Synod 2019 fine-tuned the rules for the format and function of future synods. Delegates accepted limiting speech length, but they resisted any attempt to mandate who classes may send as delegates.
(Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.)
At future synods, delegate speeches will be limited to three minutes. The CRC will offer more extensive training for delegates and will design synods to include more discussion around themes. And there were many more revisions, all informed by evaluations from past synodical delegates.
But Synod declined to adopt several key changes that its own Synod Review Task Force had recommended. Delegates cited concerns that those changes would have given the denomination too much control over local groups of churches (classes).
The task force wanted to require classes to send at least one woman or ethnic minority delegate to synod. Synod chose instead to recommend the inclusion of a female or ethnic minority delegate from each classis.
“It is inappropriate to require what may not be possible for some classes to provide,” said Lora Copley, Classis Red Mesa. “To use the word ‘require’ would damage the very thing that we have called for, that we would serve one another and honor and respect our differences,” referring to the two differing perspectives held by the CRC on having women serve as synod delegates, both of which have been accepted in the denomination. Many delegates voiced similar sentiments.
Others argued, however, that the denomination has been recommending ethnic minority inclusion at synod for more than two decades, but still hasn’t made significant progress. “Passing this motion tonight will make us think we’ve done something when we haven’t,” said Meg Jenista Kuykendall, Classis Hackensack.
Synod also turned down a proposal to require classes to pay a delegate registration fee that would help cover synod travel costs.
“This is not a money grab,” said William Koopmans, speaking for the task force. “We believe that this would give us a form of accountability, a reality check … . If we come to synod then we ought to contribute.”
But some delegates weren’t so sure. “My classis would have to limit its local ministries in order to fund this,” said Chad Vandervalk, Classis B.C. South-East.
The task force recommended each synod select the officers (president, vice president, etc.) to serve at the next year’s synod. That way, the officers could receive more training and also attend Council of Delegates meetings during the year.
“It’s a scary thing to be elected an officer to synod,” said task force chair and Synod 2019 vice president Thea Leunk. “With this recommendation, we will see different faces at this table, and that’s a good thing for this denomination.”
Once again, many delegates considered the proposal an overreach. “Let’s keep our parliamentarian approach and see how we do, because I don’t think we’re doing so badly right now,” said Gerald Koning, Classis Georgetown.
In the end, Synod 2019 at least addressed what task force chair Thea Leunk said was the “No. 1 complaint about synod”—it agreed to limit speeches to three minutes.
Some argued that the chair has the job of cutting off long-winded speakers, but Koopmans countered, “The chair doesn’t want to be the hard-nosed person that is always cutting people off. This is a way of enabling the body, to hear more from more people.”
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.