Classis Watch: Late Spring 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. (Unless otherwise noted quotations come from minutes of the classis.)

Those welcomed into ministry in the Christian Reformed Church include candidates Derek Elmi-Buursma (ordination May 2021) and Namju Bae (ordination October 2021) (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: Rev. John Sideco (Church Order Art. 8).

Ministers released from a congregation: Revs. Doug Van Essen from Crossroads CRC (Madison, Wisc.); Mary-Lee Bouma from her call by First CRC of Vancouver, B.C.; Joshua Amaezechi from Comstock CRC (Kalamazoo, Mich., now disbanded); Tim Raakman from Three Rivers (Mich.) CRC (now disbanded); Benjamin McKnight from Grant (Mich.) CRC (Church Order Art. 17a, p. 34). Bouma, Amaezechi, and Raakman are all noted by their classes as being eligible for call.

Rev. Heather Stroobosscher (Classis Grandville) was declared eligible for call.

Leaving Ministry in the CRC

Classes may end a pastor’s ordained ministry status, guided by Church Order articles 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).

Allen Kleine Deters and Josiah Bokma were honorably released.

Roelof Peereboom was dismissed.

Ministers retiring (granted emeritus status): Revs. Daniel Dykstra, Paul Hansen, Folkert (Frank) de Boer, Sheri Leisman, Fred Witteveen, David Koll (effective June 25), Robert Bolt (effective June 30), David Van Der Wiele (effective Aug.1), Henk Bruinsma (effective Nov. 16), and Guillermo Serrano (Church Order Art. 18).

Commissioned Pastors

Approved as commissioned pastors, called to specific roles within their classis were Jordan Nickell (Classis Grandville), James Heethuis (Grandville) and Jeremy Rhodes (Georgetown). (Church Order Art. 23.)

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).

Living Hope Community Church (Classis Quinte) was recognized as emerging. (See also “Growth, Baptisms, and Connecting in Pandemic-Challenged Times.”)

Good News Church (Classis Hudson) affiliated as an organized congregation of the CRC.

Hope Community Church in Lawrence, Ind. disbanded (effective Jan. 29, 2021).

Name changes: Classis Chatham, a group of 28 congregations and two campus ministries in southwest Ontario, is formally changing its name to Classis Ontario Southwest. Classis said the name change, which is effective July 1, 2021, “would more accurately reflect the diverse area we represent.” First CRC in Orillia, Ont. (Classis Toronto) will be renamed Living Hope Christian Reformed Church (Orillia) by the end of 2021.

Other Matters

Classis Chatham (to be known as Classis Ontario Southwest after July 1) has formally ended its Classical Home Missions Committee, which had been "shelved for a number of years and was inactive prior to that." The classis determined that most of the committee's mandate was being fulfilled through other means including its Church Plant Team, campus ministries, Diaconal Ministries, and partnerships with Resonate Global Mission.

Classis Quinte established a Church Visitor Restorative Team to work alongside its current church visitor model (Church Order Art. 42). The team “consists of 2-3 pastors and 2-3 lay people that can be called upon by any Pastor or council to come and help address any conflict or exercise the process of restorative practices.”

            Related: Restorative Practices Training in British Columbia (Nov. 20, 2015); Restorative Circles Help Churches Navigate Conflict (Nov. 8, 2013)

Classis Grandville established a prayer coordinator position for a two year trial period.

Synod

Classes may direct requests or communications to synod, the broadest assembly of the Christian Reformed Church, awaiting its next convening.

Classis Grand Rapids East sent a communication prepared by the council of Neland Avenue CRC for inclusion in the supplemental agenda for Synod 2021. Classis minutes noted, “It is important that Neland’s response to Overtures 4 through 11 and Communication 2 be heard by synod.” Those overtures and communication relate to Neland’s action in 2020 to ordain as a deacon a woman who is in a same-sex marriage. All of the material will be addressed by the CRC’s Council of Delegates in its meeting in lieu of synod, June 11-12 and 15-16. (Synod 2021 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Classis Southeast U.S. requests that Synod 2022 “approve the 2020 Human Sexuality Report’s conclusion that “the church’s teaching on premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex already has confessional status” (pg. 148) and that office bearers in the CRCNA must adhere to this confession if they are to serve in the CRCNA.” The report of the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality was requested by Synod 2016 and released to the churches November 2020. Discussion of the report and requests connected to it has been deferred to Synod 2022. (See Classis Watch: Winter 2021 and Classis Watch: Spring 2021 for other requests from classes about the human sexuality report.)

Classis Red Mesa, which had decided at its January meeting to send a communication to synod affirming recommendations in the human sexuality report, rescinded that decision in light of the cancelation of Synod 2021 and instead decided “to prepare an overture to Synod 2022 that better reflects our unique Red Mesa perspective.”

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

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