Synod 2023 has decided to keep the doors open—even when the general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church discusses sensitive topics next week.
Synod is taking place at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich.
In 2022, synod closed and monitored gallery doors during discussion of the human sexuality report (HSR) and related matters, though staff—including news staff—were allowed inside, and the webcast, on a 20-minute delay, continued.
Saturday morning (June 10), synod’s newly elected president announced that Synod 2023 will be open to the public even when weighty decisions are under discussion. Members of the public will be welcome in the gallery.
Those weighty matters include numerous overtures (requests) to reverse last year’s synod’s decision to declare its stance on homosexual sex confessional and an overture from Neland Avenue CRC, a church that installed a deacon who is in a same-sex marriage.
“We think transparency is important,” said Paul DeVries, synod president. “We will allow people to come in as long as good decorum is followed.” DeVries had previously announced that the galleries may be closed during potentially divisive discussions, upon the recommendation of the program committee, the elected leaders of last year’s synod.
DeVries added that if he and the other officers hear of threats or intimidation, they will change course and close the doors. “While transparency is valuable, the spiritual, emotional, and physical safety of our delegates and our staff is important as well.”
He also noted that the Calvin chapel, where synod is meeting for the first time, has little extra seating space, so university security staff will “help with people flow.”
In another effort to “lead with grace,” DeVries then announced that delegates who stand up to speak will no longer be confronted with a large digital clock counting down their three minutes of speaking time.
“We’re going to try and be gracious with the three minutes,” DeVries said, encouraging delegates to speak to the motion and be precise. “If we have to pick the clock back up (to make it visible), we will.”
On Friday, DeVries told delegates that this year “there is no rule against telling stories, so feel free, while remembering that you only have three minutes.” In 2022 delegates were admonished not to tell stories when they spoke to a matter.
The webcast for Synod 2023 will continue on a 20-minute delay throughout the meeting. The delay was established last year to avoid a situation where delegates are being influenced by people outside the room, organizers said. “We want to deliberate together—in the room, fully present,” DeVries said Friday, while instructing delegates on the rules.
Organizers of All One Body, a group based in Grand Rapids that promotes congregations’ full inclusion of LGBTQ people regardless of relationship or marital status, told The Banner in May that they plan one or more gatherings on the Calvin campus during synod’s discussions of human sexuality-related matters as they did last year.
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.