When the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church met Feb. 15-17 by video conference, the two individual boards that govern CRCNA ministry in the U.S. and in Canada also met for concurrent meetings. The Canada Ministry Board (formerly called the CRCNA Canada Corporation) and the U.S. Ministry Board each approved the appointment of Shirley DeVries as convener of the CRCNA Joint Ministry Committee. The two boards also approved the conclusion of the appointment of previous convener Chris Schoon. The convener is appointed jointly to head the committee that manages the denomination’s joint ministry agreements—the legal documents that describe how agencies in the two countries carry out ministry together. DeVries is the CRC’s chief administrative officer, having been appointed in November.
The U.S. ministry board discussed three new member nominees for the U.S. Committee for Guidance and Support of the Office of Social Justice. After much conversation around diversity for the committee, the nominees were not approved, by a slim vote. Members of the board noted that they would prefer greater diversity in concerns of age and ethnicity. Michael Ten Haken, president of the board, said the people currently serving on the U.S. Committee for Guidance and Support of OSJ “will need to extend their terms or work short for a while” until suitable nominees could be determined.
New Executive Nominee in May?
The U.S. ministry board accepted the U.S. Corporation officers’ recommendation to establish the position of the U.S. director of ministry operations as a full-time executive-level position beginning no later than July 1, 2023. This position would combine the current duties of the director of ministry operations, which had been carried out by Joel Huyser, in addition to his duties as acting director of Resonate Global Mission; and the director of administrative operations, a position that Shirley DeVries filled before she became CAO. The officers of the U.S. ministry board are to appoint a search team to recommend a nominee for the new position to the U.S. Corporation by its May meeting.
Grand Rapids Office Building
The CRCNA has a building in Grand Rapids, Mich., that the U.S. ministry board owns. Discussions about better use of the building, including a previously announced renovation that was on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, have been going on for several years. At the Feb. 16 meeting, the U.S. ministry board empowered the U.S. Corporation officers with the authority to act in a legal capacity on behalf of the U.S. ministry board regarding this property.
DeVries said, “There’s a significant amount of variables, and we’re trying to reduce the unknowns.” Michael Ten Haken, president of the U.S. ministry board, said, “The recommendation is not in any way an indication that ‘hey we’re going to sell the building out from underneath you.’ This is just deciding now who is the legal entity who can act on behalf of the denomination should a sale occur, which you will be made aware of and have a part to say in.”
Finally, the U.S. ministry board also approved the conclusion of Lis Van Harten’s appointment as a U.S. member of the CRCNA Joint Ministry Committee effective Jan. 1, 2023, with gratitude for her service to the joint ministry efforts of the CRCNA. Van Harten, most recently U.S. director for congregational ministries before being replaced by Chris Schoon, intends to retire this spring.
Ministry in Canada
The Canada ministry board spent time in its meeting discussing participant comments from the recent Canada-wide CRC conversation; approved terms of reference for Canada’s decolonization and anti-racism collective; and approved various appointments and ministry outlooks.
The Centre for Public Dialogue’s annual plan is a “status quo” plan, maintaining the priorities of collaborating with World Renew on refugee sponsorship and advocating for removing impediments to that, and facilitating Hearts Exchanged groups and bringing that experience of intercultural learning between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to the Canadian National Gathering in May.
Pablo Kim Sun, senior leader for anti-racism and intercultural conciliation for the CRCNA in Canada, met with the Canada ministry board, thanking them for approving proposed terms of reference for the supporting committee appointed to assist Kim Sun in his work. “Having your approval would really encourage us,” he said in pursuing their outlined goals, which include developing and proposing a contextualized mandate for decolonization and anti-racism work for the CRC within Canada.
In an overview of themes heard from participants in the Jan. 28 Canadian conversation, the board noted, “Some of the suggestions or desires we heard were ecclesial in nature, which is out of the realm of the board’s authority (and perhaps also outside of the COD’s authority). However, at this time, what the board can do and will do is ensure that the ministries are providing resourcing and support for churches to engage in these conversations” (parentheses original).
“Some participants cautioned the Canadian ministries about being ‘business as usual.’ That a denominational ministry plan that does not address the immediate conflict in many churches over human sexuality may render the denominational ministries as irrelevant,” the overview said. Also, “There was a clear desire expressed for the Canadian denominational leadership to find ways to defend and protect Canadian churches/pastors from synod’s decisions on human sexuality. This included several participants expressing a hope for something like a ‘10-year truce.’”
The Canadian ministry board members expressed wanting to acknowledge receiving these comments from Canadian church members, while remaining in the purview of the board. “When people entrust this information to us and then we don’t do anything about it, they get more and more frustrated because it’s like, ‘I told you, why are you not responding?’” said Amy Nydam, Classis Alberta North.
Andy de Ruyter, chair of the Canada ministry board, said they had only “provided spaces for discussion. It was never in our mandate to respond.” Wendy de Jong, Classis Niagara, who was part of the committee who organized the January conversation and an earlier one in September, said participants had been sent a two-page theme summary of responses and notes from the meeting. “I think it’s crucial that they get one more piece, recognizing that there are some things beyond anyone’s ability to address,” de Jong said.
Henry Eygenraam, an at-large member also on the conversation committee, said they would “take the feedback from this meeting; put it into a communication and also bring it back to the board.”
The Canada ministry board also noted resignations of two Canadian members of the Council of Delegates: Bev Banstra, Classis B.C. South-East, and Kelli Berkner, at-large member.