When the Christian Reformed Church’s Council of Delegates met Oct. 13-16, 2021, via video conferencing, it had a very full agenda, including planning for upcoming synods, setting vaccination and masking policies for in-person meetings, dealing with revenue shortfalls, and more.
The Council gave the greenlight to a plan for Synod 2022, designed to help delegates navigate a massive agenda with material for three synods because Synod 2020 and 2021 were canceled. Council members made it clear that they wanted as much as possible of it to be in person. The program committee will now finalize the plans with those considerations and communicate them to the classes ahead of winter meetings.
Vaccination and Mask Policy
Anticipating a return to in-person meetings while still living with the presence of the coronavirus pandemic required the board to consider safety policies. It generated spirited discussion. Delegates accepted a policy requiring attendees at Council of Delegate meetings and synods to be fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID test result taken within 72 hours of the start of the meeting.
A proposal requiring all attendees to wear masks was not accepted. The Council decided that mask policy would follow requirements of the local venue and health authority.
The budget set for congregational ministries within the CRCNA Michigan Corporation included a $1.5 million deficit. Delegates reviewed a plan about what to trim and spent a long time in discussion over it.
The Council received an update on the various processes involved in restructuring the denominational governance to be in compliance with Canadian tax law. Search committees have been formed to bring nominations for the positions of general secretary and chief administrative officer. The Canadian Corporation first will work with an executive search firm and then name a search committee to fill the position of executive director-Canada. A nominee for general secretary will be presented to the Council in February 2022 and recommended to Synod 2022 for approval. Presentation of the nominee for chief administrative office is expected in May 2022, also to be recommended to Synod 2022.
The process of creating joint ministry agreements that will satisfy legal requirements on both sides of the border is ongoing.
The Council decided to add two at-large Canadian delegates, bringing the total number of Canadian at-large delegates to five. The reason for the move is to have more Canadians available to serve on the Council’s various subcommittees. Synod has allowed for up to 10 at-large positions. Following this decision there will be seven—two who are American and five who are Canadian. With one member from each classis, that brings the total size of the board up to 56 members. All nominations are provisional until Synod 2022 can approve them.
(For a guide to teasing apart the governance structure of the CRCNA, especially as it relates to the development and history of ministry in Canada, check out The Banner’s online extra: The CRC in Canada: A Field Guide.)
Neland Avenue CRC
The Council approved a formal communication to be sent to Synod 2022 regarding Neland Avenue CRC’s decision to ordain as deacon a woman married to a woman. It noted the Council’s letter of admonition to Neland sent in October 2020 and urged Synod 2022 to be mindful of the three marks of the true and vital church: pure preaching of the gospel, pure administration of the sacraments, and practicing church discipline for correcting faults.
The communication expresses continued regret “that we as a denomination are at this point of fissure, and pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the deliberations of Synod 2022 in this matter will bear fruit and begin to restore biblical unity within the body that is the CRCNA.”
Neland Avenue is a congregation in Classis Grand Rapids East. The Council had a lengthy discussion over another church in that classis—Church of the Servant—being the host church of Synod 2023. Several delegates said a church in that classis shouldn’t host synod, since the classis has not disciplined the Neland Avenue consistory. In the end the Council accepted Church of the Servant’s invitation.
The Council heard that the process seeking a new director of Social Justice and Race Relations ended without a suitable candidate. (The search team and mandate had been approved at the Council’s May meeting.) Council affirmed a decision to delay a subsequent search for a director until after Synod 2022. Mark Stephenson, currently serving as interim director of that ministry, agreed to stay on in that role beyond his expected retirement.
The Michigan Corporation directors (the Council delegates from the U.S.) adopted a revised, temporary, U.S.-only mandate for the office of Race Relations. The main change from the synod-approved 2004 mandate (Acts of Synod 2004, Art. 35, p.558) was to remove the requirement that the agency “initiate” work with CRC leaders, recognizing a desire for a more collaborative approach. The temporary mandate will be “a working document” until Synod 2023 adopts a new one.
In other news:
- The Council welcomed Lindsay Wieland Capel to the post of Disability Concerns director. Mark Stephenson is retiring from that position. “If God wants to use me as a tool and use the gifts that he's given me or the experience that he's given me, that's an honor,” Wieland Capel told delegates. “Ultimately it's God's ministry, so I'm honored to step into the work that God's doing already and has been doing for so many years now.” She begins her work Nov. 15, 2021.
- Resonate Global Mission will set aside a fund designated to respond to allegations of abuse related to its ministries.
- The Council participated in a diversity engagement session led by staff of the office of Race Relations. Delegates discussed “what are ways COD members individually and COD as a whole can advocate for integrity with the gospel that breaks the racist walls of hostility?”
- Morning devotions included 30 minutes of focused prayer, led by Syd Hielma and Jon Hoekema, facilitators of the denomination’s Year of Prayer initiative.
- Resonate Global Mission and the Council thanked and bade farewell to Charles Kim, diversity leader and Korean Ministry Coordinator. He has joined the Grace and Mercy Foundation in New York City as managing director.
- The Council, which had already approved an Inspire gathering for 2022, after Inspire 2021 was canceled due to the pandemic, decided to move the next anticipated Inspire gathering from 2023 to 2024.
The Council is a binational board of the denomination composed of one delegate from each classis (regional group of churches) and a few at-large delegates. It meets three times a year and reports to synod, the broadest assembly of the church. Separate boards—the Canada Corporation and U.S. Corporation—govern nation-specific matters for the two charitable entities that make up the CRCNA.