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Some delegates to synod (the annual meeting of the Christian Reformed Church) feel the need to speak to every issue. That would be fine except that there are up to 188 delegates plus additional panels of ethnic, women, and seminary faculty advisers as well. There are hundreds of issues needing to be processed. Do the math. If some speak a lot, others can’t get a word in edgewise.

Years ago, as a delegate, I talked too much. Now I get to atone for that. Serving on The Banner news team, I have to keep quiet. It hurts. But it’s good discipline. Gives me a whole new perspective on what happens there as I listen and reflect. I have more time to do that up in the peanut gallery. I’m not distracted by trying to formulate what I want to say next or by worming my way back onto the speakers’ list during prime (political) time: just before someone proposes to cease debate. They who speak last speak best. . . .

At this year’s synod I noticed a new breed of “conservative” gaining a stronger voice in our denomination. I applaud that development. It bodes well for our future.

What’s new about them?

  • They tend to be young(er)—most in their late 20s to early 40s, although I met some already past retirement age.
  • While they hold some traditional conservative values such as male headship in the home and the foundational role of the nuclear family, they are doing some fresh thinking on how to be part of a church and culture that is increasingly moving away from traditional roles for women.
  • They are entrepreneurial, eager to explore new and culturally relevant ways of reaching out to and gathering in those who do not yet know Christ.
  • They love Reformed identity and confessions but aren’t stuck on tradition—many at synod showed themselves to be more than willing to overturn centuries of Reformed church practice with respect to children and communion, “fighting words” within the Heidelberg Catechism against Catholic teaching, and Church Order regulations concerning women in church office.
  • They think with their guts as well as their heads—they represent a warmer, caring kind of conservatism that replaces rock-hard doctrinalism with a deeper piety and a stronger sense of mission.
  • They’re not about to leave—they value the unity of the Body as much as their “progressive” counterparts do; they don’t insist that everyone agrees with them, just that the church leaves room for them in matters of conscience (something I heard referred to as “complementarity”).

Watch for them. They call more traditional conservatives and progressives alike to value our biblical and Reformed identity and to be more creative, energetic, and intentional about discipling others and doing church. They don’t ask everybody in the CRC to agree with them, just to respect them and their views so that we can work together as the mind and hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

Let’s bless them for it.

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