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Are Synod Statements helpful?

It is a primary belief of reformed Christians that God is at work in the world healing that which is broken and calling all Christians to participate in God’s redemption of the world.

In addition, reformed Christians also recognize that we do not just act as individuals. We are in congregations, classes, and synods. Those bodies can be of help as we figure out God’s activities. That is not just an asset of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA). It is also a belief of the United Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and other reformed denominations. 

They were written by representatives of all classes who take their job very seriously.

So, reading the relevant statements of the CRC Synod is a useful endeavor. But here is the critical question, “Do I have to agree with everything the Synods says?” I think the bottom line is that you are not likely to concur with all statements of the Synod. 

But I recommend that you take them seriously.  Read them carefully. Pray over them vigorously. Do so because they were written by representatives of all classes who take their job very seriously. They wanted to provide biblical information to Christians like you who want to be faithful to God’s saving work in the world. They have done the same task that you are doing.

Let’s look at one of the important statements of the CRCNA on creation care approved by the 2012 Synod. It states that climate change is real, is likely caused by human activity, and therefore is a religious, and ethical issue. It also says that the poor are often the first people hurt by the climate crisis. The report goes on to recommend education and action at all levels of the denomination – including advocating for sound public policies.  

The (OSJ) was asked by the Synod to provide leadership to this effort.

The Office of the Social Justice (OSJ) was asked by the Synod to provide leadership to this effort. After a pilot project in 2014-15, the Climate Witness Project was created in 2015 and began its assignment of helping congregations engage in creation care, especially diminishing the climate crisis and the damage it does to the planet. In the last year or so, World Renew joined in becoming one of the Project’s co-sponsors. The effort includes four pillars (areas of work): worship, education, energy stewardship, and advocacy.

Since that time, the ten regional organizers across North America have worked vigorously on this issue within the CRC. There are now over 123 congregations from the CRC and more than 20 other denominations and 1,200 individual partners that are committed to ending the damage caused by the climate crisis. In west Michigan, the regional organizer has helped 40 churches create strong programs in the four pillars and has enabled eight multi-congregational projects. 

The theology and polity of other Christian denominations differ from the reformed family, but all of them have a national council or some other national entity that understands that one of their tasks is to support and help congregations be faithful. Several of them have an international structure like the pope in the Catholic Church or a patriarch in the Orthodox churches. 

These suggestions from national or international denominational bodies can be a gift to all.

May was the fifth anniversary of “Laudato Si” a document issued by Pope Francis, urging Catholics and others to care for creation. Pope Francis encouraged everyone to commemorate the document for a year – ending on May 24, 2021. He issued the encyclical in 2015 – the year of the Paris Agreement.

The Pope voiced hope that reflections surrounding the Laudato Si’s fifth anniversary will “help to create and strengthen constructive attitudes for the care of creation.” “The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor cannot continue. Let’s take care of creation, a gift of our good Creator God”, he said.

The initiative is designed to involve families, dioceses and local parishes, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and other healthcare centers, businesses, farms, and religious orders and provinces in drafting and implementing plans for sustainable living.

“Enable us to listen and respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” the Pope said, asking that, “the present sufferings be the birth pangs of a more fraternal and sustainable world.”

These suggestions from national or international denominational bodies can be a gift to all of us as we try to discern God’s work in the world and to join in his saving work.   

Photo by Caleb Miller on Unsplash

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