Ministering Moses in the Michigan Mitten

The Christian Reformed Church has had a historic presence in western Michigan. But according to a recent story in Christianity Today, the Grand Rapidians are turning their cosmological gaze eastward toward Detroit.

First, there’s the Detroit Kingdom Enterprise Zone (KEZ), a church planting and community development effort empowered by the CRC and RCA’s Church Multiplication Initiative. Led by pastors Dan Jongsma from Dearborn Christian Fellowship and Jon Beyers from Crosswinds Church in Canton, the KEZ brings together 10 Detroit CRC and RCA congregations to evaluate, empower, equip, and expand ministry partnerships in the city.

Through the KEZ, local leaders are receiving funding and assistance from Grand Rapids as they begin the process of developing collaborative efforts to invest in the city and raise up local leaders to establish new Reformed communities of faith within in the city. The hope is that these church plants—which KEZ leaders hope include a Reformed campus ministry at Wayne State University, a city center church in the style of Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City and City Church in San Francisco, a Reformed African American church, and a more contemporary community church—will be able to reach out to Detroit with a new message of hope, redemption, and renewal; a vision that is thoroughly Reformed and thoroughly local.

Part of the theological rationale for this initiative is a commitment to shalom:

Reformed theology also includes the call for Christians to seek shalom. Mark Van Andel, pastor of discipleship at Citadel of Faith, is working with the CRC and RCA leaders to help them understand what it means to work for justice in Detroit. He points out that the comprehensive vision for shalom and commitment to justice, righteousness, reconciliation, and working for the common good that flows out of Reformed theology are key strengths of the KEZ.

Van Andel, whose first job in Detroit was working with Lisa Johanon at Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation, sees all of this as being a major part in how Reformed theology can speak to the Motor City. “Reformed theology belongs in a city like Detroit,” says Van Andel, “precisely because it offers this powerful message of shalom to the poor, destitute, and depressed.”

Somehow the author of this piece missed the work of Rabbi Brett who ministers in a CRC congregation almost halfway between Grand Rapids and Detroit, in the small town of Charlotte. He also actively promotes Old Testament teaching:

Jesus was theonomic. Paul was theonomic. Augustine was theonomic. Centuries later the Magisterial Reformers were theonomic (look at all the quotes on Iron Ink from them on theonomy), the Puritans were theonomic (look at all the quotes on Iron Ink from them on theonomy). Some R2K defenders have pointed out theonomy in the Kuyperian tradition accusing our Kuyperian brethren as being “soft theonomists.” (Oh the horror of it all.) Hence my pedestrian contention that the Reformed faith is indeed theonomic. Now, naturally, different theonomic men interpreting God’s law-word had different wrinkles regarding their theonomy and it is doubtful that the Church will ever be universal in how it understands that God’s law should be applied, but the Church throughout history — and especially the Reformed Church — has always been theonomic, and that is simply because that is what Biblical (i.e. — Reformed) Christianity is.

How the folks in Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Charlotte work this out is almost as mysterious as the NCAA Division I’s scholar-athletes.

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30 thoughts on “Ministering Moses in the Michigan Mitten

  1. They’ve already ruined the words “city” “renewal” “justice” “reconciliation” and “gospel-centered” for me. Now they’re messing with “shalom”. That’s hitting this Jew below the belt!

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  2. I predicted it! Just in the last hour. More bashing in a newer Post, 3/25! {See my last (both senses?) comment @ “Defining Morality UP”}. I was afraid I might have yet one more comment @ OLTS 🙂 Love, BM

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  3. My wife is called Kerry. Or Kez for short.

    That gave a slightly different spin to this article.

    Can you help this Brit? The CRC and the RCA seem to be speaking mainline language with all this shalom and justice waffle. Are they indeed the mainline?

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  4. Detroit? What about Grand Rapids? Are they done there already? There’s vast tracts of white trash that have no idea they were skipped over in the transformationalist’s project.

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  5. Phil, Scott Clark’s categories help, which make the CRC and RCA borderline (which is Dutch for mainline).

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  6. Erik, thought it’d be the time he asked how to get back on the expressway.

    (I also say thank you very much when such help is given in the big city…)

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  7. Kent,

    It is, but I’m keeping it family friendly around here.

    OPC question (for anyone) – What is the difference between the office of teacher and pastor in an OPC (when they are both ministers)?

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  8. I visited an RCA in Des Moines around 17 years ago. The pastor was lobbying for a sales tax increase “for the children”. That was as close to mainline as I ever hoped to get.

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  9. Erik, in answer to your question about pastors and teachers in an OPC, check the OPC Form of Government (FG), chapters 6 – 9 [http://opc.org/BCO/FG.html#Chapter_VI]

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  10. So would a “teacher” commonly be someone who is teaching in a Christian school, college, or seminary who is ordained and is laboring in the local church part-time while there is another man laboring as “pastor” in that church?

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  11. “… it is mainline language but because the CRC and RCA are not Anglo (but Dutch), they’ll never be the real mainline …”

    Well, I thought I was beginning to understand some of this, but now I’m confusticated all over again. According to this organization’s definition list (http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report2religious-landscape-study-appendix3.pdf) at least one of the denominations included “in the mainline tradition” is the ELCA, which is comprised of various Lutheran “synods” primarily of German, Swedish, and Norwegian background, therefore not “Anglo” either. So how exactly is “mainline” defined within protestant Christianity?

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  12. So it’s like me when I was in Madagascar, then?
    I spoke the lingo, wore the clothes but I was still a 6 foot white guy in a land of short people.

    So the CRC and RCA speak the lingo and seek the influence but they’re still a bunch of Dutchmen?
    I’d say you Yanks were too hung up on ethnicity until I remember I was baptised in a Yorkshire church which was set up by Scots and still have St Andrew’s flags outside.

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  13. Phil,

    What I think you might be missing is how the mainline has been bound up within the power structures of the political and social elite in this country. Maybe this is waning amongst the younger elite, but if you look at American politics in the first 3/4 of the 20th century, the mainline was a very influential bunch. From the Rockefellers to Wilson (and the moneyed interests behind him) and beyond, to be powerful and infulential was to be WASP and mainline protestant. There was even certain amounts of cooperation between mainline missions and American intelligence, as these folks were, in some sense not only Christian missionaries, but ambassadors of the progressive ideals of liberal protestantism – something that has always been highly useful to Anglo-American impulses to imperial rule.

    The mainline leaning, but ethnic denominations, like the RCA or ELCA, have never garnered the same cultural and political influence (outside their ethnic circles) as the WASP mainline. To doubt that race hasn’t played a part in the hierarchy of influence of the various mainline denominations is to misunderstand in part the dynamics of 19th & 20th century American history.

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  14. Jed, right. The mainline has Harvard, Yale and Princeton (or at least in its heritage). The RCA has Hope. ELCA has Gettysburg (for starters). You do the math.

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  15. Don’t forget about Rutgers (Milton Friedman’s alma mater):

    From Wikipedia:

    “Rutgers University /ˈrʌtɡərz/, officially Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is an American public research university and the largest institution for higher education in New Jersey, United States. It was originally chartered as Queen’s College in 1766. It is the eighth-oldest college in the United States and one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution. Rutgers was originally a private university affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church and admitted only male students, but evolved into a coeducational public research university. Rutgers is one of only two colonial colleges that later became public universities, the other being the College of William & Mary.[4]”

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  16. My wife is friends with a bi-sexual Puerto Rican girl that graduated from Rutgers. Oh how the mighty have fallen….

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