Synod 2015 identified an urgent need to change the way the Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church addresses sexual misconduct and sexual abuse by officebearers.
Synod (the annual leadership meeting of the CRC) agreed that Church Order Articles 83 and 84, which deal with special discipline for officebearers, should highlight issues of power differential between officebearers and those they serve. It acknowledged that those hurt by such abuse have not been adequately served and supported by the current process. So synod instructed the Board of Trustees to ask the CRC’s Safe Church Ministry, in concert with other denominational agencies, to review the rules and to recommend revisions to Synod 2016.
The instructions include: “Differentiat[ing] sexual misconduct from sexual abuse” and “provid[ing] guidelines for how graduations in severity and victim impact would affect decisions regarding reinstatement.”
Further, in consultation with legal counsel and referencing other denominations’ policies, the committee is to “address matters of resignation of officebearers in situations of abuse.” Elder Darrell Delaney, Classis Grand Rapids East, asked for clarification on that matter. Rev. Daniel Mouw responded that it is meant to speak to a concern that resignations don’t apply only to pastors but also to elders and deacons who may possibly move elsewhere. The Church Order has been less clear about them.
Rev. Heidi De Jonge, Classis Quinte, expressed her appreciation for synod’s action but said she had hopes it will also address emotional abuse and other ungodly conduct.
Recognizing the urgency of the need for this work, synod asked that recommendations be brought to Synod 2016.
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.
About the Author
George Vink is retired after 50 years as a Christian Reformed pastor. One of his sons is an accident investigator for the Calgary (Alta.) Police Service, and his two brothers are retired from that position. He and his wife, Shirley, are members of Covenant CRC in Cutlerville, Mich.