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CRC Synod 2009 tentatively adds Belhar as a confession

Ratification scheduled for 2012

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

CHICAGO - After nearly three hours of discussion, Synod 2009 of the Christian Reformed Church in North America recommended adopting the Belhar document as its fourth confession. The churches belonging to the denomination, which has its roots mainly in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN), will have until 2012 to study the document when Synod 2012 will be requested to ratify the decision.

The Belhar Confession, a statement of belief originally written as a reaction to church- and state-sanctioned apartheid in South Africa, was adopted by the synod of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in 1986. A significant focus of the document is on unity, reconciliation and justice.

Although there has been a great deal of discussion already in the CRC, congregations must now study and review the proposal before the ratification in 2012, when it will be decided if it will become one of the standards of unity of the CRC. If so, it will be on a par with the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and Canons of Dordt and become the subject of discussion with churches with which the CRC has official ties.

Dr. John Bolt, a professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, has reservations about the Belhar. While noting that ‘there is so much in it that it is hard for people not to passionately agree with,’ he also cautions that certain statements in it could create disunity.

Goat project and studies Synod 2009 was told that the CRC could learn something from things like the Canuck goat project. The idea arose with a few rollerblading members in Canada who raised funds for more than 1,000 goats for needy people in Africa. Called a wonderful example of experimentation, CRC Executive Director Secretary would like to see his church move forward in a tough economic environment, from isolation to community and from competition to collaboration. He pointed to the rollerblading members as to what could be accomplished through that type of experimenting.

CRC congregations will be studying a report that details the value of - and also offers some reservations of - the movement known as “Third Wave Pentecostalism.” A synodical committee provided a theological response to this charismatic phenomenon with the help of seminary professors and a range of biblical scholars.

Overall, the committee said that Third Wave Pentecostalism has merit and value in helping to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. Although there had been intense discussions on every sentence, the report to Synod was unanimous. Some agreed to disagree on the question of prophesy whether it is limited or not to prophets in the Bible. Some on the committee said they believe that some form of prophesy is alive today.

Synod 2009 made history when a number of delegates came down with a virus. Cook County, Illinois health inspectors are 90 percent certain that the illness afflicting Synod 2009 delegates and staff was caused by a norovirus, a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu” or gastroenteritis.

Inspectors combed through the kitchen and food service facilities of Trinity Christian College, where Synod was held, and passed it with an almost perfect score. At last count a total of 63 Synod delegates and staff had been affected, in addition to a number of people from the college staff and from a Multi-Ethnic Conference.

Among numerous other agenda points, Synod declared 48 students candidates for ministry in the CRC.