On Saturday evening, Rev. Mark Vermaire, president of the Christian Reformed Church’s Board of Trustees (BOT), reported on the work of the board to the delegates of Synod 2011.
It was the first such address, following Synod 2010’s decision to set aside time at each synod to hear a report from the board.
Vermaire, who completes his six-year term on June 30, reported on both positive and difficult times in what has been “a challenging, weighty year in the work of the board.”
He drew several parallels between the work of the board and the work of synod.
Like synod, he said, the board has work that is important though routine, such as reading minutes from agency meetings, hearing from agency and ministry directors about their work, asking questions to probe what and why and how they do work in ministry.
Like synod, much of the work of the board is uplifting, even renewing, Vermaire said. “We are amazed and deeply grateful at the Christian stewardship of the members of the CRC who sacrificially and generously give ministry shares in this tough economic time so that they can minister in the name of Jesus Christ.”
He noted the excitement and hope experienced by the board in ratifying on behalf of synod the appointment of Rev. Moses Chung as director of Christian Reformed Home Missions; in endorsing the proposal for a Young Adult Summit; in seeing the challenge to congregations that resulted in the catchy video “I Don’t Know Why Synod Is Spelled with a Y.”
“To participate in discussions and decisions like these are a part of the joy of the work, much like you have and will experience in the days ahead,” Vermaire said.
But he acknowledged the work and the past year also had difficult challenges.
“We have wrestled with the challenges of our structure and culture, just as synod has and will. When is a ‘change’ significant enough to be brought to synod? How will the growing, unique, and world-affecting ministry of CRWRC stretch us in questions of financial responsibility and agency accountability within our structure? How do agency directors serve under the governance structure of a board while at the same time serving under a management structure with oversight by a different board?”
The Board of Trustees also received a report and recommendations regarding diversity in senior leadership that it is now presenting to Synod 2011. “Last year synod strongly rebuked the board for not presenting a recommendation. This year you have one, a concrete response to a very specific mandate by synod.”
Vermaire noted that the Diversity in Leadership Planning Group, the committee that produced the report, represented some of the diversity within the church—and thus were themselves challenged to relate to each other with such diversity.
“The report came to the BOT with a challenge to not just make another fine theological statement, as we have done so often in the past four decades, but rather, to make a decision to actually produce concrete change that many have longed for,” he said.
Vermaire also noted several resignations that took place during the past year: Beth Swagman, director of Safe Church Ministry; Rev. Jerry Dykstra, executive director of the CRC; and Sandy Johnson, director of denominational ministries.
“These resignations brought pain and sadness to our work as a board,” Vermaire said. “Because the resignation of Rev. Dykstra is appropriately being explored in an advisory committee, I will not address it tonight. We welcome and appreciate the oversight and responsibility of synod, through its advisory committee, to attend to this matter.
“I would like to say this, however: there have been calls for transparency in the church, and certainly transparency is a value that the church needs to regard highly. However, transparency isn't the only value that the church must consider in its communication of issues. Respect for appropriate confidentiality, faithfulness to promises made, and care for where discussions are presented are also critically important. Sometimes these values run up against each other. The BOT carefully weighed them and did its best to be faithful to all concerned, as well as to the church.”
Vermaire reported the board’s gratitude that Rev. Joel Boot rose quickly to the top of the list of those gifted and able to serve the church as interim executive director for the next two years. “Joel did not seek the job; in fact, as someone said recently, ‘Who would want the job?’ But Joel, out of his attention to the voice of God and his love for the church, accepted this appointment which we present to synod for ratification.”
Vermaire said that the Board of Trustees, just like synod, recognizes that “every one of us does our work . . . in the context of our own weaknesses and gifts, sins and virtues, skills and shortcomings.
“All of us do our work as well as we can in our ever-present and growing union in Christ. God bless you in your work.”
For more coverage while synod is in session, including webcast, photos, discussion forum, reports, and more, visit the Synod 2011 website.