Classis Watch: Winter 2022

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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. (Actions noted here are those recorded in minutes of classes received by March 2, 2022. Unless otherwise noted quotations come from minutes of the classis. Links to the relevant articles of Church Order are included.) 

Those welcomed into ministry in the Christian Reformed Church (Church Order Art. 6 and 10) include candidates Bart Eisen, Nathaniel A. Schmidt, and Joshua Grimes.

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. Gerhardt Venter and Jinseok Park (Art. 8). 

Ministers released from a congregation (Art. 17a): Rev. Kevin teBrake from Exeter (Ont.) CRC. 

Revs. Marcel Kuiper (Classis Ontario Southwest) and Rev. Marc Van Berkum (Classis Holland) were noted as being 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).

Greg Fluit was honorably released (Art. 17c). 

Rev. Peter Kelder was granted emeritus status (Art. 18). His retirement is effective May 31, 2022.

Commissioned Pastors 

Approved as commissioned pastors called to specific roles within their classis (Art. 23): Rob Golding (Classis Greater Los Angeles) and C. William Southard III (Classis North Cascades). 

Commissioned pastor emeritus status was granted to John Hoffmaster (Classis Illiana). 

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 (Art. 38).

Rise Up Church in Cedar Springs, Mich. (Classis Grand Rapids North) was recognized as an organized congregation of the CRC.

Gibson CRC in Holland, Mich. (Classis Holland), which was organized in 1976, is now recognized as emerging.

Pathway CRC in Dyer, Ind., has disbanded

Toyee Chapel, a church plant of Crownpoint (N.M.) CRC (Classis Red Mesa) has closed.

Churches merged: Bethel CRC in London, Ont., with Forest City Community Church in London (Classis Ontario Southwest); L.A. Global Mission Church with Rapha Mission Church (Classis Greater Los Angeles).

Other Matters

Classis Zeeland voted to officially adopt recommendations of the CRC’s human sexuality report at the classis level, declaring “that the church’s teaching on premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex already has confessional status” and “that Church Order Article 69c (‘Ministers shall not solemnize marriages which would be in conflict with the Word of God’) is to be interpreted in the light of the biblical evidence laid out in (the human sexuality) report.” The adoption of these recommendations thereby requires all officebearers in Classis Zeeland “to affirm this church teaching that is defined by Scripture, articulated in the confessions, and taught by the historical and global church.” 

Synod has not yet received the report, requested by Synod 2016. It was released to the churches in 2020

Synod

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

A request from Classis Quinte would have synod separate the CRCNA along national lines. It asks that synod “envision the CRCNA as two distinct national Christian Reformed Churches,” making “the changes necessary for this reorganization to be accomplished” and “declare that the CRC in Canada and the CRC in the United States are Churches in Communion.” As a ground for the request, Quinte states, “The CRC in Canada has long expressed its need to have a distinct voice and presence within its national context. Steps toward ensuring a distinct Canadian voice within the binational structure have been thwarted by bodies dominated by the United States (agency boards, synod, Council of Delegates).” (See Canadians Meet to Discuss Leadership Structure, Feb. 1, 2022, and The CRC in Canada: A Field Guide, Oct. 18, 2021.)

Quinte is also asking synod to take actions toward creating “a set of guidelines, along with a group insurance plan, for covering salaries of church employees during leaves of absence due to illness” and, Quinte requests that synod not accede to the recommendation of the human sexuality report that would declare that the church’s teaching on a list of sexual activities (see above) already has confessional status

Classis Greater Los Angeles asks synod toformulate and put into action a plan to inspire and support CRC members to embrace and embody biblical justice in opposition to the belief systems of white supremacy and systemic racism.”

Classis Huron asks synod to postpone the decision on acceptance of the human sexuality report for a minimum of one year, citing among its grounds, “The consequences of adopting the HSR needs to be more clearly spelled out.”

Classis Zeeland asks Synod 2022 to “publicly admonish all officebearers serving on councils in Grand Rapids East in 2021 and 2022 that have not filed a formal appeal regarding Neland's covenant breaking. In 2020, Neland Avenue CRC, a member congregation of Classis Grand Rapids East, appointed as a deacon a woman who is married to a woman. The CRC’s Council of Delegates, who acts on behalf of synod in between meetings of synod, issued a communication of grave concern over the action, reiterating an earlier letter. Classis Grand Rapids East had requested that the first letter be rescinded (Agenda for Synod 2021, Overture 11). Synod did not meet in 2021, but the Council acting on behalf of synod refused to rescind the letter. Classis Zeeland further asks that Synod 2022 unseat all delegates of Grand Rapids East “that have been admonished by this synod” and not allow the privilege of the floor (the opportunity to speak at synod) to any admonished officebearers.

Classis Red Mesa asks synod to approve all of the recommendations of the human sexuality report coming to Synod 2022 and proposes “that Synod appoint a committee to write practical guidelines as to how the conclusions of this report should be carried out by our congregations in our society which seems not only opposed to them, but also where secular leaders are actively working on many levels to promote very different moral standards.”

Classis Alberta North convened a consensus-seeking meeting Feb. 5, 2022, to address overtures from member churches about the human sexuality report. It concluded, “Classis withholds action on the overtures presented at this meeting without prejudice, understanding—and encouraging —that the churches that presented them will forward the overtures to synod so that synod has the information and concerns and considerations recommended in them.”

The human sexuality report is formally known as the report to synod of the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality, mandated by Synod 2016. Because of the cancellation of Synod 2021 the report is to be discussed by Synod 2022. Earlier communications related to the human sexuality report have been noted in Classis Watch: Winter 2021, Classis Watch: Spring 2021, Classis Watch: Late Spring 2021, Classis Watch: Fall 2021, and Classis Watch: Late Fall 2021.

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.

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