Synod 2022, the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, endorsed the formation and membership of a Dignity Team for the denomination. The group is appointed by the Council of Delegates to “foster a culture of full respect for all persons as equally called by God to contribute to the life of the church,” according to the report from the ad hoc committee for prevention of Abuse of Power that called for the team’s formation. The team’s inaugural members, appointed for three-year renewable terms, are Sherry Fakkema, Carel Geleynse, Lee Hollaar, Sheila Holmes, and Cecil Van Niejenhuis. Their function as a team is “to be a place to go for help to address the wrong done and to restore respectful relationships” when “incidents happen that erode, infringe upon, or violate” the dignity of God’s people in the life of the church. CRC communications described the team as including “two teachers, three pastors, and decades of experience in providing pastoral care and counseling to persons in difficult situations.” The Council of Delegates will receive regular reporting on the team’s work. They are available to anyone wishing to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The appointment of the Dignity Team is part of ongoing fulfillment of recommendations initiated by Synod 2019 to address and prevent abuse of power within the CRC’s ministries, congregations, and structure. Another step to fulfilling those recommendations was the adoption of a code of conduct for ministry staff. The Council of Delegates in February proposed that use of the code be extended to all officebearers (pastors, elders, and deacons). Synod 2022 did not endorse the implementation plan but instead voted to delay for a year to seek feedback from local churches.
This fall, meetings of classes (regional groups of churches) are reviewing the Code of Conduct as requested by synod. A letter from the CRC’s general secretary Zachary King said to stated clerks, “We are hoping to gather any feedback you may have by Dec. 31, 2022, so that it can be collated for the Council of Delegates meeting in February 2023, and forwarded to Synod 2023.”
Some comments recorded in classis minutes included, “Like to have the definition of spiritual abuse flushed out. What is it? What does it mean? How does it impact people?”; “Thankful that confidentiality is at the top of the list. (It) needs to have focus”; “Once we adopt this policy, who polices it?”; and “We may need a code of conduct, but the way it is presently formulated is not acceptable.”