admonishing councils and classes to promote confessional fidelity and to administer discipline where applicable. For the purpose of clarity and precision, synod also tasked the Council of Delegates with a mandate to research and improve the denomination’s definition of the term heresy (Acts of Synod 2019, pp. 818-20).
Systemic racism became internationally recognized in 2020 as compounding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and after “a time of prayer and lament for our nations and world” the Special Meeting of the Council of Delegates 2020, convened on behalf of synod, adopted a resolution declaring “its abhorrence regarding the sin of systemic racism; its support of our denominational leaders who signed the statement about the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor; and its hope that in the midst of our struggle against racism the power of the gospel of justice and grace in Jesus Christ can be displayed” (Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council of Delegates 2020, p. 457). Note: The “Statement about the Deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor” is posted on The Network.
Acts of Synod 1957, pp. 20, 126-28
Acts of Synod 1959, pp. 82-84, 258-60
Acts of Synod 1964, p. 74
Acts of Synod 1966, pp. 19, 51-53, 106-10
Acts of Synod 1968, pp. 18-20, 561-63, 584, 588-92
Acts of Synod 1969, pp. 50-52, 210-11
Acts of Synod 1970, pp. 61-65, 99-101, 121-22, 306-12, 315-18, 524, 539, 543-44, 546, 563-65
Acts of Synod 1971, pp. 113-17, 302-14, 343-44
Acts of Synod 1972, pp. 50-51, 316-22
Acts of Synod 1973, pp. 50, 337-40
Acts of Synod 1974, pp. 32, 70-72, 375-85, 480-81
Acts of Synod 1977, pp. 34, 76-78
Acts of Synod 1981, pp. 94, 113, 353-58
Acts of Synod 1983, pp. 216, 652-53
Agenda for Synod 1986, pp. 224-31
Acts of Synod 1986, pp. 672-74
Acts of Synod 1992, pp. 720-21
Agenda for Synod 1993, pp. 23
Acts of Synod 1993, pp. 333, 577
Acts of Synod 1995, pp. 694-95
Agenda for Synod 1996, pp. 215-38, 294-95
Acts of Synod 1996, pp. 446, 510-15, 595-619
Acts of Synod 1998, pp. 262, 264-70, 353, 408, 444
Agenda for Synod 2000, pp. 27-28, 522, 529-35
Acts of Synod 2000, p. 634
Agenda for Synod 2003, pp. 30-31
Acts of Synod 2003, pp. 622, 681
Agenda for Synod 2004, pp. 67, 459
Acts of Synod 2004, p. 558
Agenda for Synod 2005, pp. 333-51
Acts of Synod 2005, p. 748, 755-56
Agenda for Synod 2006, pp. 83-84
Agenda for Synod 2007, pp. 34, 144-45
Acts of Synod 2007, p. 650
Agenda for Synod 2008, pp. 60-61
Acts of Synod 2009, p. 589
Acts of Synod 2010, p. 884
Agenda for Synod 2011, pp. 30-31, 37, 55-62
Acts of Synod 2011, pp. 858-61, 866-68
Agenda for Synod 2012, pp. 469-77
Acts of Synod 2012, pp. 757-58
Agenda for Synod 2013, pp. 32, 299-317
Acts of Synod 2013, pp. 438-39, 446, 628-32
Agenda for Synod 2014, pp. 28, 45-52
Acts of Synod 2014, pp. 537-39, 576
Agenda for Synod 2015, pp. 28, 81-104
Agenda for Synod 2016, pp. 30, 42-43, 58-63
Acts of Synod 2016, pp. 828-29
Acts of Synod 2018, p. 450
Agenda for Synod 2019, pp. 54-59, 489-505
Acts of Synod 2019, p. 794, 818-20
Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council of Delegates 2020, p. 457