Even a cursory read through the Agenda for Synod 2014 shows that the Christian Reformed Church is a denomination in transition: from administrative leadership to synod to the local church.
The most obvious sign of change is increasing collaboration between the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America. This year the synods of both churches will meet at Central College in Pella, Iowa, at the same time. The two denominations will conduct their business separately, but they will worship together and have at least one plenary session together.
Both synods will consider a joint resolution about the many ministries on which the two denominations already collaborate. This resolution states, in part, “we declare that the principle that guides [the CRC and RCA], and the intention that motivates us, is to ‘act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel [us] to act separately.’”
At the denominational leadership level of the church, synod will interview Dr. Steven Timmermans to be the next executive director. Synod will also be asked to ratify the recent appointment of Rev. Darren Roorda as the new Canadian ministries director.
The face of synod continues to be in transition. For the first time, deacon advisors will bring their perspective to the deliberations at synod.
However, for the first time since 1996, there will not be ethnic advisors at synod, since the number of delegates from an ethnic minority has reached 25.
Eight years after synod declared that women can be delegated to synod, that representation is less than 7 percent. None of this year’s female delegates are pastors, and none of them were appointed to be chairs or reporters of advisory committees.
A new addition to synod will be a variety of workshops on many aspects of ministry offered to delegates on Sunday afternoon.
The overtures (requests) that come from classes (regional groups of churches) and from individual congregations also show a church worried about how they perceive the church to be changing. Concerns include what biblical perspectives should be allowed in The Banner (the church’s official publication) and how the work of professors at Calvin College fit within the doctrine of the church. One classis wants synod to appoint a committee to look into the theological views that consider the creation accounts in Genesis to be literary rather than historical, citing both articles in The Banner and the work of Calvin College professors.
The growth in the number of Korean congregations in the CRC has reached the point where Pacific Hanmi, the Korean classis, is asking to divide into two separate classes.
Some churches are concerned about the transitions happening at Christian Reformed World Missions that will see missionaries raising 90 percent of their support from sources outside of ministry shares. Christian Reformed Home Missions outlines how it is changing its approach to aiding congregations in the work of outreach and evangelism.
The committee that prepares sermons for reading services sees the need for its services declining as more and more sermons are available online.
The agenda for this year’s synod will also be a preview of what is on tap for Synod 2015 as both the Task Force to Review Structure and Culture and the Task Force to Study the Offices of Elder and Deacon present major reports this year that will not require decisions by synod until next year.
Even as the church goes through changes and transitions, it also celebrates the history on which it continues to build. Synod will note the 75th anniversary of Back to God Ministries International, the 40th anniversary of the Indigenous Family Centre in Winnipeg, and the 20th anniversary of Calvin Theological Seminary’s Ph.D. program.
Synod 2014 will convene on June 13, in Pella, Iowa, following an evening worship service on June 12. The Banner will post articles on its website throughout synod, and keep readers updated via Twitter and Facebook. You can also follow synod via webcast and press releases from CRC Communications, all of which can be accessed via the Synod 2014 website.