Rev. Henry De Moor, adviser on the Church Order of the CRC to synods for 20 years and teacher of an entire generation of seminarians at Calvin Theological Seminary, retired following Synod 2010.
De Moor received standing ovations twice this synod, a bit of sweet irony considering that Synods 1986 and 1988 dealt with overtures (requests) that he not be appointed to the seminary faculty.
De Moor’s appointment became controversial because of his approval of women serving in ecclesiastical office, though he never advocated that point of view when teaching seminarians.
He said his warm synodical send-off “goes a long way to saying I tried to be fair to every segment of the denomination in teaching students the Church Order.”
Highs and Lows
The issue of women’s ordination brought De Moor both his lowest and highest points of synod experiences.
His low point, he said, came in 1994. That was the first time synod adopted recommendations that insisted the Bible teaches only one view regarding women in office.
“[Synod] didn’t just say [its stance] was favored, but was dictated by Scripture—when we’d already said in 1987 that it wasn’t a creedal matter,” De Moor said. “That was an absolute low in terms of seeking unity in a bond of peace.”
Synod 1995 brought the high point of his synod experiences: “That was when we tried to find each other again.”
That year synod adopted what is known as the “regional option,” of which De Moor was the architect. Synod 1995 said each classis (regional body) could determine whether it would allow ordination of women. “The argument was that the classis knew churches in the region better than the synod,” De Moor said.
“I think we made our tent a little bigger that year,” he added. “It put an end, mostly, to people departing on the right and the left. We began to find each other again.”
De Moor said that in the past two decades there has been a huge change at synods, one that reflects the broader culture.
“[We had] deliberation of great theological depth . . . church leaders disagreeing but thriving on a common pilgrimage,” he said. “We didn’t care if Aunt Jessie experienced something; we cared what God said, what Scripture said.”
But De Moor has seen a gradual move to the other extreme. “Many things said now are nothing more than running everything through [the filter of] personal experience. So truth comes through persons and relationships, rather than intellectual pursuit,” he said, noting there are both negatives and positives to that.
Some of that change came with shifting synod from a two-week to a one-week format. “We have much less time [for deliberation]. There are times I bemoan moving to a one-week synod, and other times I rejoice,” he said. “But I’m cognizant that you don’t make good decisions with airline tickets burning in your pocket. The question is how to be efficient and effective.”
But after all these years, De Moor isn’t cynical about synod. “We have that assembly to experience the unity that the Lord gives us,” he said. “Synod serves the church and the Lord, and as long as that’s still happening, we’re good.”
A Message for His Mother
De Moor has written a commentary on the Church Order—the first since 1965—which will be published by Faith Alive Christian Resources by early 2011. It will be dedicated to his “other mother,” the Christian Reformed Church.
At synod’s banquet honoring retirees, De Moor said he had a message for that mother:
“Dr. John Kromminga said an airplane doesn’t fly without a left wing and a right wing,” he said, referring to a former Calvin seminary president.
“Keep the wings in place,” he told delegates. “Sit on the plane. Remember who is on the flight deck, the only one in command. Love him with all your heart.”