The Task Force for Reviewing Structure and Culture (TFRSC) has released its report to Synod 2013 (the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church). Along with some new ideas, the report offers much that has been seen before.
What’s new this time around is the emphasis on faith formation, building on the six years’ worth of work of the denomination’s Faith Formation Committee.
Also new is the imagery guiding this latest round of structure talks. Called “Five Streams,” each stream denotes one of five ministry priorities the task force is asking synod to endorse:
- Faith Formation
- Servant Leadership
- Global Missions
- Loving Mercy; Doing Justice
- Gospel Proclamation and Worship
This imagery is borrowed from the Evangelical Covenant Church’s “Five Smooth Stones” and includes a mechanism called a “collaboration table” intended “to connect departments, agencies, and institutions to advance the cohesive development of each of the five ministry priorities.”
The task force report asked for 45 minutes at synod to explain the “Five Smooth Stones” approach.
The report dedicated significant space to revisiting the issue of binationality—being one church in two nations. That discussion is timely given that the director of Canadian ministries resigned last summer and the role of that office is currently under review.
The task force called for “heightened awareness and intentionality to engage with our respective contexts and foster gracious space for differentiated approaches.” Such deliberate consideration acknowledges that outcomes of some ministries, chaplaincy for example, will look different in the U.S. than it does in Canada.
The task force pointed to a number of ongoing structural challenges that have been previously addressed but that will need fresh answers:
- A denominational structure that is still made up of a loose amalgam of agencies and institutions created over the last 150 years to meet a variety of needs but that lacks appropriate integration.
- The ongoing trend of declining denominational loyalty.
- The continued need to support local churches, becoming their “partner of choice” for missions and resources.
- Finding a workable way to cluster together a number of specialized ministries.
The task force also echoed previous calls for more communication and collaboration—especially among staff—in the wake of resignations of the denomination’s two top executives in 2011 and reports of low staff morale.
Finally, the task force is asking synod to authorize the Board of Trustees to approve senior leadership job descriptions that the task force will create in consultation with a new executive director who will be appointed by this year’s synod. Nominees for such positions will be presented to Synod 2014.
Synod 2013 will meet in Grand Rapids, Mich., June 7-14. The Agenda for Synod, which contains this report, is available at crcna.org/sites/default/files/2013_agenda.pdf.
Printed copies are also sent to each congregation.