In 2005 synod (the annual leadership convention of the Christian Reformed Church) asked the CRC’s Board of Trustees to appoint a committee to review and update the present “Form of Subscription.” The “FOS” is a centuries-old document that all CRC pastors, elders, deacons, and ministry associates are required to sign. They promise to preach, teach, lead, and serve in ways that are fully consistent with the creeds and confessions of the denomination.
Synod noted that a significant number of officebearers have difficulty signing the FOS because of its strong wording. It requires church leaders to accept the church’s confessions without reservation. But what if they do have some minor reservations? What if they believe that these confessions don’t express biblical truth fully or in ways that hinder our church from fulfilling its mission today?
The traditional response to new officebearers voicing such hesitation has been, “Just shaddup, swallow hard, and sign.” Almost all do, and that’s the (rather unsatisfying) end of it.
Discontent with the present FOS has increased to a point where some congregations just ignore it. They no longer require their leaders to sign it. That’s why Synod 2005 asked for revisions that would update the language but maintain the intent: a commitment by CRC leaders to stay faithful to the church’s confessions, statements of our understanding of what Scripture teaches.
The committee drafted a revised FOS that it calls “A Covenant of Ordination for Officebearers in the CRCNA” (http://www.crcna.org/pages/synodical.cfm). It circulated that draft to all CRC councils so they could respond to it before it’s presented to this year’s synod.
Many voices indicate appreciation for the proposed document. Others express concerns—concerns which the synodical committee has already answered in a new draft, the one that will actually go to Synod 2008.
In this Banner (p. 8), Randy Blacketer shares his strong concerns with the original draft. Maybe you agree with Randy, maybe you don’t. But mind his caution that our relationship to the confessions lies at the core of our denominational unity. What our leaders sign does really matter.
Let’s do some homework on this issue. It may be a sleeper all right, but it deserves our attention. It will deeply affect the fabric of our denomination and the integrity of what we believe, preach, teach, and do.
I hope Synod 2008 will drag its feet on this until we can have a more in-depth discussion as CRC members and churches. We need time to sort this thing out, preferably through some formal guidance from the study committee.
We need to find a way to allow officebearers to sign a statement like this with a clear conscience. But we also need to protect our confessional integrity. I’m with Randy on that. I like the proposed Covenant of Ordination better than he does. With some careful rewording I believe it could help us meet both those goals. But as congregations, councils, and classes, we’ve not even had a chance to mull over the new draft (see “Reports to Synod Too Late for Churches,” p. 12).
We need more time to discuss it. We also need to pray together for the Holy Spirit’s direction as we seek to be kept and led into all God’s truth.