The denomination’s budget and many reports and issues related to synod dominated the agenda of a recent meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church. (Synod is the annual leadership gathering of the denomination.) The board met Feb. 26-27 in Burlington, Ontario.
No Synod for Edmonton?
Due to the financial circumstances facing the church, the board will ask Synod 2009 to approve holding Synod 2010 in Grand Rapids, Mich., instead of Edmonton, Alberta, as had been planned. The change is expected to save the denomination at least $70,000.
The board also discussed the possibility of proposing that synod be held every other year instead of annually. Each synod costs roughly $300,000. The board will receive a report regarding a biennial synod in September.
The board approved changes to the pensions and benefits of denominational employees that will see employees pay more toward their health-care premiums and employer contribution to pensions cut by nearly two-thirds.
The reductions are part of an effort to cut $2.5 million from expenses in this year’s budget. Even with the cuts, John Bolt, director of finance and administration for the church, projected a shortfall as high as $3.5 million by the June 30 fiscal year end.
The Ministers’ Pension Fund in both the U.S. and Canada sustained serious losses in 2008. However, the pension benefit payments are secure, according to Bolt. Cash income into the fund remains high. “There’s no reason to panic,” he said.
New Center for Congregations
The board approved more specifics on a new denominational office provisionally called the Center for Congregations, including a budget and a director. The concept was approved at the board’s meeting in September 2008.
The board approved the appointment of Rev. Michael Bruinooge as interim director of the new office. He will divide his time between that role and his current job as the denomination’s director of ministry planning.
The center’s $316,000 budget will be covered by $75,000 in a new ministry-share request, $100,000 transferred from the Sustaining Congregational Excellence program, $15,000 in gifts above ministry shares, and $126,000 in staff re-allocation.
The church’s specialized ministries, such as Chaplaincy Services and Disability Concerns, will not be housed by the new center, as had originally been announced.
Synod 2009 to Have Youth Observers
In an effort to more actively engage young adults in the life of the denomination, the next synod will have a panel of youth observers. Four of the seven observers between the ages of 18 and 26 will come from the Christian colleges affiliated with the CRC, with three more nominated by the Board of Trustees.
The young people will attend advisory committee meetings and plenary sessions of synod, but they will not be entitled to participate in sessions or vote. After synod ends, they will give feedback on their experience.
The board approved changing the name of the Abuse Prevention office to the Safe Church Ministry to more clearly identify its purpose. The Interchurch Relations Committee has also been renamed the Ecumenical Relations Committee.