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Synod 2019 (annual meeting of the Christian Reformed Church) radically changed the ministry share system, but the change has been a long time coming.

The changes have been occurring incrementally in the denomination. The Christian Reformed Church today is not the CRC out of which the ministry share system came. To grasp the significance of the change, it is necessary to step back and look briefly at the history of the ministry share system.

The deep roots of the ministry share system lie in a small immigrant denomination, the CRC of the 19th century, that needed to fund a training school for its clergy, expenses for its meetings, and pensions for its retired ministers. These costs were paid by asking churches to contribute based on how many families they had. Churches with many families would pay more; churches with fewer families, less.

Initially, these costs were considered to be a debt incurred by the congregations, but in 1939, in the wake of the Great Depression, synod decided that no congregation could be compelled to pay their ministry shares. The obligation to pay was moral, not legal. The congregations had covenanted together to pay the costs, but for many reasons might not be able to pay the full costs.

Over the years, congregations found more reasons not to pay the full amount. Synod allowed smaller congregations to pay on a sliding scale. Other congregations disagreed with this or that denominational initiative. Still others favored local ministries over denominational ministries.

For those congregations that continued to dig deep and pay the full amount, the differences in what congregations paid into the ministry share system could seem unjust. Appeals came to synod to redress the system. Synod dealt with the ministry share system more than a dozen times over a period of 75 years.

Today, the amount of money collected is generally only 60% of what was requested, and budgets are created on that assumption.

So Synod 2016 asked the denominational administration to “reimagine ministry shares.” It did, and synod approved. The action taken by Synod 2019 will now ask congregations to pledge what they can pay, rather than be asked to remit a set amount, and budgets will be created on the amounts pledged.

Synod 2019 is meeting at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 14-20. For continuous coverage from our award-winning news team, 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 on The Banner’s dedicated Synod web page several times daily. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.

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