After more than 30 years of discussing denominational structure and adopting half-measures at various synods over those decades, the delegates of Synod 2015—the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church—took the plunge and approved sweeping changes to current Christian Reformed Church board governance structure. This despite the fact that there were very few details about what the new structure would actually look like.
The proposal came to synod from a task force that was appointed in 2011 following the resignation of the CRC’s top two administrative leaders; the task force has reported to each annual synod since then.
The plan will see the denomination’s 30-member board of trustees, which conducts the work of synod when synod is not in session, become a council of delegates of perhaps 60 members, by 2018 or sooner.
Instead of delegates representing regions, delegates might come from each classis (regional group of churches). There may also be several at-large members of the proposed council. That would result in the council resembling synod in that the U.S. delegation would outnumber Canadians by a ratio of three to one. The current Board of Trustees has an equal number of Canadians and Americans. It is yet to be determined how often the council would meet. It would have a smaller executive committee, perhaps with 12 members, that would meet more frequently to make decisions that would then be ratified by the full council.
Another major change to the structure will be the combining of the boards of the CRC’s mission agencies (Back to God Ministries International, Christian Reformed World Missions, and Christian Reformed Home Missions) into a missions committee that would be a subcommittee of the council.
Rev. Nick Overduin, Classis Toronto, said this is the perfect time to make such a change, with three new leaders in place as the administrative executive team. Executive director Steve Timmermans, director of ministries and administration and ministries Colin Watson, and Canadian ministries director Rev. Darren Roorda have all been appointed in the past 15 months.
Rev. Paul Vander Klay, Classis Central California, agreed. “I think it’s time to no longer take half-measures. We’ve got a plan, we’ve got the people, we should empower them and set them loose.”
Not all delegates were in favor of the proposal. Elder Bruce McMurry, Classis Wisconsin, wasn’t convinced a change is needed. While the work started out when the church was in turmoil, “conditions are different than they were four years ago,” he said. “By God’s grace we are at a very different time than we were four years ago.”
Rev. Frank de Boer, Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan, said the fact that the boards of all three mission agencies sent communications to synod expressing concerns about the proposal “set off an alarm bell inside of me.”
Some delegates were concerned about the lack of detail in the proposal. Rev. Henry Kranenburg, Classis Hamilton, said, “I find this a fairly open-ended recommendation.” Rev. Timothy Toeset, Classis Yellowstone, agreed. “There are far too many unanswered questions. I don’t think it is wise to proceed.”
Synod tasked a transition committee to work out all those details, including the size and composition of the council, how often it will meet, and more. That transition committee is expected to work on a three-year time frame, reporting to synod on its progress each year.
Elder Lenore Maine, Classis Hackensack, didn’t want synod held up by lack of detail. Referring to decisions synod had made earlier in the week, she said, “We’ve been going forward, voting forward all week. We’ve built a brand new car and now you want to put a beat-up engine in it. You need a new engine to make it go further!”
Synod delegates agreed. After they overwhelmingly approved moving ahead with overhauling the denominational board structure, they also instructed the executive director to appoint a working group to examine the nature and purpose of classis, with the objective of proposing revisions that “will enable classes to flourish.” And it instructed the board of trustees to recommend to Synod 2016 a mandate, composition and timeline for a task force to review the practices and functions of synod itself.
Synod 2015 is meeting at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, from June 12-18. For continuous Banner coverage, please follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted at thebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.