Baptized children in the Christian Reformed Church will now be eligible for full participation in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper without having previously made public profession of faith.
Delegates adopted on Monday night the proposal by Synod 2010 that “all baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord’s Table.”
Elder Carl Smits: “I’m excited about welcoming children to the Lord’s table.”
Delegates expressed the critical importance of faith formation among children and young adults and do not want to see the step of public profession of faith diminished by this decision.
Elder Chad Werkhoven, Classis Columbia, spoke against the proposal. “We certainly need to clear up misconceptions about profession of faith—that it’s only for ‘super-spiritual’ kids, or for those who’ve had radical conversion experiences,” he said. “But profession of faith ought to be one of the biggest opportunities for joy a congregation has. Why do we want to make this joy an optional experience?”
The CRC’s Faith Formation Committee, in its fourth consecutive year appearing before synod, said their aim has been to encourage in all churches intentional, deep participation in and integration of faith formation—including vital profession of faith.
Age- and ability-appropriate faith is what all congregations should be fostering, noted Rev. John Witvliet, chair of the Faith Formation Committee. Appropriate faith “fits us wherever we are in facing life’s circumstances,” he said.
Synod 2010 decided that requiring “age- and ability-appropriate faith” acknowledges that church members can respond to the promises of God in various but equally valid ways, always including a posture of obedience.
“Synod 2010 went in the direction that profession of faith is not required for participation at the table, but that participation in the Lord’s Supper is part of forming faith,” said Rev. Jack Van de Hoef, Classis Eastern Canada, in advocating for the proposal. “We’re talking here about stages of forming faith, of which being welcomed to the Lord’s table is an important aspect.”
“I’m excited about welcoming children to the Lord’s table,” said elder Carl Smits, Classis Illiana. “Sometimes we get so top-heavy; this really isn’t that difficult.”
The Faith Formation members wrote, “The committee has been struck by the deep sense of urgency felt throughout the denomination over issues related to faith formation. Part of this, we sense, is fueled by concern for young adults who are leaving the church. Another part, we sense, is fueled by a renewed commitment in several Christian traditions not merely to grow churches but also to form disciples of Jesus.”
The decision by Synod 2011 will not bind churches to allow children to partake in the Lord’s Supper but, rather, allows for diversity of local practice within a standard principle. The CRC mandates that celebration of the sacraments is always to be done under the guidance of church elders.
All the resources from the Faith Formation Committee are freely available on the Faith Formation website.
For more coverage while synod is in session, including webcasts, photos, discussion forums, reports, and more, visit the Synod 2011 website.