Synod 2012 Struggles with the Role of the Church in Society


Synod 2012 received a request from a classis for a study committee to define the role of the church as institute and the church as organism, and how the church should speak to society. Synod declined to appoint a study committee, but it talked at length about the issue. It asked the task force studying the church’s structure and culture to take note of the concern.

Rev. Duane Nieuwsma, Classis Grandville: “We need to use discretion how we talk about things that are debatable.”
Photo: Karen Huttenga

Rev. George Koopmans, Classis Alberta South and Saskatchewan, said that more and more voices within his congregation are saying they do not want the denomination speaking for them—especially when it comes to political matters. “They are growing frustrated,” Koopmans said.

Rev. Duane Nieuwsma, Classis Grandville, agreed. “We need to use discretion how we talk about things that are debatable.”

However, Elder Kenneth Piers, Classis Grand Rapids East, said the church has a calling to speak prophetically and to speak to the culture in which it lives.

Synod did not appoint a committee, but in addition to referring the matter to the task force examining structure and culture, the executive director, Rev. Joel Boot, will write a pastoral letter to the churches, urging it to reflect on the extent to which the church should advocate or lobby on politicized issues.

As Rev. Phil Covert, Classis Northern Illinois, pointed out, “This synod has shown us we are a small denomination with a large tent.”


For continuous Banner coverage of Synod 2012, please follow The Banner on Facebook or @CRCBanner on Twitter. News stories will be posted at three times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and more, please visit


About the Authors

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

Jeff Arnold is the Banner’s regional news correspondent for classes Kalamazoo and Lake Erie.

Ryan Struyk was a former Banner news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids South and Thornapple Valley.