With several major decisions on its agenda, this year’s synod could be historic. Of all the important items to be discussed, the three likely to engender the most debate are whether to adopt the Belhar Confession as the CRC’s fourth confessional standard, whether to adopt the new Covenant for Officebearers, and whether to adopt the recommendations from the Creation Stewardship Task Force.
The Christian Reformed Church’s existing three confessions were all written around 400 years ago. If adopted, the proposed Covenant for Officebearers would replace the current Form of Subscription, also more than four centuries old. That is the statement officebearers sign to declare adherence to the church’s doctrines and teachings.
The Creation Stewardship Task Force report is not centuries old, but it is certainly controversial.
This year’s synod will deal with more than 60 overtures (requests)—three times more than the average number received by the past 15 synods. The last time synods saw this many overtures was in the mid-1990s, when successive synods discussed whether women could serve as elders or ministers.
More than half of the overtures are related to the Belhar Confession, with most of them opposing its adoption as a confessional standard.
Another significant issue will be the request of Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) to change its name to World Renew. CRWRC is the development and relief agency of the CRC.
Synod 2012 will have some tough decisions to make regarding the intention of Classis Quinte to require that Maranatha CRC in Belleville, Ontario, depose its senior pastor, John Visser. That action has been on hold pending an appeal by Maranatha to Synod 2012.
A highlight of this year’s synod will be the interview of Michael Le Roy, recommended by the board of Calvin College to become the college’s next president. Calvin College is owned by the CRC. Another highlight will be the interview of Kurt Selles, presented by Back to God Ministries International (BGTMI) following the untimely death of its former director, Robert Heerspink. BGTMI is the media arm of the CRC.
Another report for Synod 2012 comes from the Task Force Reviewing Structure and Culture. This task force was created by Synod 2011, following the resignations of the denomination’s top executives a year ago.
Synod 2011 appointed an interim executive director and asked the task force to verify the findings of an earlier study that indicated a leadership crisis and low morale among denominational employees.
The task force is recommending steps to be taken over the next four years to address issues of both administrative structures for the denomination as well as the culture within which denominational employees do their work. The recommendations include a new position description for the denomination’s executive director and recommendations for a search process to fill that position.
Two overtures request the denomination to better define which topics the church’s leaders and agencies should be publicly addressing. The authors of the overtures express concern that church leaders are speaking out and promoting views on issues that are political in nature, rather than restricting themselves to ecclesiastical issues.
Other overtures range from asking synod to make statements regarding racism and pornography to a request for a review of the Ministers’ Pension Fund.
Synod 2012 will be preceded by the first-ever Young Adult Summit, called reKindle. Young adults from across the denomination will gather prior to synod to discuss issues important to the CRC and spark interest in church government among young adults. The summit will overlap with the beginning of synod.
Synod is the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church. Forty-seven classes (regional groups of churches) send approximately 188 delegates to deliberate matters that affect the whole church.
Synod 2012 will be held in Ancaster, Ontario, on the campus of Redeemer University College, from June 8-14.
News stories will be posted on The Banner’s website. News will also be updated on Twitter (@crcbanner) and on Facebook (The Banner magazine). A round up of Synod 2012 will appear in the July print edition of The Banner.