Congregational Leadership

Vantage Point

Before Synod 2013, elders, deacons, and ministers were expected to read the report of the task force looking at the structure and culture of the denomination, study it carefully, and make up their minds about the recommendations presented to synod. The report was then supposed to be discussed in church councils, classes, and finally at synod.

I am wondering who thought of this. Because I don’t believe this could happen—for these reasons:

First, the language of the report makes it hard to grasp what it is really saying. I am sure that many elders and deacons, and quite a few ministers too, will put it aside in frustration. For this reason it should be referred back to the committee with the instruction to use ordinary language so that everyone can understand what this is all about.

Second, I remember the day when the new wing of the denominational building was inaugurated. The chairman of the finance committee said: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the corporate headquarters of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.” Surely the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not a corporation in the business sense of the word—even if more and more the headquarters in Grand Rapids act like it. These days proposals and decisions no longer find their origin in the local councils and work their way from the bottom up. Instead they appear in the meetings of the Board of Trustees and are sent down the line to finally end up in the mailboxes of the local churches, where elders and deacons wonder where in the world this came from.

Third, giving local churches at best a few months to look at this report and make up their minds is ridiculous. Synod was supposed to take a vote to adopt a report that a large part of the membership has not even been able to study and discuss. This is the way it may be done in a business corporation, where the CEO decides anyway, but this is not the way we should deal with matters in the church. I know we have an executive director and a powerful executive committee in the Board of Trustees, but the executive director is simply one of the ministers in the church. He is not of higher rank, nor are the members of the Board of Trustees. There should not be any hierarchy in the church, even if over the years we have let it grow.

Synod ought to instruct the committee to tell us how we can get back to an ecclesiastical structure and get rid of this cumbersome and very expensive corporate structure.

About the Author

Martin D. Geleynse is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.

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