The Christian Reformed Church in North America has been active in the past year sharing the gospel and seeking to change lives across the world, writes Steven Timmermans, executive director of the the CRCNA, in his opening message in the 2019 Annual Ministry Report: Powered by the Holy Spirit.
“Almost daily I see and hear stories of people around the world coming to Christ; of individual men, women, and children growing and maturing in their faith; of congregations flowing like rivers of love and witness into their communities; and so much more,” Timmermans writes.
Thinking about these stories, says Timmermans, he is reminded of two things: “None of this is possible without the amazing and mysterious work of the Holy Spirit”; and “no matter how large and daunting the tasks before us may seem, God is even larger and greater.”
The 24-page report, which is included in the Dec. 2019 print edition of The Banner and is available as a downloadable PDF document, is filled with a look at the full range of the CRCNA’s ministries supported by your prayers, ministry share gifts, and other offerings. It offers highlights of what these ministries have done in 2019. This year there is also an interactive website featuring additional facts and stories.
In these reports we are reminded, for example, of the efforts of Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI), which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, to reach the world through media in ten of the world’s major languages. As part of its story, BTGMI uses the words of Josué in Burkina Faso to encourage readers: “I am a Christian, but I had lost hope. Your program opened my eyes to the love of a God who does not get tired of forgiving. I found hope again!”
In the area of education, we are reminded that Calvin College changed it name to Calvin University this year as part of its Vision 2030 initiative and “received approval from the Higher Learning Commission in the United States and the Education Bureau in Hong Kong to offer a masters of education program through Lumina College in Hong Kong.”
In 2019, Calvin Theological Seminary hosted a number of learning opportunities such as weekly community events, chapel services, conferences, and lectures, along with its range of degree-program classes. Also this year, the seminary “began a partnership with Christian Schools International to offer an online Certificate in Bible Instruction program for Bible teachers.” The seminary also welcomed, along with Calvin University, Dr. Willie Jennings, professor at Yale Divinity School, for the Stob Lecture Series in January 2019.
The Office of Race Relations continued to fight racism on many fronts by hosting a number of antiracism workshops, offering Race Relations scholarships for college and seminary students, and assisting Synod 2019 in declaring kinism, which espouses the mistaken belief that God has ordained separation of races in all areas of life, a theological heresy.
The Office of Social Justice continued in 2019 to help churches address the issue of climate change, advocated for criminal justice reform, pushed “for greater numbers of refugees admitted to the U.S. and Canada,” and helped churches “promote and celebrate the sanctity of human life.”
World Renew was able in 2019 to partner and work with “Christian leaders from 80 denominations and Christian outreach organizations.” The ministry, its story says, “offered the light of hope to 241,154 people in 21 developing countries who participated in World Renew’s long-term community development programs, making positive, permanent changes in their health, agriculture skills, literacy abilities, income earnings, and leadership capacity.” In addition, “World Renew assisted 677,509 people in distress from disasters in 22 countries in the past year, including those caused by war, drought, famine, hurricanes, earthquakes, and typhoons.” This support included “emergency food assistance, shelter, seeds and tools, long-term economic recovery, sanitation and hygiene supplies, and clean water.”
The Candidacy Committee, charged with facilitating, coordinating, and offering leadership in the ordination processes for pastors in the Christian Reformed Church, endorsed 74 persons as candidates eligible for call (including 42 first-time candidates); “drafted a proposal, approved by Synod 2019, that included significant reformatting of the Church Order guidance for the office of commissioned pastor,” and continued “ongoing development and orientation programs for pastors from an increasing variety of ethnic minority groups who wish to affiliate with the CRC.”
Meanwhile, Chaplaincy and Care Ministry “endorsed 144 chaplains throughout the United States and Canada—in the military, health care, workplaces, and many other areas— serving people in crisis or in spiritual distress.” The office also “enabled chaplains to achieve a combined 9,959 hours of specialized training” and “provided $30,863 in training grants for 29 chaplains and students.”
Pastor Church Resources “assisted search committees in navigating the PastorSearch process”; “participated in over 350 consultations, ranging from continuing education seminars to in-depth conversations about challenging situations”; and provided translations to the Pastor’s Spiritual Vitality Toolkit in Korean and Spanish on the Pastor Church Resources website.
This year the Centre for Public Dialogue (Canada) helped its steering group, the Committee for Contact with the Government, in celebrating their 50th anniversary. From the foundational belief that every person is created in the image of God, the ministry works “to promote the flourishing of all people through constructive dialogue and advocacy in Canada.” This year, the ministry “provided resources and support to churches in light of news regarding eligibility changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program,” developed “a workshop designed to help church members navigate the political system and have their voice heard on justice issues,” and “relaunched Journey with Me, a workshop to help Canadians build empathy for the refugee experience and work alongside new neighbors for justice.”
In collaboration with the Reformed Church in America, the CRCNA’s Disability Concerns office “supported a network of volunteer disability advocates” and “created resources for churches to use in worship, discipleship, and care.” In addition, Disability Concerns worked closely with Friendship Ministries in helping to develop Bible-study materials “for small groups of people with and without intellectual disability.”
Also in 2019, Safe Church Ministry “saw an increase in the number of classis safe church coordinators, along with the number of those receiving a stipend for their work.” The ministry also “awarded several mini-grants to safe church coordinators and leaders to fund training events in Ontario, Illinois, British Columbia, and Michigan.”
Reflecting on 2019 in his opening message, Timmermans wrote: “We have been given the Great Commission to spread the gospel message, and God has not left us to our own devices to get this work done. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the opportunities in our midst, equips us for the task at hand, encourages us when we make mistakes, and sustains us all—together—for the long road of kingdom work.”