Doctrine of Discovery Response Update

During Synod 2016, delegates discussed the Doctrine of Discovery, labeled it as heresy and lamented the pain it caused. While the synodical delegates rejected many of the study report’s recommendations, they did task Steve Timmermans, executive director of the denomination, to “work with appropriate agencies and offices in committing the CRC to walk alongside affected parties, listen to their stories, lament and weep with them until such time as we can ‘walk in beauty together.’”

They also called on the denomination to “consider a denomination-wide annual Day of Justice for the purpose of coming together as a body of Christ to recognize the plight of those who are oppressed, marginalized, and suffer in a culture of discrimination.”
Here are a few updates on those mandates:

1. Walking together. Rehoboth Christian School in Rehoboth, N.M., has been intentional about promoting healing by seeking opportunities to meet with former students who believe injustices and wrongs were done to them in the past. The superintendent also issued a heartfelt apology on behalf of the school. At the same time, staff from the school have also heard people in the Native American community say that they cannot have a vision for the future if they are always looking back toward the past. One Native American pastor recently said, “The past has been redeemed by the blood of the Christ. We no longer have to live in the past because that has been forgiven.” To honor both the need to express personal pain and Christ’s call to ongoing repentance, the school held a special service in early January. The service provided opportunities for former students to share their stories and for the community to weep, lament, and move toward reconciliation. The service was built around these phrases: I was wrong; I am sorry; Will you forgive me?; and I love you. Additional activities are also planned to ensure a culture of ongoing dialogue, lament, and reconciliation.

2. Day of Justice. A diverse group of people representing various CRCNA agencies and congregations have begun meeting to talk about what a Day of Justice in the Christian Reformed Church could look like. They have started by exploring what biblical justice looks like and how it is defined by people within the CRC. They have spoken with theologians, philosophers, and advocates who have spent their lives in pursuing justice. At Synod 2017, information around a common definition for justice will be shared. Additional details about the first Day of Justice to be held in early 2018 will be shared at Inspire 2017 in Detroit next August.

About the Author

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg was part of the World Renew Communications team from 1999-2016. She now serves as director of Communications & Marketing for the Christian Reformed Church.