In a week marked by humor and grace and bathed in prayer, Synod 2013 had an air of expectancy, even longing, to move forward as a church into a future full of hope, while not losing the biblical and theological foundations that have held firm through the ages.
In this year of the 450th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism, references abounded in word and in song to Question & Answer 1, that we are not our own but belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
It was in that comfort that delegates were able to take steps toward a future that Executive Director Joel Boot described as a launch, sometimes in uncertain directions, but with God guiding the flight plan.
As delegates learned new songs and sang old favorites from Lift Up Your Hearts, so in the discussions and decisions they tried out some new tunes while hanging to some old ones.
Synod took more steps to achieving full ethnic diversity, building on work already done and setting new concrete goals with a budget to back it up.
The church is moving forward with a proposal to seat deacons at major assemblies, including synod—but not without having more study on the respective roles of deacons and elders.
Now that search is on again for a new executive director, synod decided to at least consider hiring someone who is not ordained as a minister of the Word.
Variations on Old Tunes
Synod 2013 appointed a committee to provide pastoral guidance regarding same-sex marriage while standing firm in its position on homosexuality, adopted in 1973 and affirmed in 2002.
An old model of centralized agencies shaping ministries has given way to a pilot project of a new model of coaches and encouragers coming alongside churches onsite all across North America.
The Faith Formation Committee finished its six-year mandate without fanfare, but its faith formation work lives on as the central melody as ministries and functions are realigned in the denominational ministry structure.
Synod 2013 appointed three new study committees, including one on religious persecution, using the new shepherding model that worked so well for the Faith Formation Committee. But a protracted discussion about who will serve on those committees shows a church that wants to be careful about who calls the tune.
Synod 2013 celebrated the 125th anniversary of Christian Reformed World Missions. At the same time, it learned of a major funding shift that will see our missionaries responsible for raising 90 percent of their basic costs.
Synod agreed to let churches that exclude women from serving as officebearers move to a classis that agrees with those views, even at a great geographical distance. It’s a tune no one wants to sing, but it may be better than not singing together at all.
Synod heard of the many ways the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America are working together and witnessed the signing of an agreement that will see World Renew be the domestic relief agency for the RCA.
And even though a denominational survey shows an aging church, a very active (and funny!) panel of young adult representatives showed that many generations can sing together, both old songs and new.
Rev. John Terpstra, outgoing president of the Board of Trustees, spoke of the Bible’s pattern of despair followed by a new resurrection of hope on the third day. “I sense God is moving in and through the Christian Reformed Church, calling us to put our hope in him, the God of the third day.”
As newly appointed Calvin Theological Seminary professor Amanda Benckhuysen put it, “It’s an exciting time in the Christian Reformed Church.”
The church is learning that in our diversity (ethnic, gender, age) beautiful harmonies can complement singing in unison.
With God as the master composer, it’s a good time to be in the choir, enjoying the old songs, and learning the new ones.