News

Former Executive Director Speaks Out about Resignation

Rev. Jerry Dykstra, former executive director of the Christian Reformed Church, spoke publicly this week for the first time since his resignation was announced by the denomination’s Board of Trustees on April 5.

Dykstra told The Banner that he was not “forced out” even though others have used that phrase. “The Board and I came to a mutual agreement that it was best that I leave.”

He said he was surprised by the meeting on April 5. “I was not expecting to resign,” he said.

Dykstra held the position of executive director for five years. He said that during that time he loved engaging with local churches and leaders.

“The establishment of The Network and the shift in focus toward creating and sustaining local congregations has been both exciting and rewarding,” he said.

Dykstra said he is open to God’s leading for the next step in his life, and he is grateful that he had the privilege of serving as the executive director of the CRC.

Rev. Mark Vermaire, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the mutual decision for Dykstra to resign had nothing to do with the way he lived his personal life or with his doctrine, and that the reasons are properly confidential between Dykstra and the Board.

“At times in every congregation, the council with elders, deacons, and pastors makes a decision that the members of the congregation don’t understand or might even think they disagree with,” Vermaire said. “Yet the servant leaders of God’s church make a decision together—albeit at times with differences among them—based on what they know and are called to do. The BOT, of which the executive director is a member, does its best with the calling given by the church.”

The Board hopes to appoint an interim executive director at its meeting on May 5-6 or shortly thereafter.

About the Author

Gayla Postma is news editor for The Banner.

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Comments

I read the "update" from the Board of Trustees today, as I'm sure many of us did. In discussing the resignation it stated that "many of the details are a private matter between Jerry and the Board of Trustees and we need to respect that." I'm left wondering what that means. Is it appropriate for there to be "private matters" between our church governance and the church members? I am of the opinion that open doors promote honesty and integrity, and prevent abuse. I am heartened to hear that Rev. Dykstra was not terminated by the BOT for moral failing or misconduct (although, if that was the case I believe that presents a compelling argument disclosure). Yet, even if the reason is more mundane, I believe the members of this denomination ought to be informed of it. A church is a body of people, not merely a board of trustees. Let's say, for instance, that Rev. Dykstra was terminated because a majority of the BOT disagreed with the direction in which he was leading our church. That's an acceptable reason. However, the members of the denomination are entitled to know that. If I'm a member that agrees with Rev. Dykstra's "direction" then I may want to prayerfully consider what his termination meeans for my family. On the other hand, if he was terminated because the BOT decided that his office was too messy then we may want to consider whether the members of our BOT is being petty. While we don't need nitty gritty details, we deseerve to be adequately informed. A faith community is no place for secrecy, dishonesty or hidden agendas. Let's do away with the patriarchy and invite an open dialogue.

"Anonymous's" comments are excellent.

My impression was that the way this matter has been handled reminded me very much of Nixon and Watergate as to how information was dribbled out only as forced to do by circumstances.

I am sorry to hear about Jerry's sudden resignation. When I hear of sudden resignations with no comment, it leaves a cloud of "what was that all about?" in my mind. The demonination is changing in ways that I fear are not the best and that we are becoming "a mainline" denomination. That is not good.

Praying for you all

John VanderBilt

My prayers are with Jerry and his family. May the Lord bring healing, comfort, encouragement, faith, hope and all that they need. My prayers are with our denomination; that we may humbly seek the Lord and honor him in all things; that He would guide all of our steps, for His Glory and His Great Name.

My prayers are with Jerry and his family, too.

But I don't believe Jerry's statement that he was not "forced out." The words “forced out” come from Charley Honey’s Press article. I know Charley, and I respect his reporting. I believe Jerry is trying to smooth the waters because he cares for the denomination. I think the scenario went like this: The Board said "Jerry, we have problems with this, that and the next thing, and we think it's time for you to step down. It would be best if you resigned but if you don't, we're prepared to fire you."

That’s not inappropriate. The Board may be correct, and we need to respect its judgment and its mandate to supervise the affairs of the denomination. But this is definitely "forced out."

Perhaps the only thing that’s inappropriate is that the Board and Jerry didn’t spend more time crafting an initial press release that would adequately explain these things. We received a statement from the Board. After the Press article, we received another. And now we have a statement from Jerry. Three strikes and you’re out. One initial strike that covers all the bases and you’re (relatively) safe.

Is it just me or has the story changed? Didn't the initial announcement say something about being with family? Now we have something that happened suddenly (from Jerry's perspective) at a meeting.

The more they talk the less clear things becomes. That's usually not a sign of honesty. Something smells fishy and feels troubling.

Rev. Vermaire's suggestion that we just trust the Board of Trustees as we would the Council is misplaced.

The ecclesiastical assembly here isn't the BoT, but Synod. BoT is a committee of Synod and needs to remember it - they have taken to occasionally acting as if the relationship is reversed. Synod, under the circumstances, not only has the right, but the duty to require an explanation from the BoT on this matter. Granted, they should do so in executive session and delegates should be mindful of the sensitivity regarding the issue, but they should act.

If Synod concurs in the decision and agrees with the reasoning, I will accept it, but the BoT should be held accountable, too.

This article does nothing to explain Dykstra's resignation. He says he had no intention of resigning that day, yet resigned. Why can't this be explained better. I asked a denominational official what was happening and he responded that he knew absolutely nothing. That's pretty hard to believe. If the people in the pew who pay all the bills are to be better connected to the denominational office, then it should be far more open in sharing information. The church is not a political arean.

I’m questioning if the BOT has abused their power in pressuring the resignation of our executive director. Since moral failure and doctrinal issues are not the reason, I ask if the BOT holds the right and the authority to pressure Jerry to resign when he has been approved by Synod to work in this position. Because the BOT answers to Synod, I believe Synod should start at least one day earlier than planned (Thursday) and meet in closed session to discuss the matter with the BOT about their actions and if it was appropriate. If the discussion shows the BOT did in fact not act appropriately and abused their power, Synod must determine what action to take to address the wrong that happened. That action must show that we require responsibility, accountability, acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and possibly an apology from the BOT to the involved parties and the denomination so that healing can begin.

Without this discussion, Synod will not be able to proceed effectively in other business and church matters because the confusion about what happened to Jerry will continue to loom in the hearts and minds of the delegates. Let’s not quickly go to the phrase “Let’s just move forward.” Let’s instead look back and see what happened so that our move forward can be done in good conscience.

I witnessed first-hand some of the "abuse" that Jerry took at the Multi-ethnic conference in Chicago a few years ago.
I also witnessed Jerry's deep passion to see the local church do in missions and ministry what Bible calls each church to do.

My guess is that Jerry ran into the politics of power within the denomination and was compelled to resign.

Please read excellent article by Bob DeMoor at the following link:
http://www.thebanner.org/departments/article/?id=3296

CRC members says:

>I ask if the BOT holds the right and the authority to pressure Jerry to resign when he has been approved by Synod to work in this position. Because the BOT answers to Synod, I believe Synod should start at least one day earlier than planned (Thursday) and meet in closed session to discuss the matter with the BOT about their actions and if it was appropriate.

The BOT probably does have the authority to do this. After all, the BOT is really the (old) Synodical Interim Committee, the committee that acts on behalf of synod when synod is not in session. Remember that the BOT appointed Jerry to the position of Director of Denominational Ministries in 2005, and synod simply ratified that appointment. In 2006 the BOT recommended him as the Executive Director, and synod interviewed him and made the final appointment. The BOT does a whole lot of work on behalf of synod, work that synod would never be able to do.

It's easy to criticize people at the top, and we all do it---our council, our classis, our synod, our boss, our president, etc., etc.---and criticism gets easier when we don't know the people we're criticizing. We need to remember the BOT members are volunteers, ministers and church members just like the rest of us, and are attempting to do what is best for the church.

That doesn't mean we can't question their judgment. That doesn't mean we can't wonder if the BOT would have been wiser to offer a recommendation to synod, which was only two months away, and let synod make the final decision. It does mean that we should be careful about what we say about their actions.

There's no way synod will start a day earlier to discuss this matter. It will be discussed by the advisory committee to which it will be assigned, and that committee's recommendation will be discussed by the full synod, probably in executive session.

Something similar to this happened in 2006. That's posted on the Synod 2011 section of the Network on the crcna website if you want to check it out.

Thanks George. Appreciate your clarification.

Having addressed many serious issues to many councils and boards, it's easy for me to wonder about what happened in this situation and if indeed the misuse/abuse of power happened - simply because of the number of times I've seen it in the CRC.

As a delegate to Synod 2011 this summer, I expect the BOT and Jerry Dykstra will have to give us full disclosure of what happened, how, and why. As one delegate I will be pressing the issue, particularly for fuller and more honest disclosure, at least to classes and councils, if not to the whole CRC constituency. I have communicated three times with the president of the BOT and received no replies. This isolation by the BOT just cannot continue.

Ron, why do you think Jerry Dykstra will be at synod? In 2006 the executive director-designee who resigned was not present. Representatives of the BOT were present to explain the situation. Jerry might meet with the advisory committee if it requests him to do so, but surely you don't expect him to tell "his side of the story" to the full assembly.

If a member of your congregation pressed you for full disclosure on every decision your consistory makes, I doubt you would give it. But press all you wish. You can do (almost) anything as a delegate!! :-)

In reference to Gayla Postma's article above, I represent many individuals who are deeply saddened and frustrated by situations such as Jerry Dykstra's resignation. He grew up in my community, came to visit my parents' home for years practically every Sunday with his wife and 4 young children, had amazing talent and determination as he juggled jobs and attended seminary, and has been a dedicated advocate of growth in the CRC as a pastor and Executive Director. Phrases in the article such as "it was best I leave," "surprised," "not expecting to resign," "properly confidential," and "differences among them," suggest unfortunate negativities during the April 5 meeting and I compliment Jerry Dykstra for his professionalism and grace in his questionable exit.

I have never understood how seminary training and pastoring a church gives one the credentials to be a strong CEO of an organization which has hundreds of employees and tens of millions to spend. Borgdorff's deficiencies in this regard were well on display during the IRM crisis years ago.

I don't know Rev. Dykstra but I think this may be a systemic flaw in how we hire people. Drop the MDIV as a requirement and hire one proven in the business world. The BOT would be far more likely to defer to such a leader than one they perceive as "just a pastor".

I agree with some of this. If we keep the executive position in restructuring, I believe that person needs multiple areas of education/training/background/experience to be effective. For me this means experience in finance/business/ministry/leadership/education. It does not make sense for me to have an executive director who knows finances, business, and administration but is not trained in ministry when the position is about leading ministries. Also, I do not agree with having a pastor serve as executive director when he/she has no training or education about finances and administration when the position requires some knowledge about it. Jerry Dykstra had business and ministry backgrounds.

I get frustrated with our church system when it says “Get one of our pastors to work here” when a position is not about being a pastor. There’s an assumption that because someone has an MDIV, that qualifies them for jobs they are not trained in. Pastors are experts at Greek and Hebrew, not administration, finances, or banking.

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