The CRC and Missions in Africa

Just a couple of weeks ago, I attended a lecture given by Steve Kabetu, Race Relations Coordinator for the Christian Reformed Church of North America, of which I was raised in and have been a member of for the past few years. He spoke on racial injustice in Canada, primarily from the perspective from the church and its relationship with the First Nations peoples.

He basically talked about how the church needs to work on rebuilding relationships and trust with the First Nations peoples, and how we need to take responsibilities for our actions in the past. Which was interesting. But there was one thing he said that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. My exact facts may be off since the lecture is now just a distant memory, but he basically said that until the late 1930s, the Christian Reformed Church refused to send and fund missionaries into Africa, on the basis that Africans weren’t intelligent enough to understand the gospel. Once Johanna Veenstra, the first CRC missionary in Africa (but commissioned by the Sudan United Mission), had proven that the Nigerians she worked with were receptive to the gospel, the CRCNA finally started supporting missionaries in Africa – this would’ve been 1940. (NOTE – Christianity was prevalent in Ethiopia since the 5th century, and the earliest American missionary in Africa that I can think of was Lott Carey, sent to Sierra Leone in 1820, but I’m sure there were others earlier)

At first, what bothered me about this was the incredible amount of racism – coming from the church, still into the 1930s. That the African “savages” couldn’t comprehend the gospel. What could possibly make them think that people from Africa were any less intelligent than Americans, other than the prejudices encouraged by society at the time? Their beliefs certainly weren’t based on Biblical truths.

But that’s not what bothered me most. We all know that racism is sinful, and most stereotypes are incredibly inaccurate. The racist aspect was an insult to God’s creation, but what’s far worse is the insult to God himself.

Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20; also Mk. 16:15-16Lk. 24:46-47Ac. 1:8). Jesus pretty clearly wanted the gospel preached to all nations. It seems awfully presumptuous to assume that Jesus commanded something that he didn’t actually want done. If we truly believed that God’s words are flawless and true, what possible excuse can we give for disobeying? (Ps. 12:618:30Pr. 30:5). There are no exuses. Proclaim the gospel to the WHOLE creation MEANS proclaim the gospel to the WHOLE creation. It’s that simple.

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~ by Jeff on December 9, 2009.

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