I get more impatient as I age.
That’s disappointing, because the wisdom of years teaches us that change comes in God’s good time. Who was it who observed, “If it’s important enough, it will wait”? But the more my head knows it, the more my nerves rebel. When opportunity strikes, I often push too hard to “git ’er done.” The cause may be noble but the collateral damage of haste too high.
That thought struck me while leafing through the Agenda for Synod 2010. (Synod is the annual leadership meeting of our denomination.) This year’s Agenda is a mind-numbing 709 pages. Synod’s 186 delegates will have just five-and-a-half days to respond to hundreds of recommendations covering dozens of ministries; five major study committee reports; and countless revisions to the denomination’s confessional standards, Church Order, and Form of Subscription (see “Synod 2010: What to Watch For,” p. 18).
Many of those recommendations came early enough so that the churches and classes (regional clusters of congregations) could reflect on and respond to them. But not all did.
For example, a previous synod mandated Faith Alive Christian Resources, the denomination’s publishing agency, to work with the Reformed Church in America to produce a worship songbook serving both communions. Faith Alive intends to include in that the doctrinal standards that both denominations share: the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. Trouble is, the CRC and RCA have different versions of those documents. So they struck a committee of experts from both denominations to work toward a shared version.
The committee worked at lightning speed to produce revisions that deserve our careful consideration. But here’s the problem: it asks the delegates of Synod 2010, already presented with a ginormous agenda, to approve hundreds of revisions to the doctrinal standards that bind us all together as congregations. And the delegates are asked to do so without the benefit of careful reflection on the part of our congregations and classes. Major overload!
If all the proposed changes were superficial, this might not be a big deal. But significant changes are being proposed. For one, our current versions of Q&A 23 and 33 of the Heidelberg Catechism speak of Jesus as “God’s only Son.” The proposed version goes back to the more accurate translation from the catechism’s original German: “God’s only begotten Son.”
However, the CRC’s present version was changed because “only begotten” finds no basis in the earliest copies of the Bible. It reintroduces a speculative notion of the Trinity (“eternal generation of the Son from the Father”) that many of us do not want to have to teach to our catechism students.
That’s one of many proposed changes to the confessions that we need time to talk about together. We haven’t had that opportunity.
Synod 2010 should not adopt the recommendations of this committee. Synod should appoint its own committee to evaluate the work done and garner the churches’ input. Then it should propose a final draft to a subsequent synod.
Let’s make haste slowly on this. I understand fully the pressures of editorial deadlines with respect to the new songbook. But my sources tell me there’s enough “give” in the publishing schedule to allow for careful reflection.
This is important enough. It should wait.