Synod 2018 (the annual assembly of the Christian Reformed Church) approved the transfer of three congregations from one classis (a regional assembly of congregations) to another. In two of the cases, the transfer was granted without comment, but the third occasioned a debate about unity and diversity in the denomination.
Churches transfer from one classis to another for a variety of reasons. The first church, Stephenville (Tex.), requested the transfer for geographical convenience. They wanted to be part of the same classis as other Texas congregations: Classis Rocky Mountain. Synod granted their request.
The second church, Hope Community (Indianapolis, Ind.), requested a transfer for reasons of theological commitment. The church affirms and has been served by women as deacons, elders, and pastors. The classis of which they were a part does not permit the delegation of women to classis meetings. The church asked to be transferred to Classis Kalamazoo for this reason, but also for other reasons. Classis Kalamazoo is nearby and seemed to the congregation a better fit. Both classes agreed to the transfer, and synod agreed.
In the third case, Peace CRC of Menno, S.D., asked to transfer to Classis Minnkota, located mostly in Minnesota, but also with congregations from as far away as Michigan. For some years, Classis Minnkota has acted as an affinity classis, appealing to conservative congregations. In this case, as in others, the congregation requesting transfer does not believe that women are permitted to serve in church office.
When Classis Iakota, its classis, permitted the delegation of women, Peace CRC requested a transfer. Classis Minnkota agreed to the transfer, but Classis Iakota did not. The classis asked that the congregation remain while the classis explored ways to accommodate diversity on this issue.
Speaking against the transfer, Anthony Elenbaas, Classis Hamilton, said that when theological diversity in a classis is lessened, “the classis is impoverished.” He thought that the congregation should give the classis that time.
Dayna Vreeken, Classis Alberta North, agreed. She asked whether transfers of this sort will in the end increase or diminish unity. Speaking again, Anthony Elenbaas said that living with people with whom we disagree “forces us into a position of humility.”
Robert Toornstra, Classis Columbia, challenged those who opposed the transfer. He said that for the sake of unity “we need to allow congregations to leave.”
Synod granted the permission to transfer by a substantial majority.
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