Synod 2017, the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church, took steps to define and regulate the office of commissioned pastor. Commissioned pastors have become increasingly important in the life of the denomination. Once limited to pastors in congregations that had not yet reached the stage of formal organization, the office has been expanded several times to provide ordination for pastors working in a variety of settings, including specialized ministries in local churches, church plants, and chaplaincy.
With the expansion of the office, new situations have arisen, inviting synods over the years to continue to shape the office. Synod 2017 took several actions with regard to commissioned pastors.
Some of these changes require changes in the Church Order, in which case the actions of Synod 2017 must be ratified by a future synod.
One such proposal is to extend the office of commissioned pastor into retirement, giving the pastor the authority to continue to act in official pastoral roles such as preaching and administration of the sacraments.
Another proposed Church Order change creates a procedure for commissioned pastors who are released from a ministry to receive assistance from the classis, the regional body of churches, in the hope of making it possible for the pastor to flourish in future ministry assignments.
Synod also approved language for the Church Order that would facilitate and regulate the use of the office of commissioned pastors as a stepping stone to ordination as a minister of the Word.
Others are changes in supplemental material that take effect immediately.
Synod clarified the steps to be taken if a commissioned pastor transfers from one church to another. This provision occasioned a lengthy discussion by the synod, picking up on an uneasiness among some delegates, especially those who are commissioned pastors, about regulation of the office in general.
Rodney Hugen of Classis Arizona called it “federalization.” Henry Perez, Classis Wisconsin, said the new procedures are “too cumbersome for ministry.” He said, “We are not thinking progressively.”
David Koll, director of the Office of Candidacy for the denomination, responded by saying that the new procedures are actually less restrictive than they had been previously.
In a final action, synod expressed the need to reformat and perhaps rewrite the changes in the Church Order and supplements for the office of commissioned pastor that have accumulated over time to bring about more clarity and perhaps brevity in the regulations.
This proposal, like the other changes proposed for the church order, will be on the agenda for Synod 2018.
Synod 2017 is meeting at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., from June 9-15. For continuous coverage while synod is in session, download the Banner app on your mobile device or 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 and the webcast, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.