The Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church adopted a recommendation that all future hires will be made in accordance with the church’s diversity objectives, including the goal of having 25 percent of the denomination’s top leadership tiers filled by people of color.
The recommendation came in a report from the Diversity in Leadership Planning Group. The board also adopted a recommendation to reinstate the director of Race Relations as part of the Ministries Leadership Team—the group of agency directors and other senior leaders who help set ministry policy and direction for the church.
Further, the report calls for 35 percent of the membership of all search committees to be persons of ethnic minority. Several other recommendations were adopted to help ensure that the CRC’s human resources policies, job descriptions, and hiring and recruitment practices are bias-free.
The board also accepted a recommendation that a new task force be appointed to revisit the mandate and mission of the office of Race Relations, “providing added accountability, empowering Race Relations to engage collaboratively with all denominational agencies, boards and councils, and ensuring that the denominational commitment to ethnic diversity will be strengthened and move forward.”
Sandra Williams, chair of the Planning Group, presented the report. She spoke of difficulties faced by the committee and of the many hours people spent on the process. “It is ‘high noon,’” she told the board. “We are required to make decisions that are going to be life-changing.”
Bing Goei was also part of the Planning Group. He spoke of what happened in 1986 when synod (the annual leadership meeting of the CRC) made the decision to appoint the first person of color as director of an agency.
“I remember the process because I was the one appointed by synod,” he said. Goei was referring to his appointment as director of the Synodical Committee on Race Relations (SCORR), the forerunner of the Office of Race Relations.
“Some of the same things came up then,” he said, “but our commitment [is] to reach out and make disciples of all nations. Unity without diversity is uniformity. This is not what God wants.”
Not all the trustees were comfortable adopting the report. Rev. Scott Greenway said he appreciated the work of the committee and didn’t want to frustrate them, but was unsettled about it. “Questions linger,” he said.
While the board discussed the report, four people gathered in a nearby room to pray for the discussions. Faye Dundas, Geneva Hunte, Anita Van Zeumeren, and Rev. Sam Cooper, all from Meadowvale Community Christian Reformed Church in Mississauga, Ontario, traveled to where the board was meeting in Burlington, Ontario, to pray while the board discussed the diversity report.
“I am here to affirm [those] who gave their time for the past year to prepare recommendations as requested by Synod 2009,” Dundas said. “It is my hope and prayer that there will be positive outcomes according to God’s will and mandate as portrayed in Revelation 5:9-10.”
The Diversity in Leadership Planning Group was a task force mandated by Synod 2009. That year, synod heard that the board of trustees had adopted a change to the denomination’s administrative structure (Agenda for Synod 2009, p 28). One result was that the director of Race Relations was no longer part of the Ministries Leadership Team.
It also meant that there was no longer any person of color represented in the top management tiers. Synod 2009 deemed that unacceptable and instructed the CRC’s executive director to convene a task force to come up with a plan for increasing diversity in senior management. (Acts of Synod 2009, p. 589) This report was the result of the task force’s work.
The report now goes to Synod 2011 for final approval.