The Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church met in person last week for the first time in 26 months. The May 4-6 meeting had a full agenda, including deliberations on denominational ministry shares, governance structure changes, introduction of new ministry leaders, honoring retiring leaders, and more.
The Council serves synod, the broadest assembly of the denomination, in between meetings of synod. It includes one delegate from each of 49 classes (regional assemblies) of the CRC plus up to 10 at-large members.
Delegates heard that ministry shares, pledged by local churches to support denominational ministries, are down from last year. The amount pledged for the coming year is $17.8 million. (See “Ministry Share Income Down for 2023 Fiscal Year.”)
Ministry share reductions are felt particularly acutely in Congregational Ministries, which includes Candidacy, Chaplaincy and Care, Disability Concerns, Diversity, Pastor Church Resources, Race Relations, Safe Church, Social Justice, and Worship ministries. Congregational Ministries receives almost all of its revenue via ministry shares. It cut $1 million from its budget and was then asked to reduce it by another half million.
The Council adopted recommendations for salary range increases for denominational employees of 5% in Canada and 4% in the U.S., with merit increases going up by 4% in Canada and 5% in the U.S. Greta Luimes, treasurer of the Canada corporation, noted that the cost of everything is going up. Employers in both countries are giving increases both to retain employees and support them well.
The U.S. Corporation of the CRC appointed its own chief executive, to be known as director of U.S. ministry operations. Joel Huyser, already the interim director of Resonate Global Mission, is that new director, retaining his ministry job.
Executive director Colin Watson noted that previously, the CRCNA-U.S. corporation had not identified a chief executive. “Historically, we conflated ecclesiastical functions of the church with the business functions of U.S. corporation,” he said, meaning the functions of a U.S. director were assigned to the executive director of the denomination.
To further clarify the delineation between ecclesiastical and functional, the Council is recommending to Synod 2022 that a new legal corporation, called the Christian Reformed Church Worldwide, be established for the office of the denomination’s general secretary.
The changes are part of the restructuring process that has been going on for more than two years. Nearly all of the changes are awaiting synodical approval in 2022 because Synods 2020 and 2021 were canceled because of COVID restrictions.
Appointments and Farewells and Anniversaries
- In the previous week, the Canada corporation appointed Al Postma as transitional executive director for the CRC in Canada.
- Council noted that Tim Sheridan is now the church planting leader for Resonate Global Mission and Adrian Jacobs was appointed as senior leader for Indigenous ministry Canada.
- Although previously anticipated, no nomination was presented for the position of chief administrative officer to work in the Office of the General Secretary; the search committee will continue its search.
- Andy de Ruyter, Michael Ten Haken, Greta Luimes, John Lee, Sheila Holmes, Jill Feikema, Melissa Van Dyk, and Bev Bandstra will serve as the Council’s executive committee in 2022/2023.
- Council members concluding their service June 30 are Heather Cowie, Wendell Davelaar, Peter J. DeVries, Paul R. De Vries, Laurie Harkema, Brian L. Ochsner, David A. Struyk, Samuel D. Sutter, Lora Copley, and Michelle Kool.
- The Council honored executive director Colin P. Watson Sr. and deputy executive director and chief financial officer John Bolt, both of whom will retire this summer.
- The Council celebrated significant anniversaries for four congregational ministries:
Chaplaincy and Care Ministry–80 years
Office of Race Relations–50 years
Disability Concerns–40 years
Pastor Church Resources–40 years
In Other News
The Council heard that ReFrame ministry staff and families in Ukraine and Russia are safe—they continue to minister, including to refugees; however, Russian staff are very vulnerable during this time of war.
The Council took note that Calvin University revised its faculty handbook to eliminate the requirement for synod ratification of faculty appointments, citing that synod lacks the information and context necessary to play a role in the faculty appointment process. Council delegates Tony Lara, John Lee, Mark Vande Zande, Nathaniel Van Denend, and Tyler J. Wagenmaker registered negative votes.
The Council heard that about one-third of the staff in Grand Rapids, Mich., are using the denominational office building now while the rest work remotely.
The Council received a presentation by Neil Carlson, founder and principal consultant of Datawise Consulting, regarding decline of membership in CRC congregations. Additionally, the Council revisited a paper written by director of diversity Reggie Smith, titled “Repositioning the CRC for Sustainability Through Listening and Supporting.” The paper (originally presented in February) focused on the need to listen to and support the growing number of CRC diaspora and ethnic churches, allowing all members to be seen, heard, and feel like they are valued and welcomed at the classis level. Future conversations will be facilitated on the topic of diversity and its key place in the CRCNA.
About the Author
Gayla Postma retired as news editor for The Banner in 2020.