Synod Allows Exception to Requiring Executive Director to be Clergy

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Christian Reformed leaders may consider non-clergy candidates for the denomination’s top executive position, Synod 2013 decided.

Delegates approved allowing an exception to the rule that only ordained ministers can serve as executive director. That could diversify the pool of candidates for the next executive, whom synod hopes to hire in 2014, advocates said.

However, a non-clergy candidate would have to be or become a CRC office-holder such as elder, deacon, or commissioned pastor in order to be hired, delegates stipulated, which would include signing the Covenant for Officebearers.

The Board of Trustees had hoped to hire a new executive director this year but its nominee withdrew. In their search, trustees passed over people with “wonderful qualifications” because they were not ordained pastors, said Rev. Archie VanderHart.

“Not all pastors are administrators, not all ordained ministers have a pastor’s heart, and there are people without ordination who have a deep pastoral heart,” said VanderHart, speaking for an advisory committee that recommended the change.

Delegates supported the measure as a way to possibly attract gifted leaders and foster diversity.

“We talk so much about it, but the leadership should represent diversity,” said Rev. Stanley Jim, Classis Red Mesa. “This helps us to have a larger pool of diverse peoples.”

Elder Ruby Meekhof, Classis Northern Michigan, said a calling from God should be primary whether the candidate is ordained or not. “As pastors and elders who serve within the church, we are all called,” Meekhof said. “I believe whoever is called to this position will be able to do what is needed in order to perform their duties.”

Others insisted the executive director needs theological education and wisdom to properly lead and represent the CRC.

“It’s hard for me to imagine we would be served as well by an unordained person as by someone who had a theological degree and an MDiv.,” said elder Paul Boersma of Classis Wisconsin.

While being an ordained pastor helps in dealing with other denominations, it’s not essential, said Rev. Peter Borgdorff, deputy executive director. Borgdorff has also served as executive director.

“I have never been asked in ecumenical settings whether I graduated from seminary,” Borgdorff said. “While it is an advantage, it’s not a deal-breaker.”


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.

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