As synod agendas go, the 2007 version is a hefty one. At nearly 500 pages, it’s one of the lengthier agendas we’ve seen this decade.
There are some tough issues that could generate heated discussion. But when 188 delegates, along with teams of ethnic advisers, female advisers, and seminary faculty advisers convene June 9 in Grand Rapids, Mich., there will also undoubtedly be much celebration, since 2007 marks the 150th anniversary of the Christian Reformed Church.Women at Synod
Synod 2007 will deal with the aftermath of a decision made by Synod 2006. Last year’s synod voted to remove the word “male” from the church order, allowing women to serve in all leadership positions in the church.
However, it also set guidelines preventing women from being delegated to synod, and called for a seven-year “sabbatical” from discussion of the matter.
Judging from the number of overtures (requests) asking Synod 2007 to allow women to be delegated at synod, there certainly won’t be a ban on discussion.
Synod 2007 will have to decide whether to approve the proposed change to the church order and also whether to accept the guidelines from Synod 2006. (One synod may propose a change to the Church Order, but a subsequent synod must approve that change before it can take effect.)
Third Wave Pentecostalism
It may seem odd for the synod of a Reformed denomination to discuss a Pentecostal movement, but as Rev. Peter Hoytema pointed out in his article Riding the Third Wave (see May 2007 Banner, p. 18), this movement has a greater influence on the CRC than many realize.
That is why Synod 2004 appointed a committee to study it. The committee will present a majority report and a minority report to Synod 2007.
The two groups could not come to agreement on the biblical basis or place in the CRC of practices such as prophesying, healing ministries, spiritual warfare, and deliverance ministries.
The majority of the committee, while cautioning churches against spiritual elitism, found that the Third Wave movement has much to offer the CRC.
However, the minority position felt that some of the dangers cautioned against by the majority are so serious, they couldn’t agree with the majority’s positive assessment.
Synod 2007 will have to make its own judgment.
Sacraments, Take One: Children at the Lord’s Table
This was last year’s sleeper issue that made its way onto synod’s agenda by way of a single overture from Classis Holland asking for a study committee.
Synod 2006 declined to appoint a committee, deciding instead to open communion to all baptized members of the church of whatever age, declaring the practice to be consistent with our covenant theology.
It asked the Board of Trustees to draft a report proposing the necessary changes in the Church Order, which now must be adopted by a synod before implementation can take place. That may not happen easily.
As Syd Hielema points out in this issue of The Banner (see p. 18), changing the way we practice communion touches something deep within us.
There are overtures asking Synod 2007 not to adopt the change.
Sacraments, Take Two: Infant Baptism
With some churches offering infant dedications for those who do not believe infants should be baptized, Classis Alberta North is asking for a committee to study and make recommendations about that practice. Could this be the sleeper issue of 2007?
What Not to Watch For
This year’s agenda was scheduled to contain proposed revisions to Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony and a revised version of the denomination’s Form of Subscription (the form officebearers sign promising to uphold the church’s doctrinal standards).
However, neither committee completed its work in time for this year’s synod, so look for those items in 2008.
Time to Celebrate
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the CRC’s birth. During Synod 2007, devotional times, presentations, and other events will carry 150th celebration themes.
The official synodical service of prayer and praise will be held this year in the Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids, with up to 12,000 people attending.
A full orchestra led by Grand Rapids Symphony associate conductor John Varineau and a 300-voice choir directed by Anton Armstrong of St. Olaf College will be among the highlights.
Whatever dissension may come later in the week, the worship service will remind participents of our shared history, shared beliefs, and shared mission.