CRCNA Executive Director Resigns

Steven Timmermans, left, and Colin Watson Sr
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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.

About the Author

Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.

See comments (2)


I happen to think there can be a lot of silver lining to this.  I think it is difficult for a church to be bi-national, especially when that Church decides, as the CRCNA has, to increasingly become a political activist.

I suspect it's not just just the "ecclesiastical" and the "operational" that will have to be teased out and separated, but also (and maybe especially) the "political," by frankly, that should happen whether the Canadian government demands it or not.

Church Order Art. 28 of course constrains the CRC from being political, requiring that it "take up ecclesiastical matters only," and to take up whatever it takes up "in an ecclesiastical manner." Perhaps this is the impetus needed for the CRC powers that be to pay serious attention to this CO rule.

Colin Watson prophetically says that "God doesn't always tell us what's ahead of us." I believe that there is divine purpose to the sudden resignation of Steven Timmermans, coming as it does during a corporate re-allignment of the CRCNA in Canada. The corporate separation of the denomination along national boundaries has been debated and discussed for at least 30 years.

Perhaps the time has come to determine, not if, but how we should separate. I am not advocating two separate denominations in two different countries. That should be the least of our concerns. I'm sensing the need for a split -- and it will come to that -- of the denomination along moral lines ... on both sides of the LGBTQ question.  The decades-long debate over women in office was a cake-walk compared to the moral questions around LGBTQ's legitimate voice within the denomination.  And that debate will cross national borders.

God is a God of structure and the CRCNA is a master at structure and bureaucracy. God is also a just God. He will not tolerate sin nor those who embrace immoral behaviour.

God has chosen a time such as this to bring our very structure, our very nature into focus.