The CRC Council of Delegates has forwarded to Synod 2023 changes to the U.S. and Canadian bylaws that clarify the autonomy of World Renew to make decisions. The council also voted to move to synod an ecclesiastical mandate letter that clarifies World Renew’s ongoing ties to the denomination. Synod is the general assembly and decision-making body of the Christian Reformed Church in North America; the Council of Delegates works on its behalf between meetings of synod.
The bylaws and accompanying ecclesiastical mandate letters stipulate the organization remains an agency of the Christian Reformed Church—World Renew board members will continue to be appointed by classes (regional bodies of churches)—but they clarify that decisions made by the organization do not have to be approved by synod.
“World Renew is trying to harmonize and clarify its bylaws by creating a distinction between the legal autonomy needed in the bylaws, and the organization’s ongoing relationship with the CRCNA, which is outlined in the ecclesiastical mandate letters,” said Michael Koetje, chair of the Council’s committee that looked at the bylaws.
The U.S. and Canadian ministry boards for World Renew had earlier voted to approve the changes. Tyler Wagenmaker, Classis Zeeland, said the changes “make clear” that World Renew is its own standalone entity.
“I just want to make sure that our churches are more aware of that. I think many of our churches, and even pastors, don’t think about World Renew in that way, even though that’s how it was set up,” Wagenmaker said. “I think when we have these conversations, the changes in these bylaws are helpful because it’s forcing us to have that conversation—that understanding—that World Renew, as many of us thought it was … is not how it relates to the denomination.”
World Renew was established in the United States by synod in 1962 as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee to provide relief in areas hit by disasters as well as work on sustainable development projects. The organization incorporated in Canada in 1969 and adopted its current name in 2012.
“We did put a lot of work into this, in thinking about the relationship,” said Chuck Adams, past president of World Renew’s U.S. board. “It’s not always easy work, but I think at the end of it, I think the relationship between World Renew and the denomination is actually stronger than it was.”
“As an ecclesiastical partner,” the clarifying letter reads, “World Renew maintains its relationship as an agency of the CRCNA by maintaining ‘as its primary constituency individual members, congregations, and assemblies of the CRCNA, while also seeking to work with other responsive churches.’” The agency “will contribute to and participate in the formation, development, implementation, and evaluation” of the denomination’s ministry plan. “Ecclesiastical oversight” of the agency “is exercised by the Council of Delegates in the interim of synod through a function of connection or coordination between the (Council), synod, and the rest of the CRCNA agencies.”