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At this year’s synod, the annual leadership convention of the Christian Reformed Church, held this month at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., women elders and/or pastors will be seated for the very first time as delegates. That’s a historic event regardless of what your conviction is with respect to the issue of women in ecclesiastical office.

Does that mean that synodical participation is now fully inclusive, since we have also made some progress in seating delegates who are not of Anglo background? A look at the ratios shows we’re not there yet by any means.

On that topic, where are young people? Why are they left out of this significant yearly event? Isn’t there a way in which they can be heard and their views, opinions, and beliefs included in the conversation? When they become professing members they’re handed budget envelopes and told (rightly) to use them. But wasn’t there some righteous dockside unpleasantness where cold tea was made in Boston Harbor to make the point that there shouldn’t be taxation without representation?

Placing younger members in leadership positions locally and denominationally won’t just be to their benefit. Our church seriously needs their insights, vision, and passion for missional ministry.

To return for a moment to the topic of new delegates at synod: as someone who has participated in a bunch of them, I thought I’d share some survival tips. It’s not easy sitting on a church chair from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 or 10:00 at night and to do that day after day.

  • Take your breaks and enjoy them—even if you still have tons of “homework” to do. Do that stuff when everybody else has gone to bed. Don’t miss the opportunities to chew the fat with delegates from all sorts of fascinating places you’ve never been to and who hold opinions you’ve never even imagined.
  • Hold on firmly to your principles, especially the principle that you shouldn’t elevate many of your convictions to that level.
  • Enjoy the times of worship and prayer. The business of synod doesn’t get more important than that.
  • Be considerate. Speak your mind succinctly when it matters. But don’t speak on every issue—especially if the discussion is headed in the right direction anyway.
  • Engage in genuine dialogue—allow God’s Spirit to pull polarities together sufficiently to allow the church to move ahead together in following Jesus.
  • Laugh.
  • Hold God’s people in your heart.
  • Avoid boredom during the long debates by solving a puzzle like the acrostic you’re reading right now.
  • Reread the first letter of every paragraph in this editorial, including the bulleted ones, then turn to page 32. Take my not-so-subliminal message to heart and remember that not only do you need to survive synod, so does the denomination. If we don’t prophetically address the key issues of our time and do so in our common confessions, then our church won’t deserve to survive. The Lord of the Church bless you all as you convene on our behalf—and his!

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