Andy de Ruyter, chair of the Christian Reformed Church’s Council of Delegates, spoke frankly about the council’s work as he reported to Synod 2023 on Monday, June 12.
The Council of Delegates chair always addresses synod with the highlights of the work that Council has done over the year. “This year it seems especially important that I also lean into the role of the Council as adviser to Synod,” de Ruyter said.
He spoke positively about improvements to staff culture after the implementation of the recommendations in the Structure and Leadership Taskforce, as adopted by Synod 2022. That’s been very successful, de Ruyter said. But while he noted that the Council in no way opposes decisions by Synod 2022 about the human sexuality report and confessional implications, he wanted synod to be aware that requiring confessional commitments as a condition of employment could have considerable legal repercussions, especially in Canada.
De Ruyter said, “Over the past 12 months the COD and the churches have lived under the shadow of Synod 2022,” noting the impact of the human sexuality and Structure and Leadership Taskforce reports.
“The SALT report spoke of culture and the need for cultural change in our denominational offices, agencies, and institutions,” said de Ruyter. The Council of Delegates has since changed its in-house vocabulary to remove corporate speech and legal terminology, and shifted to a focus on words that focus on ministry.
De Ruyter said that in the last year, “we have noted that we are in a far better place as a culture—there is less tension, less anger, less offense, and instead there is an increased desire to work through problems together. SALT in my opinion has turned out to be a synodical homerun.” He proceeded to express his appreciation for the work of Frederic Koning, an unpaid consultant, and Lloyd VanderKwaak, the interim chief administrative officer, who before taking that position worked with Koning on the report and its implementation.
Since last year’s synod, Classis California South and the general secretary have worked together to include Reformed congregations from Venezuela into the ecclesiastical fellowship. There is now a large Latino representation in the Christian Reformed Church of North America’s membership. De Ruyter also shared about Synod’s New Dignity Team. He said, “They provide a safe place for those hurt by church leaders. More so they provide leaders with an opportunity to make amends, grow and begin anew and if possible, reestablish trust.”
After sharing a bit about how congregational ministries are having challenges navigating finances, de Ruyter shifted to share about some of the legal implications of the human sexuality report. He said, “If synod requires that CRCNA employees agree and support the June 2022 decisions around human sexuality as a condition of employment, the CRCNA organization in Canada will likely find itself in a difficult and risky position—for a while at least.” He referenced the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms saying, “We simply do not know the extent of our legal exposure as ministry organizations.”
De Ruyter confirmed that the Council, which works on behalf of synod in the interim of synod, “in no way whatsoever” takes issue with decisions of Synod 2022, but recognizes the importance of considering the “legal and regulatory compliance in both Canada and the United States.”
De Ruyter introduced Michael Ten Haken who will succeed him as chair of the Council of Delegates in July. Ten Haken has served as the vice president for the past two years. He also introduced Greta Luimes, a Canadian at-large delegate to the Council of Delegates, who will assume the role of vice chair in July.
When de Ruyter finished, Paul DeVries, president of Synod 2023, repeated, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and I will say it again—Rejoice!” He said that he recognized the challenges that accompany being on the Council of Delegates, but “when we remember that the Lord is good, what can we do but rejoice?”
Synod 2023 is meeting June 9-15 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at thebanner.org/synod. Visit crcna.org/synod for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.