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Delegates Debate Appointing Church of Servant as the Convening Church of Synod 2023

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Delegates Debate Appointing Church of Servant as the Convening Church of Synod 2023
Joshua Van Drunen, Grand Rapids South: Appointing Church of the Servant as the convening church demonstrates to Grand Rapids East that we love them. They are part of us and we are part of them.
Photo by Steven Herppich

It is something synods usually do that requires no deliberation and can be passed on a voice vote: a recommendation from the Council of Delegates (the denominational board of trustees) to name convening churches to host the next couple of synods. This year, the board recommended Church of the Servant, Grand Rapids, Mich., as the convening church for Synod 2023. Rather than the usual perfunctory approval, the recommendation flared up into a brief but contentious debate—one that some delegates regretted the next morning.

Synods often appoint churches celebrating significant anniversaries to host the next synod. The convening church is responsible to open synod and conduct the synod worship service, among other, mostly ceremonial, duties. Church of the Servant, a congregation in Grand Rapids, Mich., located not far from the Calvin University campus where most synods meet, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023. 

Cedric Parsels, Classis Grandville, objected, suggesting that having Church of the Servant as the convening church would make some delegates uncomfortable. Church of the Servant is part of Classis Grand Rapids East, a classis that includes and has supported Neland Avenue CRC when it elected a deacon in a same-sex marriage. Parsels said, “I think it needs to be clear that the convening church can support the confessions.” William Delleman, Classis British Columbia North-West, supported accepting the invitation, pointing out that “no charge has been made against Church of the Servant.” The next morning, Parsels came before synod with an apology. “Last night, I said some words on the floor of synod that I deeply regret. They were not kind. They were not merciful. I ask your forgiveness.” 

Matt Vanden Heuvel, Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan, speaking about how synod should deal with enacting discipline for Neland Avenue CRC, said he regretted voting against Church of the Servant as host church, expressing “hopes of restoration” and for continued community with Grand Rapids East churches.

Joshua Van Drunen, Grand Rapids South, said appointing Church of the Servant as the convening church “demonstrates to Grand Rapids East that we love them. They are part of us and we are part of them.”

Synod voted 139-25 (with 10 abstentions) to name Church of the Servant as the convening church for Synod 2023.


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

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