The Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church met by video conference Feb. 15-17. Included on the agenda were declining membership trends, the question of future Inspire conferences, ministry shares, 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. Because the Christian Reformed Church in North America operates in Canada and the U.S., two individual boards govern ministry carried out in each country. The Canada ministry board (formerly called the CRCNA Canada Corporation) and the U.S. ministry board met in concurrent meetings Feb 16. They approved the appointment of a new convener for the CRCNA Joint Ministry Committee and did other work connected to their own ministry contexts.
The Council heard some of its members speak passionately about the need to continue hosting wide, diverse, ministry-inspiring gatherings for the whole church, but in evaluating whether future “Inspire” events are feasible, Council in the end determined to instruct staff to discontinue them. It also encouraged staff to “explore smaller scale, and/or regionalized events on particular ministry themes applicable to the churches.”
New Resonate Director Nominated
The Council interviewed and nominated Kevin DeRaaf, acting Canada director of Resonate Global Mission, as the agency’s new director. He replaces interim director Joel Huyser, who has been guiding Resonate since Zachary King became General Secretary last June. DeRaaf’s appointment will need to be approved by Synod 2023.
Revised Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders
A team reviewing the CRC's proposed Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders presented its report to the Council of Delegates, with changes suggested based on feedback coming from congregations and classes. Such a review was requested by Synod 2022, which considered the Code of Conduct but did not vote to implement it. The Council endorsed the proposed revised Code of Conduct along with an accompanying FAQ that addresses some questions the team heard frequently from congregations and is recommending them to Synod 2023 for adoption.
Membership Trends and Church Renewal
The Council of Delegates was presented with 12 recommendations with a focus on church renewal after recognizing that membership shows a steady decrease across the denomination.
Drew Sweetman, Classis Muskegon, said, “This isn’t about saving an institution, we aren’t here to save a church or a denomination, what we’re really all about is bringing people to Christ, and when I look at Scripture, I see that people come to Christ through the church and in the church.”
Zachary King, general secretary, said, “Our senior leadership in the CRCNA really strongly feels the primary touchpoint moving forward for our church renewal ministry is congregational ministries as our new agency focused on the life of the church.”
The denomination’s congregational ministries—including chaplaincy, pastor church resources, safe church ministry, disability concerns, worship ministry, and justice and diversity ministries—recently reorganized and intends to present itself as a new agency with a new name to the May meeting of the Council.
Council wanted clearer definitions or goals defined in some of the presented recommendations.
Melissa Van Dyk, an at-large Canadian delegate, said, “I love the intention, but I would’ve loved more clarity about what we’re actually asking to see action on.” Thomas Wolthuis, Central Plains said, “There’s nothing here that is radically new or exciting, or focused. I just feel like it’s a laundry list that’s not going to do much.”
An ad hoc membership trends committee is now planning to develop a response from congregational ministries and Resonate Global Mission to bring to the Council in May. That will include a description of what CRCNA agencies are already doing related to church renewal and growth, and an outline of how congregational ministries might in future respond to the renewal and growth needs of CRC congregations.
‘Ministry’ Boards, not ‘Corporations’
Shirley DeVries, the denomination’s chief administrative officer, noted a change for the Council in how the CRCNA wants to refer to parts of the organization. In a report, DeVries said the new vocabulary will “provide clarity and focus on the primary nature of our work—ministry.” Some of the changes include using Canada ministry board instead of Canada Corporation or Canada board; U.S. ministry board instead of U.S. Corp, Michigan Corp, U.S. board, or Michigan board; and using Canada ministry office and U.S. ministry office for the offices of the denomination in Burlington, Ont., and Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Council of Delegates will meet again May 3-5 in Grand Rapids.