When Synod 2009 convenes near Chicago in mid-June, the usual number of delegates will be in attendance, but there will be some changes among them.
Synod is the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church, made up of 188 delegates from the denomination’s 47 classes (regional groups of churches). In addition to delegates, there have previously been advisory panels of women and ethnic minorities, along with faculty advisers from Calvin Theological Seminary.
This year there will be no female advisers. Women are now allowed to be synodical delegates, and there will be 17 of them this year, down from last year’s 26. There will be 24 ethnic minority delegates, the most ever in attendance at synod, so instead of the usual panel of seven advisers, there will be only two.
New this year will be a panel of youth observers, ages 18 to 26. Their role is to interact with delegates, observe the proceedings, and give feedback about how the CRC can better involve and engage with young people.
Third Wave Redux
For the second time in three years synod will discuss the Third Wave Pentecostalism movement and its emphasis on prophesying, healing ministries, spiritual warfare, and deliverance ministries.
Synod 2007 received reports from a synodical study committee on the Third Wave movement, but sent the work back to an expanded study committee that is now reporting to Synod 2009.
Synod will receive two reports. Most of the committee would like synod to accept the way the Third Wave movement manifests the work of the Holy Spirit, acknowledging the gift of prophecy today, remaining aware of any claims of prophecy that go beyond Scripture or foster dissension, and acknowledging the reality of demonic impact on human life and the validity of engaging in deliverance ministry.
One member of the committee demurred from that opinion, raising several questions about whether Third Wave prophecy is the gift of prophecy described in the New Testament—warning that inner healing ministries may have inherent dangers of false memories and spiritual confusion, and counseling churches to avoid accepting beliefs about the demonic and spiritual warfare that have no basis in Scripture.
Synod will receive a report about how money is collected from churches for shared denominational ministries. A two-year study yielded a recommendation that our current per-member ministry share system is still the best way to do that, but that congregations need to be better informed about how the system works and why it’s important.
Synod will receive proposed guidelines for the relationship between church councils and former pastors, particularly for retired pastors who desire to remain part of their previous congregations. The guidelines suggest a negotiation of the relationship between the council and the pastor, as well as a sample agreement.
The Candidacy Committee wants synod to amend the CRC’s Church Order Supplement regarding ministry associates. Currently a church can release a ministry associate on its own. The requested amendment would require that the local classis be involved in that decision, since the classis is involved in appointing ministry associates.
The Interchurch Relations Committee is proposing to Synod 2009 that it ask Synod 2012 to adopt the Belhar Confession as a fourth doctrinal confession (in addition to the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort). The intervening three years would be a time of study and reflection regarding the Belhar.
This year’s delegates and advisers may be the best-trained ever. For the first time, there are a series of orientation recordings and documents posted on the synod website, preparing delegates old and new to be ready to roll when they arrive at synod. The online training can be found at www.crcna.org/synod.
Synod convenes at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., on Saturday, June 13. You can get updates on synod’s work by calling the synod hotline at 1-888-CR-SYNOD (1-888-277-9663). In Grand Rapids, Mich., the local number is 616-224-0841. To receive e-mail updates, subscribe online at www.crcna.org, following the link under e-newsletters.
Live webcasts will also be available at www.crcna.org.