1226 Union Ave, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Statement Regarding Our Separation from New City Neighbors

Following Jesus, Serving Others, and Sharing God's Love

Statement Regarding Our Separation from New City Neighbors

New City Neighbors is dear to the congregation of Fourth Reformed Church. We started NCN in 2007 as a means of increasing our gospel-based programming in the community, and we saw great growth. NCN grew into a separate nonprofit entity from our church, and programming like the farm and cafĂ© was added and other programs expanded. In all of that growth and change, we hoped the focus would remain on sharing the gospel with kids and discipling them in relationship with Jesus, as had been the chief objective of the ministry from the start. We wanted kids to know that Jesus died to free them from sin, not just so they could live with him eternally, but so they could actually begin to live with and for him now. This is the heart of holistic discipleship and it speaks to how the gospel impacts the way we view money, jobs, racism, relationships, sexuality, our actions, our words, and more. 

In recent years, we have become aware of increasing differences in both the mission and theology of the two organizations. Although NCN and recent media attention has focused on the issue of sexuality, we have communicated with NCN and the congregation of Fourth that our primary concern is about their departure from their original mission of holistic discipleship. During the last year, we became increasingly concerned about a lack of clear gospel or spiritual component to the high school and middle school ministry and disconnection from local churches. NCN engaged in job training, literacy help, and other such things, but it appeared to us proclaiming Jesus was not the ultimate focus of their mission with the kids and Fourth was no longer the best partner for the organization.

As has been reported, NCN has become an organization that affirms same-sex relationships, while Fourth continues to hold to a historical orthodox view of human sexuality. Although this is one symptom of our theological differences, we want to be clear: our separation with NCN is NOT wholly about human sexuality and marriage. In large part, we have great concern about the confusion caused when both affirming and non-affirming messages are shared from one building. Even though we have some disagreement with NCN around human sexuality and marriage, Fourth Reformed is committed to wrestling with this growing divide in the Church with grace and nuance and to welcoming all of our neighbors to join us in worship, programming, community service, and the community garden which we will continue to oversee as we have this year.

We have been in the process of dissolving our partnership with NCN for several months, and have been in regular communication with them about it. We have been engaged in working on a lease with them through 2021, and we hope to find a creative way to keep the farm going longer. We hope that our partnership through 2021, gives NCN and Fourth time to determine next steps. We wish NCN the best as we part ways and remain grateful for the many lives impacted by our work together over the years.