I was a delegate to my denomination’s Synod (sort of like a church Parliament or Congress) in June 2012. On June 12, 2012 we debated whether to ratify Synod 2009’s decision to adopt the Belhar Confession as a fourth confession for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The Belhar Confession was written by Reformed churches in South Africa during the height of Apartheid in the 1980s as a theological cry from the heart against the prevailing Afrikaner Reformed theology that was the spiritual pillar holding up the ideological and political apparatus of apartheid.
During the deliberations that night, I stood up and gave an impassioned speech (as reported here in my denomination’s magazine, The Banner) in support of adopting the Belhar and against the advisory committee’s motion to classify it as an Ecumenical Faith Declaration (a new category that has no authority on the denomination). Although it was for naught, I seemed to have made quite an impression. Unknown to me at the time, people were moved to tears by my words. Somehow, my metaphor of “blind spots” really struck a nerve. Many delegates and audience members came up to me and voiced their appreciations. One delegate said that “I hit it on the nail.” My twitter friends tweeted me. People who watched the webcast (live or archived) later told me the same. What was most heartening to me was when one delegate came up to me the next morning, and told me that though he was against the Belhar, he was truly touched by my speech and really didn’t know what to vote for after that! A delegate friend confided that he believed four delegates at his table changed their minds after my speech. Some have pleaded me to write or blog about it.
Hence, I feel a responsibility to write this even as I struggled as to how. My speech was not pre-composed or written. I had quoted a published article, but other than that, they were thoughts from my head and from my heart. These were partly thoughts that emerged from the experiences of the days at Synod, and partly from the long deep thinking that I have done on the Belhar and the denomination’s struggles with it over the last three years. For what it’s worth, here’s my stab at capturing what I said.