When the Christian Reformed Church’s Council of Delegates met Feb 16-18 via video conference, it heard from executive director Colin P. Watson Sr. that prayer group invitations ahead of Synod 2022 resulted in a matchup that members of Classis Minnkota could not accept. Minnkota declined to be part of a small prayer group that also included members of Classis Grand Rapids East. (Classes are regional groups of CRC congregations. Synod is the broadest assembly of the CRC. The Council acts on behalf of synod in between its meetings.)
Synod 2022 will consider a long-awaited human sexuality report, a discussion that promises to be painful and divisive. In preparation for synod, classes are encouraged to surround their synodical delegates with prayers for wisdom and discernment. Watson has also been meeting weekly for prayer in small groups with pastors and leaders of classes across North America. In the random allocation of classes for prayer, classis Minnkota and classis Grand Rapids East were both included on the same day, he told the council. “Though this assignment was not planned, it created some consternation in both Classes,” he said.
Classis Minnkota has repeatedly stated its support for the denomination’s current position, that homosexual behavior is sinful. (See “Council of Delegates Discusses Neland Avenue CRC,” Oct. 20, 2020.) Classis Grand Rapids East has produced a report that affirms people in same-sex relationships. It also took no action when one of its churches ordained a deacon who is living in a same-sex relationship.
The stated clerk of Classis Minnkota, LeRoy Christoffels, responded to the invitation from Watson, stating that members of Classis Minnkota are praying fervently and often for him and the whole church. “To be forthright, our prayer for the many leaders in Classis Grand Rapids East who have advanced this violation of God’s design for marriage and sexuality is that they would repent, and if not repent, be deposed so as to do no further harm to the flock,” he wrote. “If we were to pray with you all in any integrity, we would be compelled to pray in this same way, as we ordinarily do. However, we feel that to pray together with these leaders from Grand Rapids East, as if in Christian unity, would be a false pretense, and that the most loving course is to be directly honest.”
Classis Grand Rapids East responded with concern that their brothers would refuse to even pray together. Watson told the Council that leaders in Classis Grand Rapids East were deeply hurt and asked that that be communicated to the Council.
The denomination’s prayer initiative ahead of Synod 2022 is called Together Seeking God’s Face. It includes the weekly prayer sessions with the executive director and other senior leaders; monthly open prayer sessions led by Jon Hoekema, a “prayer shepherd” hired for this effort; and an all-delegate synod prayer service March 30.