Synod 2019 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 14-20. For continuous coverage, download the Banner app on your mobile device or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter.
Seven classes (regional groups of churches) have registered their objection to three of the 32 recommendations coming from the Synod Review Task Force. Synod is the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church, comprised of four-person delegations from 48 classes.
Raising the most objections is the proposal that each classis be required to include a female delegate or one from an ethnic minority in their four-person delegation. The task force wrote that this would increase the number of ethnic minority and women delegates and would eventually eliminate the need for nonvoting advisers. (Ethnic and women advisers are appointed to synod when there are less than 25 of them delegated to synod, based on a three-year rolling average.)
Classis Zeeland (located in west Michigan) and Classis Central Plains (whose churches are mainly in Iowa) both stated that it is the prerogative of local congregations and classes to delegate people they deem scripturally qualified, capable, and willing to go. Central Plains’ overture said that such a requirement impinges on the consciences of members of our denomination. “Congregations and classes which understand that women serving as elders and pastors is in violation of the Word of God naturally will not have women to delegate as they are not serving in those offices,” it wrote. Classis Heartland (also mainly in Iowa) would like to see it be a recommendation to classes, not a requirement.
A recommendation that classes pay a modest registration fee and some travel costs for synodical delegates is also getting pushback. The task force said that such contributions could help to enhance a sense of ownership of denominational matters by classes and their local congregations. Classis Holland (also located in west Michigan) wrote that churches already have a sense of financial ownership in denomination matters through the ministry shares system. “The costs of synod are already included in the ministry shares requested from each CRC congregation, thus a registration fee should not be necessary.”
Zeeland and Classis Atlantic Northeast are rejecting a recommendation that calls for power and privilege training for synod delegates. The task force wrote that “understanding power dynamics is important in order for synod to function in healthy ways and accomplish its tasks well.” It asserted that ethnic, gender, and age-related minorities will be more affirmed and encouraged in their participation at synod.
Atlantic Northeast (comprised of churches mostly in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York) wrote at length about that particular recommendation. The overture stated, “we question the validity and usefulness of race and gender critical theories [usually included in] power and privilege training.” It said the recommendation seems to be pushing a particular agenda rather than responding to an agreed-upon challenge. “It may be the [task force] has a significantly different form of power and privilege training in mind . . . if so, why use this label when it includes so much cultural and political baggage?”
Zeeland called the recommendation vague and expensive. “[It] would raise the cost of synod more than any other recommendation.” The task force estimated that costs for this recommendation would be $10,200 for the first year, and $3,900 in subsequent years.
The task force was formed by Synod 2016 as a result of an earlier task force that studied the structure and culture of the denomination’s administrative and governance bodies. That earlier task force was not mandated to study the process of synod so synod created this task force to do that.
The entire task force report to synod can be found here. Korean version here.
See also: Task Force Recommends Refinements for Annual Synods
About the Author
Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.