by Kristen deRoo VanderBerg, CRC Communications

February 10, 2020 — For the first time since its approval in 2018, a joint team of Reformed Church in America and Christian Reformed Church in North America representatives met to discuss how the two denominations should reach out to people of other faiths.

The idea for this joint working group was approved by both the RCA’s General Synod 2018 and the CRCNA’s Synod 2018. The intent was to bring the work of the CRCNA’s existing Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee (EIRC) alongside a new Interreligious Relations effort by the RCA, for mutual learning and collaboration.

The RCA’s General Synod 2018 also approved creation of a staff position to facilitate its Interreligious Relations effort and convene the joint working group with the CRCNA.

Laura Osborne was hired as coordinator for Interreligious Relations in 2019 and pulled together the RCA portion of the team, and the new joint committee met for the first time on Feb. 4, 2020.

“We need to build relationships with our neighbors, and sometimes we don’t know where to start when it’s a neighbor of another faith,” explained Osborne about both denominations’ desire to do interfaith work.

Every congregation has, as part of its mission, a responsibility to be a good neighbor to the people in its community. This includes providing a hospitable and welcoming space, giving an account of the hope within us (1 Pet. 3:15) in word and deed, and building relationships with people in the surrounding community.

Increasingly today, the neighbors surrounding CRC and RCA congregations are from a variety of cultures and religious backgrounds, the committee observed. This can leave churchgoers confused and anxious about how to live out their calling.

“How do we turn anxieties and possibly fears into curiosity and hospitality?” Osborne asked. “That’s a main urgency for our team.”

So on Feb. 4, 15 men and women from a variety of RCA and CRCNA congregations and ministries met to discuss how they could best equip their members for this challenge.

They shared existing resources that each denomination already has in place. They talked about additional partnerships that might be explored to provide training. They also brainstormed new resources that the two denominations might work on together in the future.

“Working with the CRC gives us a larger network of resources, people, and encouragers,” said Osborne, about the value of working together as denominations.

Steve Timmermans, executive director of the CRCNA and a member of the joint team, agreed.

“We are better together,” he said. “We come to the table with shared values and theology, but we also offer different perspectives on the challenge before us.”

“Every time I’ve met with the CRC team, their goals aligned right with ours,” added Osborne. “They have deeper roots in some areas that we don’t — and vice versa. Instead of writing the book from scratch, we both come with ideas and can write the book together more efficiently.”

Photo Credit: Staci DeVries, CRCNA