Q Is it time to change our system of calling? Ministers are staying much longer than they used to—sometimes against their own and/or their congregation's will. It also seems that forced separation via [Church Order] Article 17 is occurring much more frequently than in the past. Would it not be prudent to make pastoral exchanges possible?
A At first the CRC was unwilling to try that as a matter of principle. Synod 1934 said it would not be “in keeping with Reformed polity.” In other words, it would be an illegitimate excursion into an episcopal form of church government. Four decades later we changed course and thought it could be done in a Reformed way. Synod 1976 authorized a procedure that involved two “single nomination calls” to be approved at congregational meetings of two churches at roughly the same time. If one such vote were to fail, the other church's call would be nullified. The "Ministerial Information Service" would shepherd the deal. So it wasn't a matter of “placement by bishops”—just a minor tweak.
This arrangement was reviewed by Synods 1978, 1980, and 1983. The latter ended the possibility of such swaps. The reason? Synod was informed that it had been tried only three times in seven years, that the concept “has many built-in problems,” and that it “does not seem to have much chance of success at the present time.” In other words, in real life it was found to be unworkable.
Since times have changed and many new problems have appeared on our horizon, perhaps it's time for another experiment. We could try something a little different, maybe, yet short of a bishop showing two ministers the exit door. Anyone with a plan?