The Synod of 1967 and Missions

Missions, someone has once said, is the lifeblood of Christ’s church.

It is therefore not surprising that also the Christian Reformed synod of 1967 gave attention to this great work which Christ has laid upon it. Although not a synod which was primarily and pre-eminently concerned with this aspect of the church’s ministry, it did take several decisions which should be noted. Only then can we expect that the prayers and gifts of those who believe that the gospel of our Lord and Savior is the answer to mankind’s problems, pains and perplexities will match the programs to which the church has pledged itself.

Record budgets for missions, totaling more than six million dollars, were adopted by the Synod for the year 1968 as follows:

Home Missions $2,455,200

Foreign Missions $2,593,780

Back to God Hour $965,000

These figures record continued advance of the mission program on all fronts. At the same time the reports of the boards indicated vast and unreached fields of opportunity for witness which wait entrance.

Significant personal reports of our missionaries introduced to the Synod spoke both of trials and of blessings. Rev. G. Van Groningen recalled the role of our church in Australia, a work which will soon come to an end. Rev. R. Greenway told Synod that if a missionary in Mexico devoted his full time to direct evangelistic work he could establish one new congregation a month in some areas. Rev. L. Van Essen spoke of the rapid growth of the church in Nigeria, describing the Church of Christ among the Tiv people (NKST) as “the fastest growing church in the world” and requiring 75 new pastors in the next five years. Special prayer for our missionaries, for the Nigerian Christians, and for the Nigerian nation followed his stirring review of the present crisis in that land. Rev. F. Vander Stoep, missionary among the Navaho Indians since 1940, recalled the great harvest the church is reaping in a field which many thought should be greatly curtailed a few years ago. He himself confessed that the fruits today far exceed his own vision, at that time.

Home Mission Matters

The rapid social changes in our society, coupled with new approaches to Jewish evangelism, make necessary the disposal of our mission property in Chicago. It appears that a formerly great and ambitious program of Jewish evangelism will soon end.

On other mission fronts Synod gave approval and endorsement to a revised policy statement on Campus Ministry which provides that campus ministries as carried on by the church “will be basically the same as the church’s ministry elsewhere” and which encourages the churches to “go to the student in order to be where the student is.”

The question of area representation on the executive committee of the Board was answered by the appointment of yet another member-at-large. The Christian Reformed Church ought soon to address itself to membership on its Boards and executive committees, especially with additional Classes being formed each year and the size of the Board accordingly increasing. With modern, efficient, fast transportation available, it is debatable whether the necessity still exists for the executive committees. of our Boards to be confined to the Michigan-Illinois-Ontario areas. The increasing size of the Boards will tend to make them less efficient and more unwieldy as well.

Should organized home mission churches have the right to be the calling church of the home missionary that serves them? Synod responded to this question raised in connection with the Riverside, California Church by instructing the Home Mission Board “to continue its study of the feasibility of making home mission churches, which are organized and have regular consistories, calling churches while at the same time preserving necessary supervisory power of the Board.”

Foreign Mission Matters

The work of the church in Australia and Ceylon will end this year. Advance on all other fronts is contemplated and projected. The Board was given an open hand to staff its fields and expand as necessary. From the discussion on the floor of Synod it appears that Synod’s control will take the form of budgetary approval of expansion. This is a radical change in the church’s approach to missionary expansion. It appears to this reporter that the church in its mission advance would be best served by consideration of the challenges rather than by the limiting of funds provided to our boards.

Synod considered a detailed report on the place of dentistry in missions and decided that “dentistry is a legitimate phase of medical outreach in missions.” The detailed material presented to and adopted by Synod makes one wonder why Synod should go beyond acceptance of general policy in these matters, the working out of which could better be left to the boards.

Brazil will be entered as a promising “field for active missionary outreach…independently of the Reformed Church in Brazil.” Two missionaries were approved for Puerto Rico, and the Board disclosed its intention to call additional staff for Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, and the Philippines.

The question of theological training in Nigeria by cooperation with TCNN (Training College of Northern Nigeria) was delayed to 1968 at the Board’s request.

From various matters confronting Synod it is obvious that the Church must soon confront the question of the relationship of the CRWRC to its missions. Diaconal involvement in missions independent of our boards can lead to unfortunate and unhappy jurisdictional disputes if clear policy is not delineated at the beginning.

Back To God Hour

Broadcasts now include English, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese programs. Questions of the relationship of this work to the foreign mission work are answered by mutual cooperation of our denominational agencies.

Lay-Workers in Evangelism

The lay-worker has not received his proper place in the ministry and work of the church in the past. A long and detailed report on this matter was received by the Synod. Synod judged that the report was too general in its conclusions and recommendations. It appointed a new study committee to come with a report on the precise status of the full·time lay worker within our ecclesiastical framework and a draft of regulations of governing policy with respect to type of training, examination and licensure, remuneration, and supervision. It is hoped that this new study will not only assist the churches but will properly project the place and function of the full-time lay worker within the church’s ministry and witness.