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.

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

See comments (8)

Comments

How much longer are going to avoid acknowledging the obvious? The United States and Canada are entirely different cultures. All ministry is by definition "contextual". After more the 70 years are mutual support and encouragement it seems clear that our respective congregations think and act in very different categories. We share the same language but not the same values or priorities. Why are trying to pretend that there will be an overarching, all encompassing grand vision to bind us together strategically and programatically. Haven't we expended enough effort in this regard? Let's just admit the obvious and establish a CRC Canada and be satisfied that this chapter has been written and we need to move along with our respective "contextual" missional enterprise. Wouldn't that be good stewardship of our dwindling resources? 

I echo the questions of the eighty-six ministry leaders in Canada who are unhappy with the board’s decision to dismiss pastor Roorda... with no proper explaination.
I also lament with the other 9 who sent a letter to the council.
I appreciated Pastor Roorda. As I heard him speak I had hope for the future of our denomination.
I think we have an unweildy system of running our denomination that does not bennefit us.

To argue for the separation of the denomination on cultural rather than ecclesiastical grounds seems to be at odds with Church Order.

Secondly, adding more members to the COD makes it more like a 4th assembly than a board, and at odds with Church Order, Article 26. The authority of the "local church" (Article 27) has been undermined in the process over the last 30-40 years due the constant wrangling over governance.

Lastly, though some may feel insufficient explanation has been offered and/or offered their lament - the Banner https://www.thebanner.org/news/2021/07/crc-in-canada-parts-ways-with-canadian-ministries-director and in other articles continues to provide intimations as to the separation.

Perhaps its time to get back ministry.

Does the Church Order prohibit the creation of the CRC Canada? If so, I'd like to see the defense of that position from the Church Order. The fact that we are currently a socalled "bi-national" denomination is not inherint in the Church Order. It's the result of a willful, informed decision to create the CRCNA. For the same we could make another decision: seperate Candaian and American congregations into two autonimous groups, which is what we have in fact already done. I'm just suggesting that we don't need the super-board, or over-arching administrative agency siting on top of the whole works telling us we're all together and singing from the same sheet of music. The fact is that any reasonable third-party analyst would point out that we don't see things the same way. We are on different paths. Let's admit it and move on and into a more efficient prosecution of the mission at hand. 

Lambert, I would suggest there is merit in diversity, as per 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27.  What is I, or others, do not want this separation?

If one were to follow your logic, one might ask what do the Pacific states have in common with the American midwest or the eastern seaboard, etc. just I have questions whether the British Columbia shares the same commonality with the mid-western states, Ontario, etc.

Yet, we share a common reformed ecclesiastical history, including a playbook as to how we work together, i.e. Church Order - unless that is shifting, as well?

At the same time we may share a concern regarding the burgeoning governance body at the expense of the local church.

Blessings.

The discussion on this topic is becoming convoluted. The CRCNA has two corporations one called "Canada Corp" and other called "US Corp". The directors of these two Corporations, along with forty others, make up the COD which is the official legal organization of the CRCNA. The CRCNA has about one thousand congregations, which by area, make up 48 Classes. Four people from each of these constitute the Ecclesiastical organization called Synod. The two the Corporations and the Ecclesiastical somehow are not functioning properly. The Corporations are the problem. 

These two "Corporations" need overhauling. This needs more expertise. CRCNA should hire a professional Organizational Company to have a good look a this. Boston Consulting or McKinsey, come to mind. 

These folks have may never have done an Ecclesiastical organization but would love the opportunity.

Prayers are with the CRCNA as they deal with all this turmoil.

Enough already! Let's not waste any more time and money on this bi-national effort. A Canadian CRC is what's needed. We will never have an equal and respectful relationship with our American friends.

Let us decide how to do ministry in Canada without interference from Grand Rapids. We are all grown up!

Henry...

Alienation has been a persistant theme in Canadian "politcial culture." Calls for separation have been a constant theme between Ottawa and Quebec, as well as, between Ottawa and the Western provinces in the form of "western alienation" as it applies to the equitable application of power and distribution of resources. To suggest this theme also exists between Grand Rapids, MI and Burlington, ON is novel to say the least. 

Even if the CRCNA were to separate, rather than remain a bi-national denomination - the question still persits whether the axis of alienation wouldn't shift from north/south to east/west.

Why should Burlington / Ontario run the Canadian denomination, in contrast to one of the western cities / provinces? 

This call for separation is more political, than ecclesiastical in nature. It's time to re-focus on ministry.

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