The Abide Project's Year In Review: 2023
Written by Lloyd Hemstreet
Spawning from Zoom discussion groups of CRCNA leaders in late 2020, the Abide Project has come a long way! Last year I walked through the launch of this project, and we gave thanks for some of the impact we could measure in our first 18-24 months of existence. Just 12 months later, today we will focus on 2023, and reflect on what we have been able to do together this year!
The Top 5 Most Viewed Articles:
One of the biggest changes that we saw this year was the transition away from a traditional website to the Substack platform mid summer. While it took a little getting used to, this was a great move for us, increasing traffic to our content, streamlining our email lists, and allowing supporters to contribute to the project directly through the platform (which covers all of its expenses). As such, it has been both more convenient and allowed us to practice better stewardship.
#1. “It Doesn't Work: Presbyterian Church USA” - 5,730 page views
This is one of four in a series of articles (“It Doesn’t Work”) authored by Rev. Aaron Vriesman that examine the impossibility of holding competing views on sexuality in a single denomination. In this piece, Vriesman explores the historical downward trajectory of the PCUSA over the last several decades, comparing declining membership numbers to some of the decisions that they made on human sexuality as they tried a “better together” approach to the matter.
#2. “Letters From a 14 Year Old: Dear Synod, about sexuality...” - 4,440 page views
One of three articles from the 14 year old Kathlyn Copley, she discusses her experience attending and viewing Synod 2023. Of course, she noted the increased emotions around the human sexuality debate, as well as the desire to connect with and keep young people in the church. But, she suggests that instead of simply baptizing the ideology of the day, young people are looking for firm foundations to build their lives upon.
#3. “It Doesn’t Work: United Methodist Church since 2020” - 4,110 page views
In this instalment of the “It Doesn’t Work” series, Rev. Vriesman explores how the UMC break up has progressed in the last 3 years. A story of finances, power plays, and attempts to kick the can down the road, it is a sad tale of the pain that can be caused by refusing to face the present division up front and graciously.
#4. “Options for Ecclesiastical Discipline Part I, Deposing Officebearers” - 3,700 page views
One of the big questions in the midst of our present conflict is, what possible paths forward do we have? In this two part series, Rev. Josh Christoffels explores what we have done historically to address issues of disobedience and covenant breaking. Going back to the Common Grace Controversy, Christoffels recounts how Synod has removed officebearers in the past.
#5. “A Perspective on Synod 2023” - 3,600 page views
Moises Pacheco, a Chicago based CRC church planter, reflects on how he first perceived minority voices to be largely ignored by Synod 2023, in the floor comments and the surrounding debates on X (Twitter). However, after speaking to other leaders in the denomination, and having a week to think about it, he realized that the minority voices were being listened to. They were standing firmly with the 70% majority of voters at Synod 2023 who refused to compromise on what they recognize to be Biblical truth.
The Top 5 most viewed YouTube series:
The interest in Synod and responses to it dominated our views once again this year. (The Banner experienced a similar trend, with 17 of their top 25 articles being Synod coverage!) But, instead of just listing off four Synod reports, in this top 5, I will highlight some of our most viewed content from 2023 by categories.
#1. “CRCNA Synod 2023 Updates” 6 videos, 1,200-4,000 views each
Making up 3 of the top 5 highest individual views of videos in 2023, Reverends Tyler Wagenmaker and Cedric Parsels joined up for our reporting on Synod 2023. Together, they sat in on most of the plenary sessions this year, and gave day by day recaps and commentary on the proceedings.
#2. “Updates On Classis GRE” 3 videos, 1,500-2,000 views each
A center of recent conflicts over human sexuality in the denomination, Reverends Tyler Wagenmaker, Cedric Parsels, or myself, sat in on several public meetings of the Classis GRE, and reported on what we heard and saw taking place.
#3. “Abide Project Convention 2023: Hold Fast” 6 videos, 260-1,100 views each
We held our second annual convention in the Chicago area in August of 2023. Though we had slightly fewer attendees than in 2022, we actually had more churches from the US and Canada represented this year. For the second year in a row, Reverend Wagenmaker and I shot a couple of update videos to report on it. This year, we also were able to capture three of our plenary messages and share those.
#4. “Abide Project Lecture Series ” 700-870 views
Although they did not draw as many views as the news coverage, we hosted a pair of very informative lectures with leaders within our educational institutions this year. The first was with Calvin Theological Seminary professor, Dr. Matthew Tuininga, on the Reformed understanding of Church Discipline. The second was a discussion with the President and leaders of Calvin University. They gave an update on our University and explained some of the policies they have been using to navigate the tensions between confessional fidelity and academic freedom.
#5. “Abide Project Lecture Series” 625 views
We were also blessed to learn from several voices outside of our denomination this year. The two most popular of these discussions were with Dr. Neil Shenvi and author Rebecca McLaughlin. Shenvi proposed “A Biblical Response to Gender Ideology,” while McLaughlin discussed her book, Secular Creed and shared from her own testimony and experience with same-sex attraction.
Other Reach, Impact, and Resources
Besides these two “Top 5” lists, we also give thanks to the Lord for the growing network and support we have through the Abide Project. At the close of 2023, we are thankful to have more than 1,360 people on our email list, 500+ followers on Facebook, and nearly 500 subscribers on YouTube.
Our weekly prayer gatherings, arguably the most important part of the work, have continued to see strong participation. We have almost 100 people receiving email reminders to pray for this denomination, and we are thankful to still have 10-20 people meeting for prayer on any given Tuesday. Please consider signing up and joining us (12 PM EST) if you can. (Send an email request to join the list to: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Adding to our 2nd annual Abide Project Convention this past August, in November we held our first Regional Gathering in Ontario. We had over 60 people join us for the evening, sharing a meal together, and participating in several structured discussions. This was so successful that we soon will hold our second regional gathering in West Michigan, and plans are in the works to try and hold these kind of gatherings in Iowa, California, and beyond (continue to watch our events page for info. The annual Abide Project Convention for 2024 has already been scheduled as well, meeting in north west Iowa in 2024. With all of these events, we continue to battle against any “Elijah Syndrome,” feelings of being the only ones left in the CRCNA!
We also give thanks for the resources that God has provided for this Project. Far and away, this continues to be a volunteer effort, so we remain thankful for the many hands that have made the work light, writing articles, and volunteering on our working teams. We also give thanks for the financial support we have received.
We are especially thankful for the work of Fellowship CRC in Canada, who received funds which underwrote our Canadian gathering and the distribution of the first issue of "Abiding" magazine.
On the US side, we received around $40,000 in support this year, with about 30% of our support coming from individual families, and 70% coming from nearly two dozen churches across the US and Canada. Besides covering our “Abiding” publication and distribution (over 9,000 copies across our two countries), and the fees of Lecture speakers (from outside of the denomination), we were also able to invest in some advertising this year, as well as extending the “part-time” contract work of our admin assistant, Curtis Meliefste. Our Lord has provided graciously for this work in His kingdom!
As the final hours of 2023 ticked away, and we enter into the year of our Lord 2024, we do so in confidence and hope! While there are many questions that remain to be answered, and much work to be done, we engage in it, recognizing that we rely upon the mercies and faithfulness of our Lord! As Lamentations 3:22-23 instructs us, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lloyd Hemstreet was ordained in the CRC in 2016 and serves Coopersville CRC. He also hosts the Three Forms Podcast with Tyler Wagenmaker.