When Synod 2006 convenes June 10, 2006, its agenda will affect how Christian Reformed churches relate to each other, how we relate to other denominations, and how we relate to our society. You can find the entire agenda at www.crcna.org, under “resources - synodical.”
War and Peace
There is only one study committee reporting this year, compared to a record five that reported last year. But this year’s report from the Committee to Study War and Peace is massive and is sure to provoke debate.
The committee was appointed by Synod 2003 to explore the changed international environment and what that means for the church’s position on the use of military power, specifically addressing the just-war theory and the use of military force in both preemptive and preventive warfare. The report has some strong things to say, generating responses from various classes asking for revision, amendment, or rejection of some sections.
Changing the Heidelberg Catechism?
Question: How does a church go about changing a 440-year-old confessional document, one we hold in common with Reformed churches around the world? Answer: Very slowly and very carefully. That’s why this item has been on the agenda of several previous synods.
After nearly a decade of study, discussion with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, and dialogue with fellow Reformed churches around the world, previous synods agreed that Q&A 80, which calls the Roman Catholic mass “an accursed idolatry,” no longer accurately represents the official teaching or contemporary practice of that church. As a result, Synod 2004 said that Q&A 80 can no longer be held in its current form as part of our confession. But what to do with it?
Rather than remove Q&A 80 from the text, synod is asked to approve a change that would place that Q&A in brackets, and precede the bracketed text with a note of explanation. That proposal has also prompted several responses.
New Rules, Making Up with Old Friends
This item on the agenda comes from the Interchurch Relations Committee (IRC). The work of this committee, as directed by synod, has a profound effect on how the Christian Reformed Church interacts ecumenically with churches around the world.
The IRC is asking whether ecumenical relationships should be formed with those churches that agree with us on important issues. Should differences keep us out of ecclesiastical fellowship? How much difference is acceptable? As a result, the IRC is proposing a revision of the CRC’s entire ecumenical charter.
In line with a new way of looking at ecumenical relationships, the IRC is proposing that the CRC “make up” with its mother church. For many years, relations with the GKN (Reformed Church in the Netherlands) has been strained over differences in opinion on biblical interpretation and the GKN’s practice of allowing homosexuals in committed relationships to serve as officebearers.
Two years ago the GKN merged with two other Dutch denominations to form the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. In evaluating how the CRC should relate to that new entity, the committee is recommending full ecclesiastical fellowship with the new denomination, which would include our mother church, the GKN.
Inside the family
Synod will once again be discussing whether women may be delegated to synod or whether they will remain in an advisory capacity. Synod 2005 stated it would revisit the issue of female delegates to synod when the majority of the CRC’s 47 classes allowed female delegates to those regional assemblies. In the past year, enough classes voted to allow female delegates to pass that halfway mark.
While synod intended that future action would come via recommendation from the denomination’s Board of Trustees, one classis isn’t waiting for that to happen. Classis Grand Rapids East is asking synod to delete the word male from the Church Order requirements for elders, evangelists, and ministers. Time will tell if this will be a continuation or an end to a discussion that has stretched over 30 years.
Routine, or Not
Of course, there are always many other items on the agenda, some of which are routine and some of which turn into anything but.
The Banner and the denomination’s communications staff will be there to cover it all, and our July issue will tell the story. (The July issue will arrive in your mailbox a little later than usual so we can cover synod right up to the closing doxology.)
But if you want your synod news sooner than that, plenary sessions of synod will be available via live webcasts. Go to www.crcna.org and check out Synod News for webcast dates and times, to sign up for daily e-mail reports from synod, or to see daily stories and photos during synod.