The Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church, meeting by video conference Feb. 16-18, endorsed an implementation plan for the previously adopted CRC Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders. The plan includes suggestions for changes to Church Order, the rules that govern denominational life, and will go to Synod 2022.
Several delegates to the Council registered negative votes on the endorsement. While it is a fulfillment of a task requested by Synod 2019, the implementation plan goes further than the original request, with the suggested Church Order changes requiring all officebearers to sign and follow the Code.
“This request to change Church Order is stipulating also those who are not employees: elders and deacons. In many ways it is out of order, beyond what is specifically asked,” said Tyler Wagenmaker (Classis Zeeland). Wagenmaker said some of the elements of the Code are subjective and the “intentions are not clearly spelled out.” Because of that, he said, there is a potential harmful consequence that “officebearers will cower from living into their office.”
Paul De Vries (at large delegate) said, “We’re implementing something synod asked for. The implementation requires some changes to Church Order. All of this still goes to synod.”
Synod 2019 requested the development of the Code of Conduct for “employed ministry staff” as part of a list of recommendations from a report of the committee to address abuse of power (Acts of Synod 2019, p.554). Synod stipulated, “The code of conduct shall be signed by all ministry personnel who are employed by the CRCNA, local churches, and classes.”
Synod “did want it all the way to the local level,” De Vries said.
Wagenmaker said, “My concern overall is that this is a move from something synod asked for and COD agreed on for employees,” but the implementation plan makes it “now for all officeberarers.”
The Council did vote to endorse the plan and “recommend it to synod for adoption.” Any changes to Church Order require two synods to be enacted: one to propose and one to adopt.
Wagenmaker, Bruce DeKam (Classis Northern Michigan), Rob Toornstra (Classis Columbia), Nathaniel Van Denend (Classis Ontario Southwest), and Ralph Wigboldus (Classis Huron) registered a negative vote.