In anticipation of being able to meet in person for the Christian Reformed Church’s Council of Delegate meetings in the new year and holding an in-person synod for the first time in three years, the Council set a vaccination and masking policy, but not without a frank and lengthy discussion.
The adopted policy requires that everyone present at in-person meetings must be fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID test, completed within 72 hours of the event start. Those who are not vaccinated will also need to provide an exemption to the office of the executive director by the registration deadline.
A recommendation that everyone wear a mask in the indoor common spaces was where delegates strongly differed. Some delegates wanted everyone to be masked, while others said masking should be governed by the venue’s rules.
Several delegates, especially among Canadians on the Council, wanted masks to be mandatory, regardless of local guidelines. Most Canadian jurisdictions still require masks in all public indoor spaces. Masking rules have been lifted (or were never in place) in many U.S. jurisdictions.
Henry Eygenraam, Canadian at-large delegate, noted that many delegates have spouses who “would be unhappy sending us off to a place we don’t feel safe.”
Daniel Meinema, Classis Eastern Canada, said masking is part of caring for each other. “The mask isn’t just protecting me but everyone else as well.” Elsa Fennema, U.S. at-large delegate concurred. “I think wearing a mask is a safekeeping thing we can do with each other.”
Other delegates saw no need for a masking mandate beyond what the local venue rules require. That is what the Council voted to make policy.
After the vote, William Koopmans, Classis Hamilton, pointed out that having a conversation about masking comes from a place of tremendous privilege. Koopmans is chair of the CRC’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee. He mentioned an email he recently received from the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in Myanmar. “His latest email acknowledged that COVID is rampant, vaccines are not available, and those who get sick have no hospital. They are left in the jungle to die,” he said. “More than 30,000 people have died, including 200 pastors.”
He expressed the hope that delegates would love each other by showing grace and going the extra mile to keep each other safe.
The Christian Reformed Church’s Council of Delegates met Oct. 13-15. 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. The next meeting, February 2022, will be in Lombard, Ill., and in May, in Minneapolis, Minn.
About the Author
Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.