After failing to come to a consensus at its February meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Christian Reformed Church agreed last week to send a communication to Synod 2015 (the church’s annual leadership meeting) about the report of the Task Force to Review Structure and Culture. Although the task force reports directly to synod, the board has the right to comment, and now it has.
The task force was appointed in 2011 by synod “to conduct a review of the organization, structure, and leadership within the CRCNA” and bring its recommendations to Synod 2012. The mandate was expanded and extended, with the task force’s final report coming to synod in June 2015.
Most board members expressed concern that the proposed Council of Delegates that would replace the current board would be too large. The proposed council would have 60 members, with an executive committee of 12. The current board has 30 members. There was also concern that the changes in recent years to make the board more binational in its work would be vulnerable with a council that would only be one-quarter Canadian. The current board is half Canadian.
Trustee Mark Charles said, “ I’m concerned that the executive will become the board and the larger body become a mini synod. It will minimize the voice of minorities, and we’ll only hear from those who are more assimilated.”
Trustee Jose Tagle also expressed reservations. “If we have a group double the size, [it] is going to be very difficult and we’ll lose the camaraderie.”
Trustee Jake Kuipers questioned the premise that having a representative from every classis (regional group of churches) instead of the current representation by region is going to bring the work of the denominational ministries closer to the local church. “It hasn’t been proven that one [delegate] from every classis is more effective in relating to the churches than a person from a region,” he said. He expressed concern that decision-making power will become more centralized and said he is not convinced that the church will be better served in the long run.
Trustee Chris Van Spronsen spoke in favor of the proposed council based on his experience on the World Renew board. “We had streamlined committees doing the governance work,” he said. “Our meetings were primarily storytelling, not a deliberative body.” Trustee Mike Wevers is more in favor of the report than he was earlier. “A lot of the good discussion will happen in those committee meetings. Where there are decisions to be made, that comes to the council of delegates. I’m more in favor of this than I was in February,” he said.
Trustee Scott Greenway was on the task force. “If this is going to work, the 60 [council members] would not be doing what the 30 are doing. How do we elevate the work of the board to the point where this is more policy discussion, visioning, and storytelling, allowing the committees to do their work, and allow the administration to do its work?”
Greenway also cautioned the board: “We’ve discussed and wrestled with this for four years. This plane is about to land on the runway at synod. This is passing through the board, and if we want to make a comment, we can make a comment. But this is not the time to do the work of synod.”
In the end, the board sent a comment commending the task force’s report for careful consideration. It noted that the task force has served synod by guiding the CRC through significant change over the past four years.
The comment noted that the board engaged in significant discussion about the report and that it had “been attentive to” the size of the proposed council, its binationality, the role of an expanded executive, and ensuring minority voices are enhanced in deliberations. It encouraged synod to provide both direction and latitude to the transition committee that would implement the task force’s recommendations if Synod 2015 adopts them.