Classis Watch: Fall 2021

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Two or three times each year, Christian Reformed churches send representatives to their classis, a regional group of churches.

Many of the actions taken by classes are governed by the CRC’s Church Order, the rules that govern denominational life. Here are some of the actions by classes in the past several months. (Unless otherwise noted, quotations come from classis minutes.)

Those welcomed into ministry in the Christian Reformed Church include candidates Tim Kimbel, Katrina Olson, Maria Bowater, Charles Dillender, Frank Meneses, Ben Wiersma, David Dick, Jonathan Kim, Lynette van de Hoef Meyers, Katrina Olson, and Josiah Gorter (Church Order Arts. 6 and 10).

Those welcomed into ministry in the CRC from other denominations, following a satisfactory colloquium doctum (doctrinal conversation) establishing soundness of doctrine, sanctity of life, and knowledge and appreciation of Christian Reformed practice: Revs. Dong Shin, In Ho Jang, Suho Lee, and Youngmun Koh (Art. 8).

Ministers loaned (Church Order Art. 13c): Revs. Jonathan Kim to Hebron Presbyterian Church in Prospect Heights, Ill. (Classis Northern Illinois); Zeke Nelson to Antwerp International Protestant Church in Belgium (extended, Classis Central California); Ellen Van Tongeren to Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel in Durham, N.C., (extended, Classis Grand Rapids East); Josiah Chung to Cornerstone Church (United Methodist) in Englewood, N.J. (extended, Classis Grand Rapids East); Tony Meyer to the Mountainview International Church in Madrid, Spain (extended, Classis Grandville); Mitch Sheehan to the Bridge Church (RCA) in Portage, Mich., (extended, Classis Grandville); John Kim to Hebron Presbyterian Church in Prospect Heights, Ill., (extended, Classis Lake Erie).

Ministers released from a congregation (Church Order Art. 17a): Revs. Steven De Ruiter from Eastern Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Dayna Vreeken from Woody Nook CRC in Lacombe, Alta.; Norman Underland from Austinville (Iowa) CRC; Steve Boersma from Dispatch (Kans.) CRC; John Aukema from First CRC of Crown Point, Ind.; Doug MacLeod from Second CRC in Fremont, Mich.; Nicholas W. Monsma from Fresno (Calif.) CRC; Anthony Joseph Gretz from South Grandville (Mich.) CRC; and Joshua Van Til from Renew Church in Corvallis, Ore., (disbanded). Vreeken (Classis Alberta North), Monsma (Central California), Aukema (Illiana), MacLeod (Muskegon), and Underland (North Central Iowa) were designated as eligible for call.

Leaving Ministry in the CRC

Classes may end a pastor’s ordained ministry status, guided by Church Order articles 14 and 17. Designations of release (reflecting the manner and spirit in which the minister acted during the time leading up to and including resignation from office) are honorably released, released, dismissed, or in the status of one deposed (Art. 14).

Jana Koh, Chris Fulkerson, and Elizabeth Turnbull were honorably released.

Steve Moerman was released to take up ministry in another church fellowship (Art. 14-b).

Brian Seifert was dismissed.

Kyung Lok Jang and Curtis Hwang were released (Art. 17c).

Ministers retiring (granted emeritus status): Revs. Robert Knol, Cornelius “Corky” DeBoer, Bill Van Groningen, Ted Boswell, Steve DeRuiter, Thomas Dykstra, John Rottman, Ruth Boven, Ferenc “Frank” Varga, Doug VandeKamp, Jack Kooreman (effective Nov. 21, 2021), David Dykstra (effective Jan. 24, 2022), and Harrison Newhouse (Church Order Art. 18).

Commissioned Pastors

Approved as commissioned pastors, called to specific roles within their classis (Art. 23) were Sean Taylor (Classis North Cascades), John VanderWindt (Quinte), Bosco Jen (Chicago South), Kaitlin Ho Givens (Atlantic Northeast), Dan Van Kooten (Central Plains), Paul Dong-Suk Chang (Ko-Am), John VanderWindt (also Art. 24-b, Quinte) and Sam Gesch (also Art. 24-b, Minnkota).

Daniel Svendsen (Classis Illiana) was released from ministry as a commissioned pastor.

Commissioned pastor emeritus status was granted to Jeanne Maher (Grand Rapids North) and Bill Hanchett (Classis Atlantic Northeast, effective Jan. 31, 2022).

New Ministries and Ministry Changes

An emerging (unorganized) church does not have its own council and is under the care of a council of a neighboring CRC. An organized church has its own council (Church Order Art. 38).

Grace in Garfield CRC (Classis Chicago South) was recognized as emerging.

Galilee Presbyterian CRC in Albuquerque, N.M. (Classis Red Mesa) was recognized as an organized congregation of the CRC.

Renew Church in Corvallis, Ore., disbanded (effective Aug. 31, 2020).

First CRC of South Holland, Ill., disaffiliated from the CRC to seek affiliation with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Classis Atlantic Northeast approved a new Spanish-speaking church plant in Goshen, N.Y., that will be a partnership between Goshen CRC, Resonate Global Mission, and the classis.

Other Matters

Classis Minnkota received a report from its appointed vision committee, addressing “a plan of action to assist and guide the churches in responding to (the) action of Neland Avenue CRC (of appointing as deacon a woman who is in a same-sex marriage) and to the teaching that denies the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ” and presenting an investigation into “the binding nature of synodical pronouncements and precedents and their bearing on these matters.” The report addressed the question, “How will we know when we have lost the mark of discipline in the CRCNA?” It’s response: “When Synod proves unable or unwilling to discipline classes and councils for serious departures from Scripture, our confessions, our Covenant for Officebearers, and synodical rulings.” The report also provided recommendations regarding the worship of the Lord twice on the Lord’s Day and encouraged classis to pursue an elder-training conference to “motivate and encourage men in church leadership positions” and to “provide training and resources on how to fulfill the office of elder.”

Classis Zeeland changed its stipend for elders and deacons who are delegates to synod from a “flat $500 to $150 per day (including the time spent in pre-Synod Zoom meetings expected in 2022).” It also put $5,000 in its deaconal team budget “for pro-life activities, beginning next year.”

Classis Chicago South will form a multi-ethnic, ad hoc committee to address racism in the classis’s past and present; to create a process of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation; and to make proposals for change.

Synod

Classes may direct requests or communications to synod, the broadest assembly of the Christian Reformed Church, awaiting its next convening.

Several more classes are sending requests to Synod 2022 about the report of the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality. The report, referred to generally as the human sexuality report, was requested by Synod 2016 and released to the churches in 2020. Discussion of the report and requests connected to it were deferred to Synod 2022.

(See Classis Watch: Winter 2021, Classis Watch: Spring 2021, and Classis Watch: Late Spring 2021 for other requests from classes about the report.)

Classis Hackensack asks that synod not adopt recommendation D of the report, which reads, “that synod declare that the church’s teaching on premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex already has confessional status” (report, p. 149). Hackensack also asks that synod not recommend the gender identity portion of the report to churches for pastoral guidance “but, rather, recommit it for further, interdisciplinary study.”

Classis Chicago South asks that synod reject recommendation D of the report and not accede to recommending the report to the churches “as providing a useful summary of biblical teaching regarding human sexuality, as well as offering sound pastoral advice” (report, p. 148) and not accede to declaring “that Church Order Article 69-c is to be interpreted in the light of the biblical evidence laid out in this report” (report, p.149). Five delegates to the classis meeting registered negative votes regarding sending these requests to synod. Chicago South is also asking synod to encourage churches to “study and discuss the committee’s report with particular attention to how individuals and congregations can demonstrate repentance for past ill treatment of victims of sexual abuse (including use of pornography), and those who have struggled with sexual orientation or gender identity, or identify as LGBTQ, and how individuals and congregations can show hospitality to them and welcome them fully into the life of the church.”

Classis Heartland requests that synod adopt all the recommendations from the report, saying, “The study committee ought to be commended for meeting the mandate of Synod 2016 by engaging the breadth of our sexual brokenness, a sensitive and controversial matter, guided by Holy Scriptures and our Reformed Confessions.”

Classis Atlantic Northeast is sending a request to Synod 2022 asking to “clarify the process for reinstatement of pastors who resigned to serve in other denominations.” Specifically it wants an addition made to Church Order Art. 8, directing that such ministers “follow the procedures of Church Order Art. 14-e when requesting readmission to ministry in the denomination.”

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

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Comments

In addition to those mentioned above who joined the CRC via Art. 8, Classis Alberta South & Saskatchewan welcomed Rev. Gerhardt Venter, following a satisfactory colloquium doctum (doctrinal conversation) that took place at our classis meeting on Oct. 29, 2021.

The actions noted in the above article represent the reports received from classes (plural of classis) as of October 28, 2021. Actions noted in reports received after that date will be noted in the next iteration of "Classis Watch."

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