Steven Timmermans, executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, resigned his post, effective Feb. 20, 2020. The announcement was made in Grand Rapids, Mich., to all CRCNA staff, including those in Burlington, Ont., by video link. Paul De Vries and Andy DeRuyter, president and vice president of the CRC’s Council of Delegates, respectively, delivered the news. (The COD acts on behalf of the CRC’s annual synod between its meetings.)
The statement from the COD noted that structural changes between Canadian and U.S. administration and the anticipated changes to the role of executive director of CRCNA are the reasons Timmermans elected to speed up his intended retirement in 2021—to resign effective immediately. Timmermans was appointed executive director in 2014.
The COD expressed appreciation that Timmermans helped to foster greater collaboration between ministries and emphasized a focus on serving and supporting local congregations. In his letter of resignation, Timmermans wrote, “It has been a pleasure to serve Christ and his church through the role of the CRCNA’s executive director.”
The announcement was met with stunned silence from staff gathered in the Grand Rapids office, with some staff in tears.
Colin Watson Sr., currently CRC director of denominational ministries, will serve as acting executive director until the CRC’s annual synod convenes in June.
After the official announcement, Watson addressed staff.
“These are some very unsettled times. As we think about what we are trying to achieve in the denomination, we (must) turn our attention to congregations and serve them well,” he said. “As we adapt to changing circumstances, the impact on our local churches (should be) nonexistent.”
He continued: “I didn’t think I was going to be in this place. God doesn’t always tell us what’s ahead of us. But he calls us to serve. My pledge to you is to shepherd you, the COD, this denomination into a place of unity where we are serving churches well.”
Watson noted that the new governance structure gives the COD and synod “a rare opportunity to make decisions about how we are going to live into the vision we have as a denomination.”
The structural changes in governance are a result of legal advice that the Canada Corporation must have complete direction and control of Canadian resources in order to be further in line with Canadian legislation governing not-for-profit organizations. It means the existing Canada Corporation and U.S. Corporation will only collaborate on ecclesiastical matters. Teasing out which items are ecclesiastical and which are operational is a work in progress.
Effects were already being felt at the February meeting of the council as the agenda proceeded completely differently from previous meetings. The directors of the Canada Corporation and the directors of the U.S. Corporation are meeting concurrently for much of the meeting before coming together as a full council on the final day of meetings. The council meets three times each year.
De Vries said that in light of the denomination’s desire for administrative posts to be appropriately differentiated in Canada and the United States, while also providing unified leadership for the CRC, it is expected that synod also will be asked to approve a job description for the next executive director position that will be different from the role that Timmermans has filled.