When the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church met Oct. 14-16, how to navigate restructuring and fight racism were topics of much discussion. The Council also spent time discussing how to respond to the decision by Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., to install a deacon who is living in a same-sex marriage.
The 60-member Council meets three times a year to conduct the work of the CRC’s synod between those annual meetings.
Anti-racism efforts popped up in various places in the agenda, from a 90-minute guided discussion about how the delegates can fight racism as a governance body, to approval of hiring a full-time leader for the Office of Race Relations for the CRC in Canada, to a change in mandate for the Office of Race Relations in the U.S. (See “Council Approves Anti-Racism Action.”)
The discussion of restructuring governance in the CRC administration along Canada/U.S. lines continues. The change started in February after legal counsel in Canada 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. (See “Restructuring Gives CRC in Canada More Ministry Control,” April 2020, p. 18, and “Still Bumps in the Road for CRC's Restructuring,” June 2020, p. 20.)
At this meeting, U.S. delegates approved a proposed job description for a leader of U.S. denominational ministries. Canadian delegates approved a job description for its leader back in July.
The greatest amount of discussion took place when the Council took up a proposed job description for an ecclesiastical officer. The name for the role has not been finalized. It is intended to bridge the two corporations, as well as take on leadership of ministries that report directly to synod, such as the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee, the Office of Synodical Services, Candidacy, and The Banner.
Dan Mouw, a retired CRC pastor, chaired the task force that drafted the proposed job description. “In our mandate, it talked about ‘shepherding’ the denomination, one who will communicate our Reformed vision, someone who would take a profoundly pastoral role,” he said.
Delegate John Lee, Classis Iakota, questioned whether the position is just hopeful thinking. “I’ve heard and experienced a hurt both historically expressed and in interactions we’ve had together around the Canada Corporation and the U.S. Corporation. I’ve experienced distrust, unhealthy interactions, so I want to acknowledge that structure can’t heal culture,” he said. “If we’re going to be one denomination it has to be a shared desire, not just in word but in deed on all sides of the church. If not, let’s (create) two denominations with joint management agreements and call a spade a spade.”
He said he was in favor of the ecclesiatical officer position proposed, but “with disquietude about how we’ll live it out given our history of poor outcomes the past 10 years.”
The Council endorsed the proposed job description. All three job descriptions will now go to a new task force that will look at how the three will interact and suggest any modifications that will be needed.
Neland Avenue CRC
In the wake of Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., installing a deacon who is living in a same-sex marriage, the Council received correspondence from one congregation and one classis (regional group of churches) asking for the Council to speak against the action. The Council voted by a narrow margin to send a letter communicating its grief to the Neland Avenue council over its decision. (See “Council of Delegates Discuss Neland Avenue CRC.”)
The Council noted that in the next year, Colin Watson (executive director), John Bolt (director of finance and operations U.S.), Michele DeBie (director of Human Resources U.S.), David Koll (director of Candidacy), and Bonnie Nicholas (director of Safe Church Ministry) are all retiring. Additionally, Sarah Roelofs is moving to a part-time position, necessitating a search for a new director of Chaplaincy and Care.
The U.S. Corporation endorsed merging the director of finance and operations position with the director of ministries and administration position as part of the new executive position for the U.S. corporation.
Delegate Drew Sweetman, Classis Muskegon, asked about how that would work with two varied positions with different skill sets. “Is it realistic to wrap that into one?,” he said. Bolt explained “the technical skill of DFO gets downstreamed (into other existing positions), the managerial skills go into the new position.” There will still be a controller position in the U.S. and in Canada.