Synod 2008 asked for more study of the Form of Subscription, the document all CRC deacons, elders, pastors, and ministry associates are required to sign before taking office. Synod formed a larger committee, with more ethnic minority representation, to draft a new document by 2011 and to design an educational strategy to go with it.
By signing the Form, officebearers declare that they agree with the doctrines of the church. But in recent years church leaders have complained that the Form, originally written in the 1600s, is outdated and that its difficult text weakens its potential as a meaningful testimony for new church leaders. In some cases congregations are not even requiring new officebearers to sign it.
A committee appointed by Synod 2005 did extensive work and presented synod with a new form, A Doctrinal Covenant for Officebearers. But delegates decided that more attention to language, more time for study by the churches, and a comprehensive education strategy were required when addressing a doctrinal issue of this magnitude.
“This conversation gets to who we are as a denomination,” said Rev. Kenneth Benjamins, Classis Hamilton. “We have varieties of practices, varieties of worship styles . . . one thing we cannot afford is a variety of creedal commitments.”
Synod decided that an expanded study of the issue would create sustained discussion of the creeds and confessions, what it called “a crucial doctrinal matter of concern for the entire denomination.”
Delegates also debated the makeup of the new study committee. Having noted that the Form is misunderstood and little used in some emerging and ethnic minority congregations, synod tried to decide how much representation from such communities should be mandated for the committee.
“If we’re talking about ethnic minority representation, let’s not silence them by sheer numbers,” said Elder Karen Walker, Classis Hackensack. “If this church intends to be diverse, we need to be intentional about it.” Synod decided that at least two of the new committee’s 11 members must be from ethnic congregations other than Anglo, and at least two must come from emerging congregations.
The new committee will report to the synods of 2009 and 2010, will present its first draft of a new document by Jan. 1, 2010, and will make its final report to Synod 2011.