As Synod 2022 prepared to begin its discussion of the Report of the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality, a voice from the floor challenged the use of a closed session—the first time the Christian Reformed Church’s synod has employed this practice.
But Dan Hoogland, Classis Eastern Canada, was too late to make such an objection. The officers of Synod 2022 said the recommendation to employ closed sessions (meaning the session would not be open to guests or observers, but a webcast would continue on delay) was made by the program committee of synod (officers of the previous synod), and the program committee’s report had already been adopted. Additionally, faculty adviser Kathy Smith, who is also serving as parliamentarian for Synod 2022, said the synodical officers did have the role to set out the rules of the session, and they had been done for good reasons, such as setting up a good climate for discussion and keeping the integrity of the intention of the delayed webcast.
Asked earlier about the planned closed sessions, executive director Colin Watson Sr. told The Banner, “We want to make sure that delegates are able to listen to the Holy Spirit and to each other and are not listening to outside voices.”
Hoogland said he was disappointed because there “should have been a way (for observers) to attend in person to be there for the discussion.”
Watson said closing the gallery would ensure no distractions for delegates: “Verbal and nonverbal expressions can have an impact and break the flow of delivery.”
Hearing from delegates and non-delegates ahead of the discussion, there were mixed responses to the decision.
Ken Krause, Classis Muskegon, said, “It’s unprecedented, but we are in unprecedented times.” He continued by saying it should help limit distractions and “allows people to be more open.”
Dave Bosscher, Classis Thornapple Valley, said his biggest concern is transparency. He noted that it’s good there is a livestream, saying, “Though the gallery is empty, I’m satisfied the livestream is up.”
“I understand the good reasoning, but I think the good reasoning may cause more harm than good,” said Trish Borgdorff, Classis Grand Rapids East. “It’s my prayer that, at this time in the church, we would have enough grace and love to engage in conversation with one another.”
A group of non-delegates connected to the group All One Body gathered outside the building where synod is convening to watch the session via the webcast—and to pray and lament, they said. Members of the group were frustrated with the decisions, yet some were still understanding.
One member of the group, Lori Keen, said “I see valid reasons (for the closed galleries) only because of the outside politics and communications.”
Don Huizinga said, “I understand the reasoning, but I wish it didn’t happen.”
Later, as the closed discussions continued, the group of observers gathering outside grew to about 125.
Synod 2022 is meeting at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., from June 10-16. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod, download the Banner app on your mobile device, or follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook. On Twitter follow #crcsynod or twitter.com/crcna. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church (it did not gather in 2020 or 2021). Connect to the meeting’s livestream, read advisory committee reports, and find other resources at crcna.org/synod.