The Abide Project's “Year” In Review
by Lloyd Hemstreet
The Abide Project (long before it had a name) got its start from pastors and leaders in the CRCNA who began having informal Zoom meet-ups in late 2020, discussing the Human Sexuality Report (HSR). That report was originally slated to go to Synod 2021. But, thanks to Covid-19, Synod 2021 was the second Synod in a row that never was. Then in late Spring 2021, from those who had gathered in our Zoom meetings, the first Steering Committee was elected. Shortly thereafter, the group was given a name, the Abide Project. While the fall of 2021 saw the launching of Abide's website, social media presence and work, a good case can be made that 2022 is really the completion of our first year. So, as we begin 2023, I thought it would be appropriate to look back, and consider some of the ways that the Lord has blessed and used this Project over the last “Year” (or 24 months).
The Top 5 most viewed articles
The primary function of our website was to post articles and spur discussions of how the CRCNA could faithfully move forward on the HSR and surrounding issues of human sexuality. From early on, the majority of our content has not been solicited by the Steering Committee nor the education team, but rather was voluntarily submitted for possible publication. So, here were the top 5 articles published so far.
#1. “The Bizarre Story I’m Asked to Believe” - 2,120 page views
Shortly before Synod, Rev. Dave Bosscher penned this, our most viewed piece. In it, Dave compares the binding language of Synod 1973's report, and some of the ways that subsequent Synods had clearly operated under that assumption, until suddenly it was realized that including “pastoral advice” meant it was never binding on anyone?
#2. “Synod 2022 FAQ or Fiction?” - 1,800 page views
In the weeks after Synod 2022, many of the conversations in our denomination started focusing on a prior rarely used Latin term from our church order; “gravamen.” In this the first of a three part series responding to the issue, Rev. Cedric Parsels made his case for how gravamen have historically been used and understood in our denomination, and how they should be used going forward. (To learn more, Parsel's subject also became Abide's first “Lecture Series” video post-Synod 2022) ( https://youtu.be/tOFtIlwwTMg )
#3. “Answering the Seven Objections” - 1,700 page views
This piece began from work done by our Synod Preparedness team, as they read every overture headed to Synod 2022, and tried to categorize the primary objections that were being put forward against the HSR. From there, Rev. Michael Bentley brought us this summary explanation, as well as helpfully referenced many of the works already published by Abide, that directly answered these objections.
#4. “Same Words, Different Dictionaries” - 1,000 page views
This piece by Rev. Lora Copley highlights one of the realities that anyone who enters a debate around this topic bumps up against. While we all are using the same terms, often we mean something very different or have a different emphasis in what we are communicating. In this helpful piece, Lora lays out several of these common words and highlights differences that can arise.
#5. “Just don't call it Reformed Christianity” - 900 page views
Similar to the idea of different meanings for certain words in our #4 piece, Professor J. Brandon Thompson here laid out the reality that some who claim to hold Reformed Theology, have actually fallen into a perennial religion. Perennialism, he argues, against many of the video responses to the HSR, does not take a Reformed view of God's Word, but rather denies its inerrant, inspired, and authoritative nature.
The Top 5 most viewed YouTube videos:
Starting in November of 2021, and especially up until Synod 2022, the Abide Project went back to its roots, and hosted live mass Zoom gatherings, that became known as the “Abide Project Lecture Series.” While these were first live and interactive Zoom gatherings of 40-100 people, they reached a broader audience when posted on our YouTube channel.
#1. “Abide Project Lecture Series: Beckett Cook” 2,500 views
Hosted near the end of our Lecture Series, the interview with Beckett was not one of our top videos approaching Synod. But, as we talked about what it looks like to have had and battled unholy desires while living for Christ, this video took off, eventually securing the #1 slot!
#2 “CRCNA Synod 2022 Wrap Up” 2,000 views
In the wake of the decisions of Synod 2022, it immediately became apparent, from comments being made on social media, that many wished to characterize the actions and tone of Synod 2022 as unloving. In response to this, having watched the many hours of the proceedings (and realizing most normal people would never do that), I enlisted a friend with more video editing skills than I possess, to go clip out seven sample speeches from the floor of Synod, made in favor of the HSR, to let their words speak for themselves.
#3. “Abide Project Lecture Series Presents: Dave Beelen” 1,500 views
Most of the year leading up to Synod, our highest viewed video was this interview with the long-time pastor, and recently retired Dave Beelen. Given Dave's example of faithful service, his humble heart, and his public history engaging issues around same-sex attraction and relationships caused Dave to address this topic long before most others were.
#4. “CRCNA Synod '22 Report #1 - May 25, 2022” 1,500 views
This video was kind of an accident. Reverend Wagenmaker and I were seeing what it would be like to respond to Synod's discussions and decisions as if we were giving a “post-game” report on it. My hope was, if it worked, to have other speakers give their reports throughout Synod. But the first edition was received well enough, that Tyler and I became stuck with the responsibility for this year.
#5. “CRCNA Synod 2022 Report 5 - June 15, 2022” 1,500 views
As Synod was so much of the Project's focus this year, it is not surprising that the final report also made this list. Here we summarized the response of Synod to the HSR, affirming the confessional status of the matter, and beginning discipline for Neland Ave CRC.
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 our first “year,” we are thankful to have nearly 700 people on our email list, 350+ followers on FaceBook, and 200+ Subscribers on YouTube.
Our weekly prayer gatherings are arguably the most important part of the work we have participated in this year. We have 60+ people receiving email reminders to pray for this denomination, and we are thankful to have 10-20 people meeting together for prayer on any given Tuesday. Please consider signing up and joining us (12 PM EST) if you can.
Our first Convention of Confessional Churches was held this past August, and we give thanks for the group that made it to the Chicago area for that gathering. We were blessed to have more than 20 Classes, and 60 churches represented among the attendees. The Convention, as has been the case from the first early Zoom meetings, we have all been reminded that we are not alone in this struggle (no need for any Elijah syndrome here)!
We also give thanks today for the resources that the Lord has provided for this work. First, from the many individuals volunteering their time and talents. Second, through the gift of churches and councils who have given pastors extra time or taken away some responsibilities for a season, to help them serve in this cause. Third, by the financial resources, we have been entrusted with. We have now received over $25,000 since our founding, with about 35% of that support coming from individual families (30+), and 65% coming from over a dozen churches (primarily by way of offerings taken for the Abide Project). So far these resources have more than covered our expenses, which primarily included speaking honorariums (shared with those outside of our denomination), as well as now allowing us to contract our first (very part-time) “employee,” Curtis Meliefste, to further assist keeping the project organized and moving forward.
The Lord has blessed and been pleased to work through the efforts of the Abide Project over this last year, to His glory and the health of our denomination. What lies ahead for 2023? Surely, more articles, lectures, news reports, and the addition of a twice-a-week devotional that we are looking forward to. While there also are many questions heading into the new year, and Synod 2023, we remember the promise of Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Trusting that our Lord goes before us, we enter 2023 hopeful, as we look to see what He will do next!