Roorda Dismissal Prompts Questions; Board Says End Vision is Same

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The board of directors of the Canada Corporation of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (the entity that constitutes the CRC in Canada) is meeting this Saturday by video conference. Ahead of that meeting The Banner had the opportunity to speak with board president, Andy DeRuyter, and vice-president, William Koopmans, seeking to understand the board’s recent move to release Canadian Ministries director Darren Roorda and how the board will govern the organization through the denominational restructuring that is currently underway.

The CRCNA Canada Corporation announced July 6 that it was parting ways with Roorda. The release, which was effective immediately, came after “prayerful discernment following the Council of Delegates’ recent adoption of proposed leadership changes,” the announcement said.

Because of the wording of the announcement, which included a quote from DeRuyter that said, “Unfortunately it has become clear that our ideas about how to move forward with our goals and objectives have differed,” some people in the Canadian CRC community got the impression that the board was presenting a new or different vision. A letter circulating among Canadian pastors, to be directed to the Canadian board, says, “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.”

DeRuyter said he hasn’t seen that letter, but when it does come to the board it will receive a response, as has all other communication. “I think there is some idea out there that we have all of a sudden come up with a whole new vision, but that is not the case at all,” DeRuyter said. He said vision can encompass different things: “what your goal is; how you get to that goal; what’s your leadership style with that goal.

“The end result is still the same: Contextualized ministry in Canada, CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) compliance, working on implementing the SALT (Structure and Leadership Taskforce) recommendations, remaining one denomination—all those goals are basically the same. It’s how we get there where the difference came in, and the style of leadership. What we saw as a board, and I think what Darren saw as our acting executive director, that’s where we diverged, and it became kind of a stumbling block.”

DeRuyter said he was not able to say more than that because of non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements as the board and Roorda work out the separation agreement.

Roorda, contacted for comment, said he was unable to speak at this time, upon the board’s request.

The CRCNA Canada Corporation board, with the board of the CRCNA U.S. corporation, make up the CRC’s Council of Delegates. That full council, which meets three times a year to carry out the work of the CRC’s synod, includes a delegate from every classis in the CRC and a few at-large delegates. Currently Canadian delegates make up about one-third of the full council.

The CRC has wrestled for decades to find a structure and organizational culture to suit the desire for continued ministry as a binational church. “Fear is something that just comes from the history of what we’ve been through over the last 20 years and not wanting to go back from where we’ve come from,” DeRuyter said. But he and Koopmans, who were both part of the taskforce that developed the report adopted in May, believe the tools are there for a lasting partnership. “If the opportunities of the SALT report are embraced and everybody participates in that with good grace and with a sense of unity and purpose, the outcome is going to be good,” Koopmans said, noting that in particular the working out of joint ministry agreements would be “essential and will have an anticipated, very positive role.” 

“We have to learn from the past decades of conversation, that in order to be successful we need a combination of good structures and good will,” Koopmans said.

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

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Comments

Legal ministry agreements were in files but the Canada Corp was not allowed to meet separately when I joined the Board of Trustees in 2010.   Between 2013-2015 tools were developed to respect binationality throughout the system from planning to accountability.  They were approved by Synod but implementation stopped after transition to the Council of Delegates.  For the earlier process Canadian classes had input and saw draft reports.  Canadian classes had no input into the SALT report and I had to beg to get a copy. Ironically, the Council of Delegates model was chosen to increase two-way communication between churches and boards.  Treating the Canadian church as a subsidiary branch office, as stated in the SALT report, is not partnership or collaboration, whether legal agreements are in place or not. Respect has to mean more than words. Missiological and Reformed polity reasons to respect and enable contextual ministry in Canada are more important than legal reasons.  It's long past time to stop treating Canadian churches as rebellious teenagers and treat them as fully capable partners building a Canadian witness that speaks to our Canadian context. 

Legal ministry agreements were in files but the Canada Corp was not allowed to meet separately when I joined the Board of Trustees in 2010.   Between 2013-2015 tools were developed to respect binationality throughout the system from planning to accountability.  They were approved by Synod but implementation stopped after transition to the Council of Delegates.  For the earlier process Canadian classes had input and saw draft reports.  Canadian classes had no input into the SALT report and I had to beg to get a copy. Ironically, the Council of Delegates model was chosen to increase two-way communication between churches and boards.  Treating the Canadian church as a subsidiary branch office, as stated in the SALT report, is not partnership or collaboration, whether legal agreements are in place or not. Respect has to mean more than words. Missiological and Reformed polity reasons to respect and enable contextual ministry in Canada are more important than legal reasons.  It's long past time to stop treating Canadian churches as rebellious teenagers and treat them as fully capable partners building a Canadian witness that speaks to our Canadian context. 

Those who want more Canadian autonomy have the onus:  Precisely in what ways is our Canadian witness impaired by the status quo?  What grand missions or church projects are being impaired and how?  Without a detailed justification for more powers or influence, synod is right to ignore us.  Perhaps we are treated as teenagers because for so long we have acted as teenageers, whinning about the need for more control over our ecclesial lives without really explaining what we would do with it.

John A. Tamming

Owen Sound, Ontario

Regarding the question of transparency, one might also ask whether the SALT document was shared with the USA classes. The process of discussions regarding restructuring to a large degree has stayed within the COD and outside the preview of Synod, classes, and the local church - to some degree due to COVID, but also a lack of transparency. One can understand the issue of "charitable status" but lack transparency, rationale, clarity of options has raised concerns in the minds of some of the direction of Canadian Ministries.

Some who write on bi-nationality, and set out their rationale for separation of the denomination appear to forget at times the dictum from Matthew 7:3-5 rather than on the ministry needs at the local congregational level.

Secondly, creating a 2nd administrative infrastructure in Canada to run a new denomination when individuals and/or families are leaving the CRC; the membership is aging and passing away; churches and families are getting smaller; congregations are finding it difficult to finance their own ministries let alone ministry shares; or have the capacity for local outreach initiatives - brings to mind the children's story of "The Emperor's New Clothes" by H.C. Andersen. 

There is a need to re-focus on ministry.

I can only comment with hindsight, having spent 7 years on the BTGM Board from 2002 (the year I retired) to 2010. The BTGMI Board had Canadian and US sub-Boards. As Treasurer of the Board, I was privy to all the financial information.  BTGMI had an excellent Director of Finance.  I can not recall any major issues between the Canada and the US sub-Boards, that needed resolution.  I recall all the votes were unanimous and the co-operation among the 12 of us was very good. The BTGMI financial statements (both CD and US) were audited by the respective accountants and the Canadian one had been approved by CRA since, I believe the late '30. Never a comment or Audit by CRA. While we did some interesting currency moves these were well documents and approved by both Sub Boards as they affected use of Canadian Dollars.

My sense was that the other major Boards (WR, WM, HM, CC, CS) were run in similar fashion. The introduction of the COD was (IMHO) the end of decentralized US Canada co-operation. There is no way that 48 people gathered in one room can rationally accomplish anything. Certainly not with the overall complexity of the CRCNA. (I realize that WR, CC and CS still have their own boards but under the wings of the COD.) A small Executive of COD takes over and the staff is left writing reports that 48 people have to digest and, in the case of budgets, approve.

As part of my long career in a large industry, I had the pleasure of working on organizational changes.  Trying to digest the latest edition of the SALT report was a major challenge. IMHO the CRA issue is a red and trying to make an organization to cover the demands of that organization is impossible.

There is much to commend in Harry's observation that a Board of 48 members is an unwieldy entity, and adding more members is but more madness. 

I would respectfully suggest the COD is in the process of becoming, in essence, a 4th assembly, not a board. Unfortunately, Church Order, Article 26 only recognizes 3 entities -"the council, the classis, and the synod."

This, in my view, is the ongoing outcome (fruit) of the Vision 21 report from the 1980's undermining the governance of reformed polity. In the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, Marcellus states "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Perhaps it's time step outside the box and ask the question whether Synod got it wrong on "governance" in accepting the Vision 21 report? 

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