This June the CRC will consider adoption of the Belhar Confession. For those who will be voting at the CRC Synod, or for anyone else who is interested, I encourage you to read the overture from First Christian Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan. My friend Tom Groelsema is the pastor there, and this is the church which hosts the PCRT conference when it comes to the Grand Rapids area.
While the overture acknowledges the serious and often unnoticed sin of racism, it suggests that approving Belhar is nevertheless unwise and unwarranted.
The Belhar Confession is a call to action. It challenges the church in the areas of unity, reconciliation, and justice. Much of what it says is biblicaly based and beautiful in expression. There is much to affirm in the Belhar Confession. However, given its significant weaknesses it would be unwise to adopt the Belhar as our fourth confession. Richard Mouw notes that the Belhar is an important prophetic declaration in its original context, but is too weak to stand on its own as a normative confession. (Mouw's Musings, Blog, April 21, 2009) John Cooper adds, "The Forms of Unity are not merely venerable documents expressing the faith of our ancestors on the issues of their time. They are doctrinal standards-definitive summaries and explanations of the essential and enduring truths that God teaches in Scripture-foundational to our denominational identity and unity." ("Affirm the Belhar? Yes, but not as a doctrinal standard", p.4.) What both Mouw and Cooper affirm is that while a document might convey many truths, there is a stricter standard for that document to be considered a confession. Adopting or not adopting the Belhar Confession must not be viewed as a rejection or acceptance of racial sin, but as a matter of confessional definition. The question before us is not, "what do we think of racism," but "do we believe the Belhar Confession should be adopted as a confession?" On this matter there are significant concerns.
In the end, the overture recommends that the CRC not adopt Belhar, but instead reaffirm a previous synodical report on racial diversity. You can read the complete overture here.