Synod 2018 (the annual assembly of the Christian Reformed Church) encouraged its congregations, regional assemblies, and appropriate agencies to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the historic and influential Synod of Dort in 2019.
The Synod of Dort met from 1618-19 in the city of Dordrecht (known in English as “Dort”) in the Netherlands. From that assembly came a set of theological declarations known as the Canons of Dort, which include the doctrines summarized as TULIP (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints). The Canons, along with the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession, form the Reformed confessions that guide and ground the CRC.
Synod was reminded by Kathy Smith, who teaches church order at the denominational seminary, that in addition to the Canons, the Synod of Dort published a Bible translation, some hymns, and the church order that underlies the church order used by the CRC. On hearing this account of the productivity of the older synod, Synod 2018 president Scott Greenway asked Smith, “How long did the synod [of Dort] last?” Smith replied, “From 1618 to 1619.” Greenway replied, “Something to think about.”
Synod did think about how to properly honor the Synod of Dort. It was presented with a request from Classis Zeeland (a regional group of churches) to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort. The request expressed concern that the doctrines taught in the Canons of Dort might be lost:. The classis said “The danger is ever-present . . . that we who are Reformed churches, now 400 years separated from this great synod, will too soon wander from these doctrines of grace.”
Synod did not adopt the requests of Classis Zeeland involving specific actions to be taken by church agencies and educational institutions but said it would honor “the spirit” of the request. It decided to encourage congregations, classes, denominational agencies, and educational institutions to celebrate the anniversary in ways that fit their ministry context. The office of the executive director was asked to oversee the effort.
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