Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Belhar: the 'conservative' Reformed Church In America & the Christian Reformed Church

There is a long list of comments under the Belhar Confession on the Resource page of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) web site. Charles Wiley, Coordinator for the Office of Theology and Worship, has been very faithful to respond to the comments. And I have undoubtedly commented too often. But I saw a comment tonight I could not ignore. However I decided to post on my own blog.

Wiley believes that part of the proof that adopting Belhar will not lead to departures from the PCUSA is because it was first adopted by a conservative church in South Africa and is being considered by two denominations that are more conservative than the PCUSA. (One has adopted the confession.) He writes that they are, “the Reformed Church in America ( and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (” [1]

But the truth is both of those two denominations are struggling with the same issues as the PCUSA. Right after GA I wrote about coming home on a train with our particular car filled with CRC young people and their pastor. Toward the end of our journey together the pastor, hearing our conversations about GA, started asking us questions. He was very concerned about his church adding Belhar to their confessions. And well he should be.

Kate Kooyman, a member of the CRC and part of that denomination’s Justice Seekers Community, an official CRC organization, has pulled together many documents into one pdf file Kate Kooyman Becoming a Belhar-Confessing Church Ministry Manual ...for use by the more progressive members of her Church. In the introduction among other reasons for adopting Belhar, Kooyman writes, is the Spirit speaking in a unique way when confessed in North America. It became clear that the prophetic words of the Belhar would, if taken seriously and attempted to live out, challenge the RCA and the CRC into true (and painful transformation. It would call to question ecclesial structures which limit participation based on gender and sexual orientation. (Emphasis mine)

I have many articles on my blog about the Belhar Confession. I also have a feed where I, as well as others, can see the various places people visiting my blog are coming from and what they are looking for. The CRC is in both the United States and Canada. And everyday I see people coming from Canada to read about Belhar. Before the RCA voted to adopt Belhar I also had people from that denomination reading my Belhar material.

Both of these ‘conservative’ denominations have members just as concerned as many members of the PCUSA are about Belhar. It is a great error to believe that these two Reformed bodies are not enduring the same battles we are. One excellent article about Belhar was written by a RCA member, Kevin De Young. His article is “The Belhar Confession: Yea or Nay.”

That two less progressive denominations are seeking to adopt Belhar does not speak to its non-problematic content but rather to the battles our Reformed sisters and brothers have entered into and are sharing with us.

[1] I am not at all suggesting here that members should depart the PCUSA if Belhar is adopted.


Jordan said...

I am a member of the CRC and would categorize the two denominations in this way:

The RCA is mainline, the Reformed version of the Presbyterian PC(USA), Lutheran ELCA, and so on.

The CRC is a more mediating denomination, but it certainly has a kind of mainline wing and a kind of evangelical or 'conservative' wing.

But you are certainly right to say that both are facing the same issues as the PC(USA).

Viola Larson said...

And one of my thoughts lately has been that if a denomination such as CRC is now struggling with these issues, no denomination is safe.

John McNeese said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Viola Larson said...

I do believe you put your comment on the wrong posting. so put it on the right posting and I will disagree with you there:-0

John McNeese said...

You are correct. Sorry.

Charles Wiley said...


You over-read. I in no way provided "proof that adopting Belhar will not lead to departures from the PCUSA."

The question that had been raised was whether or not Belhar would split the PCUSA. I suggested that Belhar's connection to more conservative bodies suggests that it is not inherently part of a liberal plot against the PCUSA. Whatever split may or may not occur in the PCUSA, we should not give Belhar as the reason for a split. That is a far cry from claiming that "adopting Belhar will not led to departures from the PCUSA." I don't know the answer to that question.

Charles Wiley

Viola Larson said...

This is what you wrote:

Dean, I hope and pray that you are wrong, but whether you are right or wrong, I don't think Belhar has anything to do with it. Belhar arose out of a church much more theologically conservative than the PCUSA (, and has been or is being considered as a confessional standard in two North American church bodies that are more theologically conservative than the PCUSA: the Reformed Church in America ( and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (

That gave me the impression that you were saying that because Belhar came from a conservative church, and was being considered by two American conservative churches it shouldn't be the cause of departures. Perhaps I misunderstood the meaning of that but it still sounds that way to me.
But the whole purpose of my posting was to point out that the conservative churches were struggling just as we are. And that there are organizations, official ones, that are intending to use Belhar for the ordination of homosexuals. And just like our denomination there are people who are concerned about that.

Anonymous said...

Dave Watson (Kent, WA) writes -
Calvin Seminary is hosting a panel discussion on the Belhar
Confession next week Tuesday, October 12, at 7:30pm (Eastern time)

John Cooper, Victoria Proctor-Gibbs, and Peter Borgdorff will dialogue on
the Belhar Confession. Thea Leunk will moderate the discussion. One
question that will be addressed is "Should the Christian Reformed Church
adopt the Belhar?" Free and open to the public. Please join us.

Re: Calvin Seminary Panel Discussion on Belhar - Tuesday, Oct. 12 (Watch Live)

The panel discussion WILL be recorded and broadcast live (if technology
cooperates). Links will be available on the CTS Lecture Archive page [1].

/"...a box will appear in the top left of page that says something like
"listen/watch live." Be patient for a couple of minutes so the IT guys can get
things going (or if we start a couple minutes late). If for some reason it
doesn't work it will definitely be on the archive within days of the event."/