Synod 2010 approved a guiding principle that moves the denomination toward opening the Lord’s Table to younger baptized members who haven’t yet made a public profession of faith.
Current church policy requires a formal profession of faith in some form before participation in communion.
Formal proposals to change the Church Order allowing this change are expected to come to Synod 2011.
The principle approved by this year’s synod states that all baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord’s Supper, under the supervision of the elders. It came to synod from the denomination’s Faith Formation Committee as part of a wide-ranging study of faith formation issues.
Formal public profession of faith is a vital faith formation practice and one pastoral approach to consider, the principle says, but is not required by Scripture or the confessions as a condition of participation in communion.
Several requests came to synod asking that Synod 2010 reject or withhold action on the Faith Formation Committee’s recommendation, contending that children lack the capacity for self-examination required for proper participation in the Lord’s Supper, but synod did not accept those requests.
Elder Paul LaGrand, Grand Rapids South, did point out that it is important not to devalue the importance of public profession of faith.
Synod did not give permission to implement the practice immediately—and delegates debated whether churches should have to wait for formal changes in Church Order before changing their communion practices.
Rev. George Vander Weit, elder delegate from Classis Lake Erie, said churches that are ready to welcome children to the Lord’s Supper should not have to wait for another synod to act on a principle that Synod 2010 has already approved.
“Synod often slows the church down,” Vander Weit said. “Now synod is saying ‘stop’ again.”
Elder Tim Miedema, Classis Zeeland, said waiting for final synod approval is important—and not following Church Order will lead to confusion.
“We are a body of churches,” he said, “and in an age of congregationalism, if we don’t follow Church Order, that’s what we have.”
The Faith Formation Committee will propose appropriate Church Order changes and work with church agencies to develop pastoral resources for congregations.