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After a trying move (and whining to you about it) I should tell you that I’m having fun wearing my two hats (see author ID below). The one keeps me engaged in the joys and challenges of the local church. The other keeps me involved at the denominational level. I love them both.

I do miss all my colleagues at Faith Alive and much of the work I used to do there. One thing I don’t miss is choosing book covers. My giftedness in visual arts lags behind that of a cement block.

I’d panic when the selection team would deadlock and moi, as project manager, had the thankless task of hacking through the Gordian knot. Make the call myself? Catastrophe! If Margo, my spouse, didn’t coordinate what I wear every day I’d get laughed out of church.

So how to resolve the book cover issue? Show the proofs around to as many folks as possible—from agency directors to cleaning crew. Maximize the diversity of opinion. Listen carefully. We’d still choose a “dog” now and then, but by widening the circle, we got it right much of the time.

The annual Christian Reformed synod meets this month. Two ministers and two elders from each of the denomination’s 47 classes (regional groups of churches) converge on Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., to deal with significant issues that affect us all as Christian Reformed congregations.

Browsing through the Agenda for 2007, I stumble across some interesting differences in perspective. Some folks believe that “synod is above the congregations.” Others think that it should be their servant.

So which is it?

It’s both, isn’t it? On the one hand, synod, including the denominational structure it governs, needs to serve us by supporting local churches and fostering new ones. On the other hand, though, we also want synod to lead us in areas of ministry too big for congregations to handle and to hold us accountable as churches, leaders, and denominational ministries.

Synod shouldn’t govern from the top down or from the bottom up. It should govern from alongside. Its delegates are sensible, discerning folks who represent us right across the denomination. Because of their diversity, commitment to the church, and love for our one Lord, we ask them to prayerfully deliberate together to seek God’s will in matters of mutual concern. They’re not our bosses. They’re not our gofers either. They’re our brothers (sic).

Because synod speaks as our widest assembly, it carries a lot of weight. We should listen carefully to its wisdom and do so with respect and charity. It too represents Christ among us. We should allow it to lead even if its decisions sometimes seem wrongheaded from where we sit. When synod’s decisions “grieve our conscience,” we should tough it out together. Only when synod directly forces us to violate our conscience should we opt out.

Getting the widest opinion on a book cover wasn’t foolproof. But it was pretty good. Getting the widest opinions from synod for a century and a half hasn’t been foolproof either. But it’s been pretty good. In my humble observation, lately it’s been getting even better.

Let’s covenant together to shoot for another 150 synods—minimum.

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