The officers elected for Synod 2016 (the Christian Reformed Church’s general assembly) have many years of synod experience between them.
President Paul DeVries, 52, pastor of Brookside CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., is at synod for the seventh time. He has experience as the president of the board of Calvin Theological Seminary.
José Rayas, 56, is pastor of Valley Ridge Community CRC in Socorro, Texas. He has been to synod eight times, serving on committees for finance, education, publications, and faith formation. He will serve Synod 2016 as vice president.
Bert Slofstra, 63, is pastor of Gateway Community CRC in Abbotsford, B.C., coming to synod for the eleventh time. He is the only one of the officers who has previously served as an officer of synod. He was the first clerk at Synod 2011. He has served on the boards and committees of several denominational ministries. Slofstra will serve as first clerk.
Elsa Fennema, 72, was elected second clerk. She comes to synod for the third time from Classis Chicago South. She has served on several boards for ministries in her home community and was a teacher and principal of Chicago Westside Christian School.
De Vries noted that Synod 2016 is facing weighty issues on which the church is divided, particularly the report on pastoral advice re: same-ex marriage. Slofstra said it will be a time for speaking the truth boldly and gently. “It’s a time to demonstrate God’s grace and compassion,” Rayas added.
The officers also expect the discussion of the report on the Doctrine of Discovery to be important.
De Vries noted the report on continuing education for pastors. “We’ve been round and round this in recent years. I hope we can do good work with it.”
Noting the diversity of the officers, Slofstra said delegates are more sensitive to that than in earlier synods, electing males and females, different ethnicities, American and Canadian.
While these officers have synod experience, more than 100 delegates are first-timers. The officers expect that this will put more pressure on synod but also bring enthusiasm and fresh perspectives. First-timers bring a lot of excitement.
Rayas spoke of the fact that his own classis sent three first-time delegates, but veteran synod delegates have been mentoring them since March, explaining how committees and plenary sessions work.
De Vries shared the advice he gave to a first-time delegate from his own church. Be quick to put your name on the speaker queue, but just as quick to take it back off.
Synod 2016 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 10-17. 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/synod. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.