Synod 2013 allowed two West Michigan Christian Reformed congregations to move to whatever classis (regional group of churches) is willing to receive them, provided that that is those congregations’ desire.
Synod received two requests to allow Trinity CRC (Sparta, Mich.) and Second CRC (Kalamazoo, Mich.) to form a new Michigan classis based on a shared theological conviction that women should not hold church offices.
Synod did not allow that, stating that such a classis would “create a fixed uniformity that runs contrary to biblical principles and practices of unity.”
Synod instead advised the churches to “seek ways to continue in their current classes” and to seek reconciliation. But if that isn’t an option, it said, those churches could join Classis Minnkota—a classis of theologically conservative churches in Minnesota and the Dakotas that is willing to accept them. It is a request that Synod 2010 turned down.
Synod heard that, in spite of written requests from the two churches, no geographically closer classis wants to take them in.
Over 20 delegates spoke about the matter.
“I’m glad there are some churches who want to stay in the CRC in spite of their differences,” said elder George Monsma Jr., Classis Grand Rapids East. “I wish they could agree to stay with other churches that feel differently, but if they can’t in good conscience, let’s give them another option.”
But Rev. Joe Vanden Akker, Classis Minnkota, said that allowing a theological classis would have been a gracious acknowledgement of what past synods have affirmed as a valid interpretation of Scripture. "Now that those [supporting women in office] have a position of power, our denominational agreement to honor both positions is being swept under the rug," he said.
Some delegates expressed concern that a new classis might incline other theologically conservative churches to jump ship from their classes.
“I hope there are not churches thinking about leaving our classis,” said Rev. Timothy Howerzyl, Classis Zeeland. “I might guess that there would be several. . . . I challenge these churches to really think through how they think their consciences are bound. In our classis we have a great diversity of opinions, but we’ve forged a careful policy of holding together.”
“I’m struck by the amazing amount of effort these churches went through to do the right thing and remain in the CRC,” said elder Jacob Ellens, Classis Hamilton. “It’s extremely commendable.”
Delegates voted 163-12 to allow the churches to join a willing classis. “Even though the discussions have been difficult, sometimes painful, there’s something that creates peace in that, to have a strong majority in our vote,” said synod president William Koopmans.
The CRC is organized into 47 classes, mostly based on geography (though Classis Pacific Hanmi is based on Korean identity). In an earlier decision, Synod 2013 allowed Urim CRC in Lake Forest, Calif., to move from Classis California South to Classis Pacific Hanmi.
Synod 2013 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. from June 7-14. For continuous Banner coverage of Synod 2013, please follow The Banner on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at www.thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit www.crcna.org/synod. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.