Classis Watch: Winter 2021

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Two or three times each year, Christian Reformed churches send representatives to their classis, a regional group of churches.

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 several months (up to Feb. 8, 2021):

Seminary graduate Derek Ellens was welcomed into ministry in the Christian Reformed Church (Church Order Article 10).

Ministers released from a congregation: Revs. Heather Stroobosscher, from Calvary CRC (Wyoming, Mich.); David Prince, from At the Crossroads Ministries CRC (Britt, Iowa); Bruce Gritter, from The River Community CRC (Edmonton, Alta.); Tom Kragt, from Evergreen Ministries (Hudsonville, Mich.) Kragt is a minister with the Reformed Church in America. His credentials are held by Great Lakes City Classis of the RCA (Church Order Art. 17a, p. 34).

Leaving Ministry in the CRC

Classes may end a pastor’s ordained ministry status if the minister has taken up ministry in another denomination, assumed a non-ministerial vocation, has resigned, or was deposed. A minister released from a congregation and who does not receive a call to another church within two years may also be released (Church Order Art. 14 and 17).

Designations of release (reflecting the manner and spirit in which the minister acted during the time leading up to and including resignation from office) are honorably released, released, dismissed, or in the status of one deposed (Art. 14).

Timothy Howerzyl was honorably released.

Josh Benton, Ronald Smeding (Oct. 2019) were released.

David Jeltema was deposed.

Ministers retiring (granted emeritus status): Revs. Pablo Canche, Kenneth deBoer, and Charles Kooger (retired March 2019) (Church Order Art. 18)

Commissioned Pastors

Approved as commissioned pastors, called to specific roles within their classis were Bryan Branderhorst (Greater Los Angeles); Erik Pluemer (Southeast US); Enrique Esber (Southeast US); Anthony Vander Laan (Chatham); Mike Brummel (North Cascades); Aaron DeBoer (North Cascades); Matt Hochhalter (Holland); and Ben Snoek (Holland) (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).

Iglesia  Misionera Renacer, Monterey Park, Calif., and Iglesia Todas Las Naciones, Hudsonville, Mich., were recognized as emerging.

Related: Consejo Latino: Networking, Resourcing, Connecting in the Christian Reformed Church

Name change: Cornerstone Church in Pella, Iowa (formerly Second CRC of Pella).

Other Matters

Classis Southeast U.S. formed a committee to, among other things, “clarify ... how synodical reports function within the life of the local Christian Reformed congregations and whether those reports have any binding power over decisions made by Neland Avenue CRC” and to “communicate with Calvin Theological Seminary whether the advice provided by (K)athy Smith is in line with the denomination’s current stance regarding disallowing active homosexuals to hold ordained offices within the CRCNA.” In June, Neland Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., appointed to the office of deacon a woman who is in a same-sex marriage. In its explanation of that action, Neland’s council wrote: “Our understanding is that all synodical reports and decisions related to homosexuality have been pastoral advice given to the churches (1973, 2002, and 2016). According to Calvin Seminary’s Adjunct Professor of Church Polity, Kathy Smith, who spoke with our congregation in several educational sessions, this is of a less binding nature than confessional or church order matters (Synod 1975).”

Synod

These actions connect to synod, the broader assembly of the Christian Reformed Church. While Synod 2021 has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these actions were taken before that decision was made.

Classis Chatham is asking synod to clarify “categories of synodical pronouncements/decisions/reports/positions/advice and the extent to which they bind the churches.”

Classis Zeeland requests that synod appoint a committee in loco “to deal directly with Neland Ave. CRC on this public matter that affects our whole denomination.” Such committees are delegated by synod to address a situation on a local level. (For example, Synod 2005 appointed a committee in loco “to investigate the position of the council of First CRC, Toronto, regarding persons living in same-sex committed relationships and seek a response.” (Acts of Synod 2005, p. 744). Zeeland also asks that synod “declare that Neland has six months from the close of synod to repent for breaking covenant and publicly depose their deacon or begin the process of disaffiliation.”

Classis Holland requests that synod “instruct Classis Grand Rapids East to instruct the Council of Neland Avenue CRC to rescind its decision to ordain a deacon in a same-sex marriage, thus nullifying this deacon’s current term.”

Several classes are sending requests or communications to synod about the denomination’s human sexuality report, which now won’t be deliberated until 2022. Classis Holland asks synod to adopt the report and its recommendations. Classis Red Mesa is sending a communication that it “ affirm(s) recommendations D and E from the Study Committee Report on the Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality” (p. 149). Those recommendations are “that synod declare that the church’s teaching on premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex already has confessional status” and “that synod declare that Church Order Article 69-c (“Ministers shall not solemnize marriages which would be in conflict with the Word of God.”) is to be interpreted in the light of the biblical evidence laid out in this report.”

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

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