As Synod 2022 convened in person for the first time Friday morning, delegates were presented with guidance for discussions, and a few new rules too.
That guidance included a half-hour “power and privilege training” which will be standard for synods going forward, as directed by Synod 2019 (page 815, item e).
“We want to ensure that we are creating space for every voice to be heard,” said Safe Church director Amanda Benckhuysen. “Some have less power and privilege than others and they may feel that they struggle to have their voices heard.”
Reggie Smith, director of diversity, co-led the training. In small groups, delegates completed a “power audit” in which they identified how much power they have in different spheres, such as church, family, work, age, appearance, ethnicity, language, and finances.
"Sometimes coffee time is the most powerful time at synod,” Smith remarked, “because what we do is we talk, and we talk a lot….We come to synod with a desire to listen to a variety of perspectives, insights and voices present. In that diversity of voices, let’s discern the leading and prompting of the Spirit. Be aware of the voices that need to be heard, and in that way all God’s people get to get heard.”
“Power and privilege are not bad things,” said Benckhuysen. “The way we honor this gift of power is by using it the way that God intended it, to support the flourishing of others….We want to be like Jesus in the ways we use our power.”
Another directive of Synod 2019 (p. 815, item f) is to limit delegate speeches to three minutes with allowance for exceptions when translation or interpretation is needed.
Because this year’s synod will also cover business from two canceled synods in addition to the 2022 agenda, and is expected to include some intense discussions, the three-minute rule will likely be strictly enforced. Synod President Jose Rayas instructed delegates to speak with humility and meekness. “Be quick to listen and slow to speak,” he said, using the words of James 1:19. “I encourage you all to speak up, and to make sure that what you say edifies the church.”
Also new for 2022, the livestream video feed of the proceedings will transmit with a 20-minute delay. The delay is meant to eliminate influence on delegates from off-site viewers of the live feed and to encourage delegates to be free to speak, according to Dee Recker, director of synodical services. Synod plans to operate in closed session (no outside observers) during discussions of Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church and the human sexuality report; the webcast of proceedings will continue.
Synod 2022 is meeting June 10-16 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod, download the Banner app on your mobile device, follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook, or subscribe to the daily synod news digest. 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.
About the Author
Roxanne VanFarowe is a freelance writer who claims both Canadian and American citizenship and grew up in the Christian Reformed Church. She is a member of Blacknall Presbyterian Church in Durham, North Carolina.