Saving Institutions

There was a lot of feedback on my latest post, Losing Our Religion.

One that I found of particular interest was from Randy Buist, a graduate of Calvin Seminary and someone who grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, but a decade ago or so, decided to leave.  He said much that I resonate with, and am reposting it here because his was one of the last comments made and it is worth reading to get a perspective on one person who felt that —for the sake of the kingdom— leaving the institution outweighed the benefits of staying.  Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Very well written. Kudos for thoughtfulness with integrity.

Until this article, I was not aware of John’s departure. I read him weekly growing up, and I loved his passion, amazing writing skills and love for the ways of the kingdom. I’m sad for the CRC. I breathe relief for John.

Nearly twenty years ago I finished my course work at Calvin Seminary. Eleven years ago I helped start a little non-CRC house church.

Today I still embrace Calvin College. A reformed world-view is an amazing perspective on life. I won’t give all of it up. Yet. Dordt is outdated and still adhered too. The Heidelberg still damns our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Our right wing politics support pre-birthed life, but we fail to see our bipolar attitude toward the marginalized whether it be the poor, immigrant without a green card or the homosexual couple wanting to live a committed life together. In other words, the second commandment often is disregarded for Puritan values.

I am also saddened the CRC is losing such an amazing voice. His choice was not his own however. Here is why: First, Calvin Seminary still has predominately systematic theologians teaching in its faculty. Even though they know better, skin is not lost nor tenure potentially not granted for the sake of these issues. There simply isn’t institutional will to risk what could be lost for the sake of saving something greater. As I read the comments, even [certain professors] won’t call the denomination out for bad theological positions. The will to do so largely does not exist.

Secondly, for those of us who love Catholics and embrace gay monogamous partnerships, there is no space for us if we are to be honest with our theology being our guiding force in life.

Thirdly, for those of us called to be evangelists, the rules are often strict. The theological maze of rules become obstacles to living the reflections of the life of Jesus to a hurting and broken world. (Case in point: the new Calvin College president, although Presbyterian, is expected to join the CRC. For God’s sake.Really? For the sake of the Missio Dei, the mission of God, does it really matter?)

Ironically, it doesn’t matter. Yet, to the gatekeepers it does matter. No major voice will have the courage to say otherwise.

Finally, as someone having spent conception through Christian day school through Calvin College, Calvin Seminary, seven years of serving as a youth pastor, and being grateful for my first 34 years of being mentored by amazing CRC people, the past eleven years have challenged me to vistas of the kingdom I would not have seen from most of the CRC’s best peaks.

My connections, encounters and friendships during this decade of time have surpassed my greatest dreams. In the midst of these voices, the cries I hear to pursue justice and mercy as I learned growing up in the CRC have exponentially multiplied.

Today my kingdom theology is in the veins of Leslie Newbigin, NT Wright, George Hunsberger and Craig VanGelder. Most days I am not concerned about bad theology because I am not told that it still matters.

The ways of Jesus and the kingdom of God allow space for justice and mercy, goodness and kindness, thoughtful friendships with heretics and sinners in ways that I never imagined eleven years ago.

For some people the desire to stay and see institutional change may be a tremendous calling. For others of us such as Suk and me, life’s calling is elsewhere.

I can not speak nor write for John. For me, life is too short to spend time saving institutions. These too will pass. I have many friends who know the biblical text, believe Jesus was great, but they want nothing to do with a Saviour. Their views are the result of institutional failures in many cases.

As for me, I’m called to live the kingdom that is here now but not yet fully known. When human institutions get in the way of kingdom stuff, I have a serious problem. Today I find people in West Michigan more willing to converse about the kingdom when they know I am committed to the ways of Jesus but have no institutional ties. While this may be a sad commentary on the institutional church, including the CRC, it is also our current reality.

Will there be a theological call to reform following Suk’s departure? We can hope so, but the theologians are always good at creating spin. We shall hope for a groundswell that becomes a Tsunami, but let’s not hold our breath. Life is too short to hope for change we can not create apart from a groundswell of desire and passion.

Grace & Peace,

What do you think?  How do you weigh the benefits/costs of institution?  Is a tsunami of change coming?


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