At a special meeting of the CRC’s Council of Delegates in June 2020, the Council decided to continue its work in governance restructure, despite a protest from two Ontario congregations.
The Council works on behalf of synod, the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church, when synod is not in session. The special meeting took place because Synod 2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The restructuring along American and Canadian lines was announced in February after legal counsel advised that direction and control of Canadian resources had to be handled by Canadian delegates to the Council (known collectively as Canada Corporation) to be in compliance with Canadian tax law. Initial steps included identifying distinct leadership and budgets for each ministry in each country.
The Council made additional recommendations at its May meeting, including what it called a “skeleton plan” for how the restructuring might look. It proposed that each country appoint an independent executive director who would work collaboratively with his or her counterpart on the other side of the border. Additionally, an ecclesiastical officer would be appointed to “help shepherd the denomination forward in a way that fosters unity across the border, emphasizes our shared faith, synodical positions, and ecclesiastical polity, and advances the denomination’s global ecclesiastical goals.”
The church councils of Community CRC in Kitchener, Ont., and First CRC in Owen Sound, Ont., protested the changes being made. In a letter, they said they had requested access to documents regarding the changes but were denied. They wrote that the realignment “effectively split the denomination into two national churches” and, further, that there has been “an egregious lack of transparency in the process and decisions made.”
Andy DeRuyter, president of the Canada Corporation, told The Banner that neither of the two congregations had formally approached them prior to sending a letter to the full Council. “What we have received was a litany of emails, phone calls, and queries from one member of the Owen Sound church.” He noted that in implementing the restructure changes they had drawn extensively on the experience of World Renew and how it navigates the cross-border issues. World Renew, the global development ministry of the CRC with its own governance structure, has a co-director in each country and two national boards, which together form the Joint Ministry Council. He also noted Canada Corporation had consulted with three lawyers and the staff of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities.
The Council, on behalf of Synod 2020, reaffirmed the desire for unity. Council president Paul De Vries said, “It sends a clear signal to the churches that there is another year to go in this difficult process until it comes to Synod 2021.” Afterward, he told The Banner, “We need to give both ourselves and Synod 2021 the necessary flexibility to make decisions.”