USA (MNN) — Two years ago, Reverend Allen Likkel of Christian Reformed Home Missions gave an interview about the increasing cooperation between the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) and the Reformed Church in America (RCA). He summed it up this way: "When unchurched people can see the unity of Christians, that confirms the power of the Gospel."
At its heart, a formal alignment between World Renew (formerly the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee) and the Reformed Church of America (RCA) does just what Likkel noted. Essentially, the CRCNA is the arm, and the RCA is the muscle. Strength training has been part of the mix for at least seven years when both the CRC and RCA were given mandates from their synods to find ways to work together.
Tom DeVries, General Secretary of the Reformed Church of America, notes that today, "You can see that there's over 40 connection points." The RCA's Reformed Church World Service (RCWS) has contributed substantial funds to CRC disaster relief projects in the Dominican Republic, in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake, and in Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
They also came together in Hurricane Sandy response on the U.S. East Coast and other efforts on the ground. Both RCA Global Mission and CRC World Renew work with Church World Service Development and Humanitarian Affairs roundtable in disaster response. They are both members of Foods Resource Bank, as well, which funds agricultural development through domestic farmers growing projects.
On 11 June, the relationship became official after years of cooperative efforts. DeVries commented, "Where we're in mission and ministry, we celebrate that together and recognize not only is the Holy Spirit leading us together, in whatever forms that takes, but is actually accelerating the relationship."
It's a story of restoration, after a denomination split 150 years ago. At the signing, the CRCNA issued a paper bearing this subtitle: "Catalyzing Collaboration to Multiply Mission." DeVries explains, "One of the ways that we're looking at doing that together is through World Renew. As the Reformed Church of America, what we have decided–and what I am very excited about–is making World Renew our domestic relief arm of the Reformed Church of America."
Held at the Christian Reformed denomination's annual national Synod meeting at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Mich., Rev. Joel Boot, Interim Executive Director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, had this to say: "It is our hope, and our confidence, really, that God can use something like this to say, ‘I wonder what I could do in my Community? I wonder difference it would make to me and the church down the street?'"
Boot, along with DeVries and two other church representatives, then signed a Memorandum of Understanding to a standing ovation by church members. The signing ceremony will be also be repeated at the RCA's annual, national General Synod meeting next week at Central College in Pella, Iowa.
World Renew is cooperating with the RCWS in Hurricane Sandy response on the U.S. East Coast and other efforts on the ground. Here's where this makes sense: it often takes many organizations working together to respond effectively in a crisis.
World Renew is a respected and vital part of coordinating responses to disasters throughout North America. World Renew DRS works in partnership with National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters and longtime RCA partner Church World Service.
Other areas in which the churches are learning from each other include chaplaincy, missions, evangelism, and church planting. Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) and Words of Hope are also collaborating in Arabic media ministry, media ministry in several languages throughout northern India, Spotlight broadcasting, and the new Groundwork program that will replace both the historic Back to God Hour program and the Words of Hope program.
Although formalizing an informal relationship that has been building for years, one thing is clear: it's a forward-looking partnership. Healing has taken place, and strength has prepared the arm for work. Likkel, once more: "When unchurched people can see the unity of Christians, that confirms the power of the Gospel."