Classis Watch: Fall 2020

Classis Watch: Fall 2020
Christian Reformed congregations across North America are organized into 49 classes (regional groupings) that offer one another mutual support and accountability, and find ways to live out a collective calling in their region.
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Two or three times each year, Christian Reformed churches send representatives to their classis, a regional group of churches. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many classes to change their meeting format or cancel meetings in the spring. The trend continued for fall 2020.

Classis meetings held online: Toronto, Hamilton, Hackensack, Lake Erie, Ko-Am, Pacific Northwest, Eastern Canada, Lake Superior, Chatham, B.C. Northwest, B.C. Southeast, Alberta North, Niagara, California South, Rocky Mountain, Northern Illinois, Heartland, Grand Rapids South, Grand Rapids East, Greater Los Angeles, and Huron

Classis meetings held in person: Holland, Southeast U.S., Georgetown, Northern Michigan, North Cascades, Minnkota, Zeeland, Muskegon, Illiana, Thornapple Valley, Iakota, Kalamazoo, Grandville, Grand Rapids North, and Wisconsin

Classis meetings that were a hybrid of online and in person: Alberta South & Saskatchewan, Quinte, Chicago South, Atlantic Northeast, Red Mesa, Hanmi, Yellowstone, and Central California

Canceled due to COVID-19: Northcentral Iowa, Hudson, Central Plains, Columbia

Many of the actions taken by classes are governed by the CRC’s Church Order, the rules that govern denominational life. Here are some of the actions by classes in the past few months:

Those welcomed into ministry in the Christian Reformed Church include seminary graduates Hyung Jun Kim, Jennifer Rozema, Courtney Saldivar, Ben Gresik, Daniel Kwangmyung Joo, Cary Gephart, Steve Vandyk, Chad Werkhoven, Seongjun Kim, Andrea Bult Visser, Cory Willson, Jeremy Scripps, Elizabeth (Betsy) DeVries, Ahnna Cho Park, Richard Britton III, and Daniel Meyer (Church Order Articles 6 and 10).

Those welcomed into ministry in the CRC from other denominations, following a satisfactory colloquium doctum (doctrinal conversation) establishing soundness of doctrine, sanctity of life, and knowledge and appreciation of Christian Reformed practice, include Revs. Matthew Wright, Chenaniah “Kenny” Perumalla, Merlin Perumalla, Will Barham, Greg Brady, Hannah Guan, Christian Sebastia, Eukarys Sebastia, and Jung Min Kim (Church Order Art. 8, p. 23). Ministers from the Reformed Church in America and the CRC may serve in a congregation of the other denomination (Church Order Art. 8b). Welcomed from the RCA: Rev. Michael Hooker

Ministers loaned: Revs. Seongjun Kim, to Korean Presbyterian Church (Farmington Hills, Mich.); Hannah Guan, to New Gate Church (Aurora, Colo.); and Ahnna Cho Park, to Korean Christian Church (Denver, Colo.) (Church Order Art. 13b).

Ministers released from a congregation: Revs. Brian Seifert, from Millwood Community (Kalamazoo, Mich.); Vern Swieringa, from Oakland (Mich.); Jason Nelson, from Bethel (Lansing, Ill.); Daryl Meijer, from Maranatha (Woodstock, Ont.); Gregory Kett, from Highland (Mich.); Samuel Lee, from Hope (Ann Arbor, Mich.); Norlyn Van Beek, from executive director position of Inspiration Hills, (Innwood, Iowa); Todd Hilkemann, from Cragmor (Colorado Springs, Colo); Ben Oliveira, from Allen Avenue (Muskegon, Mich.);  Keith Mannes, from East Saugatuck, (Holland, Mich.); and Bruce Gritter, from River Community, (Edmonton, Atla.) (Church Order Art. 17a, p. 34).

Leaving ministry in the CRC

Churches and classes make a declaration reflecting a resigned minister’s status that is appropriate to the way and spirit in which the minister acted during the time leading up to and including resignation from office. Those designations are honorably released, released, dismissed, or in the status of one deposed (Church Order Art. 14).

Phil Anderas, Nevada De Lapp, Do Hyeong Kim, Marvin Leese, and William Zeilstra were honorably released.

Young Ryul Ki, and Yong Chae Shin were released.

Kyle Kloostra was dismissed.

Ministers retiring (granted emeritus status): Revs. Thea Leunk, Kent Rottman, Timothy Ouwinga, Rolf Bouma, Christian Oh, Fernando del Rosario, Jack Dik, James Halstead, Randy VanOsdol, and Ron Klok (Church Order Art. 18).

Commissioned Pastors

Approved as commissioned pastors, called to specific roles within their classis were Nathan De Witt (Holland), Rod Bransen (Holland), David Mosterd (Holland), Dean Slenk (Holland), David Murray (Grandville), Travis Deur (Lake Superior), Omar Tsosie (Red Mesa), Libby Pruit Backfish (Central California), Dongjin (Polo) Kim (Atlantic Northeast), Linda (Yushi) Yang (Atlantic Northeast), Allen Drew (Hackensack), Lisa De Young (Grand Rapids East), Kimberley Masters (Rocky Mountain), Brian Boucek (Georgetown), Justin Halbersma (Eastern Canada), and Carlos Rosa (Alberta North) (Church Order Art. 23).

Rudy Gonzalez (California South) and Barry Foster (Illiana) were granted commissioned pastor emeritus status.

New Ministries and Ministry Changes

An emerging (unorganized) church does not have its own council and is under the care of a council of a neighboring CRC. An organized church has its own council (Church Order Art. 38).

Korean Community Church, Red Deer, Alta., affiliated with the CRC.

Spring Rain Church, Boston, Mass., and Orangewood Community Church in Phoenix, Ariz., are new ministries.

Centerpointe Church of Plainfield, Ill. and Conrad (Mont.) CRC disbanded.

Other Matters

Classis Minnkota established a non-voting ecumenical relationship with Classis Central US of the United Reformed Church.

The council of Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., reported to Classis Grand Rapids East that it had installed a deacon who is in a same-sex marriage. The classis president explained to delegates that classis is obliged to respond if someone in the classis appeals the action of Neland Avenue’s council. No comments or questions were forthcoming at the classis meeting.

Dorr (Mich.) CRC, Classis Zeeland, Niekerk CRC (Holland, Mich.), First Edgerton (Minn.) CRC, Classis Minnkota, and Cottonwood CRC (Jenison, Mich.) all sent letters of protest to Classis Grand Rapids East and/or Neland Avenue CRC. At its October meeting, the CRC’s Council of Delegates also sent a letter to Neland grieving its action. In Classis Northern Michigan, several congregations served written notice of their concerns regarding Neland Avenue CRC.

Classis Minnkota asked churches that have reached a conviction women be allowed in ordained office to consider pursuing membership in an egalitarian classis if that will better allow them to put their beliefs into practice. The minutes note that “such action and separation should be viewed as mutually beneficial and not a matter of banishment or rejection.”

Classis Toronto will send a request to Synod 2021 to halt all proceedings related to the administrative restructuring of the Canadian CRCNA churches “as the actions taken by Canadian representatives serving on the denomination’s Council of Delegates and the CRCNA’s Canada Corporation are in violation of Church Order Article 27(a) and Article 28(c).” Classis Alberta South & Saskatchewan will send a similar request, though theirs asks "to pause any further structural reorganization resulting in a further division between the two legal entities of CRC Canadian Corp and the US Corp" as “such a move is unnecessary as the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) has not communicated that the CRCNA Canada is in violation of current tax law.”

Editor's note: This story was updated Jan. 5, 2021, to correct the release status of Do Hyeong Kim. The designation was not originally recorded in the minutes of Classis Lake Erie's Oct. 3, 2020 meeting.  A further update was made updated Feb. 10, 2021 to specify differences in the requests to synod coming from Classis Toronto and Classis Alberta South & Saskatchewan. 

About the Authors

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

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

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