A Lament for Our Canadian Church in the CRCNA

July 2021

After careful and collaborative deliberation, we, the undersigned, offer this lament as our fervent prayer to God, who we know hears the cries of all who seek him in their hour of need. We also offer it to fellow Christian Reformed members and leaders, who we hope might pray with us in this time of denominational crisis, and turn prayer to action. What follows we feel are our essential petitions, stated as concisely as possible, many of them longstanding frustrations, but some of them more acutely felt at this particular time.

  1. We lament that Rev. Dr. Roorda is the fourth Canadian director to end their tenure in the role in deep frustration with the CRCNA administrative structures. These structures have consistently limited the flourishing of the ministry of the Canadian church within the CRCNA. We cry, “Enough!” Our plea is that a third party investigate this dysfunctional pattern of frustration so that ministry of the CRCNA can be more fruitful. Matters of deep hurt need recognition and reconciliation.
  2. We are deeply grieved by the Canada Corp’s recent abrupt dismissal of Rev. Dr. Darren Roorda as Director of Canadian Ministries. This dismissal reflects the dysfunctional nature of our CRCNA structures. The sudden dismissal is inconsistent with his many years of faithful service documented in the CRC News article posted on July 7th, 2021, and we grieve his removal from this position of servant leadership and the deep distress that it has caused within the church. It is unclear that appropriate HR policies and processes were adhered to, and to be at peace with our consciences we need to see an impartial, independent review to ensure that proper HR procedures were followed.
  3. Related to the above systemic problem, we are seriously dismayed that the SALT report’s process and its content are so clearly inadequate to addressing the desperate organizational need for enabling contextualized ministry in the CRCNA in Canada. Some of its flaws include:
    • It fails to recognize the CRCNA (Canada) as a full partner in ministry, by subjugating the Canadian CRC ministry to a Grand Rapids-based administrator.
    • It rolls back years of progress made by Synod, the board of trustees, and documents like the “Cultivating Bi-nationality” report from 2014.
    • It ignores the better binational models offered us, such as that developed by World Renew and the Canadian Restructuring Team.
    • It risks a critical review by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) because full “direction and control” of Canadian ministry still does not rest with the Canadian staff or board.
    • It does not recognize or reconcile the concerns named by Canadian leaders and fails to move towards mutual trust and respect.

In light of these concerns, we request the SALT report be tabled pending further review and revision.

  1. We deeply value and are committed to our partnership with our American brothers and sisters and so we continue to be saddened by the decades-long difficulty we have had in being able to freely contextualize ministry in Canada for our congregations and denominational agencies. It isn’t working: the partnership is structured poorly, and we long for a relationally structured system that empowers us for ministry within our national culture and among its citizens.

This is not a comprehensive list of our petitions, but it names some of our foundational concerns as laments. We hope and pray to God that our grief will be heard, and that it will turn to action within the CRCNA and lead to real, substantial change grounded in a truly mutual partnership.

In light of the turmoil we find ourselves in, we shall be encouraging our brothers and sisters in the CRCNA to join us in this lament and in hope for reconciliation and healing.

In love of Christ’s Church,
Gary VanArragon
Ed Den Haan
Peter Schuurman
Bruce Adema
Kathy VanderGrift
Dan Tigchelaar
Ray Elgersma

Related Articles:
After Roorda’s dismissal, CRC pastors in Canada ask board to explain, listen

When Canadian realities are ignored

‘Frustrated, angry, disillusioned’

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