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.

About the Author

Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.

See comments (7)


Hopefully the quotas will be blocked. To oppose quotas is not to oppose diversity, so I hope the discussion does not try to equate the two.

I am wondering the relevence of including Bolt's opposition to the Belhar in this article? It seems very strange to have included it and I wonder what lies beneath it...

This is strange article. From my understanding Dr. Bolt has some objections to the Diversity in Leadership Report. As someone who has more than a little concern about what goes on in this denomination he then sends out an email stating those objections. His email is then called "offensive" and "inappropriate" among other things. My question is this: Has DR.Bolt violated seminary policy by sending this email and stating his concerns? Is it now considered "partisan" to present a differnt side of an issue? And yes ,I agree with Morgan C, Why does the banner include his oppostion to the adoption of the Belhar? Dr. Bolt has written that he does not want to see it adopted as a conffession ,but he also states that there is much good in it. The Black and Reformed Confrence has openly declared their support for the Belhar. Good for them ,that is certainly thier right. However ,this was not included in the article. Or are we just to assume that they are for it because the confrence is made up of a significant number of minorities?

I agree with Brian Tebben: this article starts out with purporting to report on the BTGMI requesting that the Diversity in Leadership report not be "endorsed" by Synod and ends up talking about Dr. Bolt.

The article also purports to quote (?) without quotation marks that an e-mail, which presumably was not part of the BTGMI request, was "partisan, offensive, disrespectful, and inappropriate" without stating just what fit that negative assessment.

Are we to take the word of Black and Reformed Conference without knowing the content ourselves of an e-mail that according to this article was "widely circulated," that it was "partisan...?"

The article is about the fact that discussion is being raised in many quarters about the diversity in leadership report, from Back to God Ministries, to Dr. Bolt, to the Disability Concerns Advisory Committee. Dr. Bolt, in his email, tied together his views about the Belhar and the diversity report, and then Black and REformed Conference attendees subsequently filed their published formal protest about what Dr. Bolt wrote. I hope that clarifies.

Let's be clear. If synod endorses this report, they will be saying yes to racial profiling and to discrimination.

Not having seen Dr. Bolt's e-mail, I can't say whether it is offensive, disrespectful, or inappropriate. I'm sure it's "partisan" in that it takes a particular stance and advocates it. But then, so does the Black and Reformed Conference and, given my own experience, I'm inclined to think they'd find anything that dared to disagree with them "offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate".

As I've said elsewhere, when it comes to the Belhar, there has been a concerted attempt to label all opposition to it as racist. Regardless of your intent, Ms. Postma, the way you toss Dr. Bolt's opposition to it in to an article on the "Diversity Report" contributes to that trend. It would have been better to leave the Belhar discussion to a different article.

The Diversity Report and the Belhar are not being considered objectively on their merits, but as a paternalistic, condescending sap to Black Americans. They will not do a thing to achieve actual racial diversity in the CRCNA and will do much to weaken our doctrinal integrity, none too strong as it is.


It clarifies a bit, but to cite an email and a protest that many (most?) have not read is rather confusing. If it is newsworthy than it should be worthy of printing as well. If it's not something that can be printed than is will be confusing to reference it. Reference to it in this article truly seems out of place to those of us who have not been privy to the email and reponse. Many of us live far away from Grand Rapids and the administration of the denomination and thus are out of the loop.