I tried to send a message to synod, but was turned away. How can I communicate my views to synod?
Synod is an annual ecclesiastical assembly of officebearers that deliberates and decides matters for the Christian Reformed Church and seeks to discern how Christ is leading the denomination, so there are rules for how synod receives information and communications. No one can simply write a letter to synod unless they have standing to do so and have followed the prescribed procedures for submitting material for synod’s agenda. Detailed rules for how its agenda is gathered are provided in the “Rules for Synodical Procedure.”
Four categories of materials legally before synod include reports, communications and overtures, appeals, and gravamina.
Most of synod’s agenda includes reports from the Council of Delegates on behalf of the agencies, educational institutions, and offices of the CRCNA. Reports also come from standing committees of synod (such as candidacy, historical, and ecumenical and interfaith relations), as well as study committees appointed by synod for particular matters.
The next part of synod’s agenda includes communications and overtures. Here’s where you can contribute! Any CRCNA church member can submit a communication or overture, but it must first go to the member’s council and then to that council’s classis before going to synod. If the council or classis does not adopt the communication or overture, the individual can forward it to synod, but only if they have already submitted it to their council and classis.
What’s the difference between a communication and an overture? A communication gives information and opinions to synod, but does not seek an action by synod in response. An overture is a formal written proposal “requesting adoption or amendment of a policy or other legislative action by the assembly.” Overtures require a response, so synod has to decide whether to accede to an overture’s request or to do something else and declare that action its response to the overture.
Appeals and gravamina are less common but provide ways for individuals or councils to appeal decisions of their own councils and classes or for individuals to raise questions about the confessions and request revisions of those documents.
So you can send a message to synod—as long as you follow synod’s rules!
About the Author
Rev. Kathy Smith is senior associate director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, adjunct professor of church polity at Calvin Theological Seminary, and adjunct professor of congregational and ministry studies at Calvin University. She is a member of First CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.