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Canadian Board Supports Restructuring, Wants More Canadians on Council

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As a new governance structure is implemented in the Christian Reformed Church in anticipation of approval from Synod 2022, the denomination’s Canada Corporation says it wants more Canadians appointed to the Council of Delegates and it will continue to stress the Canadian perspective for governance structure. The Canada Corporation met July 24 by video conference.

(The Council acts on behalf of synod, the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church. Canadian delegates to the Council make up the Canada Corporation, the legal name for the CRC in Canada.)

Canadian Voice in Restructuring

The governance proposals going to Synod 2022 include two offices: a Canadian Office of the CRC with an executive director-Canada, and an Office of the General Secretary comprising two denomination-wide leadership positions: general secretary and chief administrative officer. That is different from the current structure of a single executive director of the CRCNA and a Canadian Ministries director. The plan is meant to address concerns that the current arrangement is not in compliance with Canadian tax laws for charities, which require that Canadian nonprofits retain direction and control of all resources acquired in Canada.

The restructuring plan differs from an earlier proposal the Council agreed to in principle, and its adoption in May frustrated many Canadian delegates who saw deficiencies in the new proposal, such as a lack of recognition of cultural differences between the U.S. and Canada, not enough emphasis on partnership, and ambiguity about how proposed joint ministry agreements meant to bridge U.S. and Canadian ministries would be used.

Bev Bandstra (Classis B.C. South-East) said at the July 24 meeting that she “wants recognition that Canada is still not happy with this report.”

A Council steering committee is guiding implementation of the proposed structure. The Canada Corporation will forward to that committee a 40-page report it produced regarding restructuring proposals. Andy DeRuyter (Classis B.C. North-West), Canada Corporation president, said, “There is good hope for us to see that many of the things that were brought forward will be heard.”

Wendy de Jong (Classis Niagara) is one of two Canadians on the steering committee. Terry Veldboom, acting executive director for Canada, is the other. De Jong said she’s aware that she’s there “representing the voices of a constituency that believes it has not always been treated fairly.” She said she’s hopeful for a good outcome and recognizes that sharing the Canadian structure report produced in January offers the weight of “what the constituency said to us.”

Add More Canadians to Council

The Canada Corporation considered a request from Council’s nominating committee about adding one or two more Canadians to the Council. It noted that finding Canadian members to serve on the various committees of the Council is a challenge given their smaller numbers. There are 14 Canadian delegates: one for each of the Canadian classes and three at-large delegates. There are 40 U.S. delegates: one for each U.S. classis plus two at-large. Synod has approved up to 10 at-large members. Canada Corporation is recommending that Council seek to fill five of those at-large positions with Canadians.

Roorda Dismissal

The Canada Corporation addressed questions about its decision to dismiss Canadian Ministries director Darren Roorda on July 6. Eighty-six ministry leaders in Canada who are unhappy with the board’s decision sent a letter asking for clarification. “The only information that we have regarding Darren’s dismissal is that there was a difference in vision. If the case for dismissal is a difference in vision, then we are eager to know what the vision is that we are being led into,” the letter read.

DeRuyter said there is no new vision, that the board and Roorda agreed on the end goals of a contextualized ministry in Canada, compliance with Canadian tax law, and remaining one denomination. “It’s how we get there where the difference came in, and the style of leadership,” DeRuyter said. “It became kind of a stumbling block.”

The board recognizes the letter warrants a transparent response and will work toward opening dialogue with this group. “It’s a rather large group that signed that letter,” DeRuyter said, “and it brings up a lot of old feelings.” Three past Canadian Ministries directors left their positions between 2000 and 2012. “The letter is too important to ignore,” DeRuyter said.

Delegate Ralph Wigboldus (Classis Huron), agreed, saying the letter represented “a groundswell of concern that we need to respond to well” and that individuals “talking amongst themselves” could lead to misunderstandings.

The board also received a letter of lament signed by nine Canadians who have held various board positions over the years, including two former Canadian Ministries directors and two previous board presidents.

The letter addressed what it called longstanding frustrations with governance structures that have consistently limited the flourishing of ministry of the Canadian church. “We cry ‘enough!’” the writers said, and they asked for a third party to investigate “this dysfunctional pattern of frustration.”

Bandstra, secretary of the Canada Corporation, told The Banner that the board will write a response to the lament. “We agree with the need to examine existing historical structures that have limited the flourishing of the ministry of the CRC's in Canada, perhaps even bringing in an outside consultant as the letter suggests," she said. "We will look at this issue in conjunction with beginning the search process for a new executive director Canada.”

The board appointed Veldboom, the CRC’s director of finance and operations (Canada), to a 12-month term as acting executive director (Canada). The search for a candidate to serve as the new executive director for Canada is underway but won’t be finalized until the next synod in June 2022.

The Council’s implementation steering committee is meeting every three weeks. The full Council will next meet in October by video conference.

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