Posted on Monday, June 4, 2012 at 8:33AM
From Jessica Bratt
Okay, one more set of bullet-point ponderings on what it would mean for the RCA and CRC to consider coming together. [Here’s Part I and Part II]
- As I mentioned earlier, an accompanying question emerges: what is the purpose and function of a denomination? There was a pretty long era in American history where denominational loyalty was strong, and hefty structures went largely unquestioned as a locus for carrying out collective mission and ministry. As that era recedes in the rear-view mirror, most denominations are facing the need to downsize from a family station wagon to a Prius. Bureaucracies are rightly being called into question, and trimmed either by necessity (economic realities, ecclesiastical rifts, etc.) or by honest recognition that, structurally speaking, central offices need to be accountable for empowering the life of local churches, and not the other way around. I can’t count how many times during my time on RCA staff that I heard local church pastors express their frustration about denominational structures, ‘top-down’ dynamics, financial patterns, and so on. I felt I was surrounded by staff colleagues who were devoting their vocational lives to serving the church in meaningful ways, but that didn’t necessarily match up with the perceptions of those out in the local church who would often wonder aloud, ‘what is the denomination doing for us?.’ I wonder how those in local churches--those in pulpits and in pews--would perceive efforts at merger, and whether it would be seen as worthwhile stewardship of time, staff, and resources.
- I’m thinking today about my friend’s sister and brother-in-law, a couple in their early 40s with two school-age children. She grew up Presbyterian; he, Methodist, and they just started attending a Christian Reformed Church. Not because they were drawn to the CRC as a denomination, but because the experiences they were having with other churches in the Salt Lake City area left them feeling ill-equipped to give their children Christian moorings in the midst of an overwhelmingly Mormon subculture. The CRC congregation has simply been the church where they’ve had the best experience. Now, just because they didn’t go out looking for a CRC congregation doesn’t mean that the denominational affiliation is insignificant. Where it’s relevant, in this scenario at least, is insofar as it has provided the ballast, guidance, leadership, and resources to that local congregation. I wonder, would merger make us more or less nimble in shaping a joint body that could respond faithfully to the ongoing significant demographic shifts in our local communities? How are the RCA and CRC currently doing in adapting to the shifts in society and in church-culture?