Maybe you’ve heard of synod. And maybe this past Sunday your pastor prayed for the deliberations of Synod 2015. If so, you might be wondering, “What is this sin-odd? A weird old-fashioned way of talking about sin?” Well, wonder no more! This is your guide to following synod, starting on Friday.
What is synod?
Synod is the annual leadership meeting (or general assembly) of the Christian Reformed Church. Each classis—48 of ’em—sends two ministers and two elders for a total of 192 delegates. What’s a classis, you ask? It’s a regional group of churches, of which your congregation is a part. Your church sends a couple of delegates to meetings of classis two or three times a year, and those classis delegates decide who will represent them at synod. So those 192 delegates actually represent a thousand congregations! Synod also has many advisors: faculty advisors from Calvin Theological Seminary, deacon advisors, ethnic advisors, and young adult representatives, along with staff from the denomination and its various agencies and educational institutions. Guests from other denominations also visit.
What do all these people talk about for a whole week?
That would be the Agenda for Synod 2015. All the material in the agenda gets dealt with: reports from the Board of Trustees, reports from committees and task forces, reports from all the ministry agencies and educational institutions, financial information, and more. Sometimes the most exciting material is in the back: The “Overtures.” This is where you discover what is so important to a church or a region that it felt moved to ask synod to do something about it (or not do something, as the case may be). But wait—there’s more! There is also an Agenda Supplement for material that was too late to be included in the main Agenda.
Synod has started. Why is nothing happening?
The most exciting thing that happens on the first two days (Friday and Saturday) is the election of the officers for the week (president, vice president, first clerk, and second clerk). The other exciting thing that happens on the weekend is the Synodical Service of Prayer and Praise hosted by a local church. But for the rest of those first two days, all those synod delegates (and advisors) are meeting in one of eight or nine advisory committees. Everything in that agenda is dealt with by these advisory committees. No page is left unturned. It may seem like not much is happening, but that is actually where much of the real work of synod gets done. Those committees dissect their assigned parts of the Agenda and decide what to recommend that synod do about it.
But when does the real action start?
Monday morning! That’s when all the delegates are back together again in what is called plenary session. And all those advisory committees start making recommendations about how to handle various items in the Agenda, whether to simply receive material for information or to take action in some way. Delegates have the opportunity to debate all those recommendations. Sometimes they do so quite vociferously and at some length.
What are all the reports they are discussing? I didn’t see those in the Agenda.
You’ll hear the synod president refer to advisory committee reports. It is in these reports that the advisory committees present their recommendations about the Agenda material it studied. You can find those reports here as they are posted. These reports are what actually make their way to the plenary session of synod for discussion. The recommendations of the advisory committee regarding Agenda material are what get debated, adopted, rejected, amended, or otherwise dealt with.
Do they do anything besides talk at synod?
Yes! At the end of synod, many delegates will tell you that the best part of the whole week was the worship. Every morning, synod starts with singing and a short gospel message. And there are other times of the day that also include singing. Synod folks love to sing. When synod adjourns later in the evenings, delegates can be found catching up on hockey or basketball playoff games. There are ice cream socials, lawn games, and a picnic hosted by the college president. And there is a banquet to honor people retiring from denominational ministries.
I can’t come to Sioux Center. How can I follow Synod?
You can watch it live on the webcast, or you can follow along on Twitter (@crcbanner - hashtag #Synod2015) or Facebook (bannermagazine), or check in regularly on the synod blog. And of course, all the news will be posted on the Banner’s website throughout the week, and reported in our summer print issue. We hope you’ll join us in witnessing what God is doing in the Christian Reformed Church!
There is lots more information about Synod 2015 on the CRC’s website here.
Check out this video made a few years ago by some young adults in Austin, Texas: I Don’t Know Why Synod is Spelled with a “Y”