We can promote greater unity by listening to each other.

Our denomination has plenty of differences. We don’t see eye to eye on a growing number of matters, including liturgical practices, shared financial responsibility for the work of the denomination, and what our response should be to the social questions the world keeps bringing to our doorstep.

What’s more, we seem to be reluctant to overcome our differences.

At the local level some of us can't agree on the use of a common translation of the Bible or what version of the confessions and sacraments to use for communal reading. And when it comes to the music in worship services, we're all over the map, feeling free to use songs borrowed from distinctly non-Reformed traditions.  

On the broader scale, at synod, the lack of consensus leads us from one study committee to another. In the meantime, the churches are left to their own devices in dealing with the questions that remain unresolved, creating ongoing uncertainty.  

No, we don't want the void to be filled with top-down dictates from denominational offices in Grand Rapids, Mich., or Burlington, Ont. What we do need though, is wisdom. When issues come to the fore, we need prayerful consideration of biblically-directed study, which, with God's blessing, will bring about a consensus that will be acceptable to all. We need to allow ourselves to be led by the collective wisdom of the voluntary association that a denomination is. Without that commitment there can  be no denomination. 

How did we get to this point?

It is my sense that we have allowed the secular surroundings in which we mostly live, work, and play to influence how we think and act in our personal and faith lives. The world argues that it is no longer correct to call a spade a spade, because, you see, it might actually be a completely different garden tool. This uncertainty and lack of resolve creates a laissez-faire attitude that finds it easier to skirt around life's issues and let everyone do their own thing.

There seems to be a connection here with our reluctance in the church to confront and deal with our differences—at the expense of unity.

In the grand scheme of things, a denomination is, after all, only a human institution—a means to an end, an attempt to be more effective together. As such it is susceptible to a loss of enough reasons to stay together. With or without a united Christian Reformed denomination, God will continue to gather believers for his church from every age, tribe, nation, and denomination.

In the meantime, we can promote greater unity in the CRC by listening to each other. Really listening, instead of stopping as soon as we think we have identified where the other person is coming from. Perhaps most difficult for all of us, we  have to be willing to drop our preconceived notions about what we think is best, and be prepared to submit to the wisdom of God's Word.   

Soli Deo Gloria.

About the Author

Ed Grootenboer was formerly executive director of the Christian Labour Association of Canada, now retired. He attends Community CRC, in Kitchener, Ont.