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Council Hears of Director Retirement, Plans Supportive Actions for Justice Ministries


At its meeting May 5-7, the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church in North America spent much of its agenda reviewing and deliberating over the report of the Structure and Leadership Task force but the Council, which serves the church in the interim of synod, completed other work associated with the ministries and operations of the church. The Council heard of the planned retirement of Mark Stephenson, director of Disability Concerns and currently serving as interim director for the Office of Social Justice and Race Relations. Council approved search team mandates for both positions. The start date for the new director of OSJ and Race Relations is Sept. 27, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022, for the new director of disability concerns. Stephenson, who will retire at the end of 2021, has been filling both roles since February 2020 when interim staff changes were implemented following the unexpected resignation of Steve Timmermans, then executive director of the CRCNA.

Hearing updates on the morale of staff serving the CRC’s Office of Social Justice and Race Relations, the Council noted the formation of an ad hoc committee to bring future recommendations for a “discernment and action plan on building respect and love throughout the leadership and administration as well as the Church at large.” This is in response to concerns raised at the Council of Delegates February meeting regarding staff reporting harassment. In forming the committee, Council noted it would be helpful to take a “discipleship approach” and important to have the work rooted in the Gospel.

In addition to these actions, the Council engaged in a time of conversation, prayer, and reflection focused on cultivating love and civility at the start of Thursday’s meetings. Michael Gulker, an ordained Mennonite pastor and president of The Colossian Forum, led the Council through a session that included time for confession, lament, exhortation, and encouragement.

Colin Watson, executive director of the CRCNA said, “We’ve talked about letters that were received that were detrimental to the wellbeing of staff; as a result there has been a lot of communication between this committee, staff, and the Council. The committee (for support and guidance of OSJ) wrote a letter to the COD and there are some follow-up actions to be taken—this devotion (time) was one of them. We are looking forward to additional, long term activities to foster a better climate of mutual support to the staff in this particular area.”

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