Additional legal advice regarding the restructuring of the Christian Reformed Church’s administrative governance structure prompted a special closed meeting of the church’s Council of Delegates. The special session was called by the Council’s executive committee and convened Dec. 7 by video conference.
The Council acts on behalf of synod, the widest assembly of the CRC, in between sessions of synod. The Council typically meets three times a year; in February, May, and October.
The public minutes refer to the Dec. 7 meeting as a “special listening session.” Though guests, including some staff and members of the Calvin Theological Seminary board and World Renew board, were present at the beginning of the meeting, they were asked to leave before the main discussion. Council chairperson Paul De Vries walked through “a set of legal opinion documents included as background for the listening session.” The session, open only to delegates, was described as an “open time of listening to each other, discussion,” and “entering into each other’s story.” The minutes note that the chair asked members to be “mindful” of “the effect all of this has on (CRC) staff” and “of transitions and timelines given the upcoming retirements and new hires that need to be made.”
De Vries told The Banner “the listening session was held largely in executive session because we were dealing with confidential legal matters as they pertain to varied national laws and requirements. We simply needed space to discuss confidential matters with the full body.” He added “that confidentiality, executive sessions, and times of simply listening to one another are a healthy part of any organization.”
The move toward restructuring the governance of the Christian Reformed Church in North America along Canadian and American lines began last February after the Canadian Corporation of the CRCNA informed the full Council of Delegates that it was necessary according to an obtained legal opinion about requirements for Canadian charitable organizations. Carrying out the proposed restructuring has continued since then, and so have questions about the necessity of the moves.
Revisions to executive leadership positions were considered at the Council’s October 2020 meeting. In addition to proposals for an executive director in each country, a position of ecclesiastical officer is proposed to bridge the two corporations as well as take on leadership of ministries that report directly to synod. A task force was struck to hammer out details of how the positions will mesh together. The task force is chaired by Council member John Lee (delegate from Iakota) and includes De Vries, chair of the U.S. Corporation board of directors; Andy De Ruyter, chair of the Canadian Corporation; and people who served on the previous task forces to draw up the new leadership position job descriptions. It was to report to the Council in February.
At its Nov. 24 meeting, the Council’s executive committee expanded the task force's mandate after considering “additional legal counsel advice.” The executive committee asked the task force “to take into account the range of legal opinions and provide preliminary guidance to the COD in February for moving the process forward.”
The minutes of the Dec. 7 meeting say the preliminary report to be received in February will be “substantial enough” in order for the Council to give the task force “a green light to move forward and present a final report in May.”
De Vries asked members to be in prayer about Synod 2021, meant to be convened in Sioux Center, Iowa, next summer. The Council will have to make decisions about synod’s meeting plans during its February meeting. The 2020 synod was canceled for the first time in the church’s history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the Council of Delegates met in a special session to process the parts of synod’s agenda that could not wait for the next session of synod.
Two Canadian classes, Toronto and Alberta South & Saskatchewan, are sending requests to Synod 2021 asking that all proceedings related to the administrative restructuring of the Canadian CRCNA churches be stopped. Toronto’s request says, “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’s request says, “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.” (Church Order is the record of rules the congregations of the CRC have covenanted together to follow.)