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Synod Asked Not to Endorse Diversity Report

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The Diversity in Leadership report adopted by the Christian Reformed Church’s Board of Trustees in February is continuing to generate discussion by individuals, groups, and ministry agencies of the CRC.

Based on previous denominationally-approved goals along with the report God’s Diverse and Unified Family adopted by Synod 1996, the Diversity in Leadership report seeks to increase the racial and ethnic diversity in the denomination’s senior management.

The board of Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) has asked Synod 2011 not to endorse the report. BTGMI is the broadcast media ministry of the CRC.

At its April 28 meeting the BTGMI board expressed appreciation for the goal of the report—to increase multiethnic leadership within the denomination’s senior ranks—but requested that, instead of endorsing the report, Synod 2011 refer it to churches and agency boards for discussion, then bring the report back to Synod 2012 for a decision.

“There is a lack of clarity that . . . will cause confusion in its implementation,” the BTGMI board stated. “This includes but is not limited to the question of whether the report is establishing ‘quotas’ with regard to minority leadership and expectations on senior leadership as to the hiring of ethnic minorities.”

The board also noted that the diversity report recommendations intersect significantly with the work of agency boards, yet those boards had no opportunity to provide feedback before the BOT adopted the report. “Among issues of concern are the control of agency boards over job descriptions of senior staff, nominations for agency boards, hiring of senior staff, and evaluation of senior staff,” BTGMI said.

The report adopted by the BOT in February states 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.

Rev. John Bolt, professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, sent a widely circulated e-mail calling for the report to be challenged, saying it is a violation of Reformed polity and the gospel. Bolt has also publicly declared his opposition to adopting the Belhar Confession.

In response, 38 attendees at the biennial Black and Reformed Conference wrote a formal letter to the Board of Trustees, calling the e-mail partisan, offensive, disrespectful, and inappropriate.

The Diversity in Leadership Planning Group and synod’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee both planned to send representatives to the seminary to discuss the matter with Bolt.

And finally, the Disability Concerns Advisory Committee expressed a desire to see the definition of diversity broadened to include more than just racial diversity.

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