The Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church, which is the denomination’s ecclesiastical governance board, met Oct. 11-13 in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Council acts on behalf of synod, the annual general assembly of the CRC, between meetings of synod.
Zachary King, general secretary for the CRCNA, and Council of Delegates chair Michael Ten Haken welcomed the board and reviewed changes to its functioning as an ecclesiastical body.
That distinction, which began to be emphasized in February 2020, is now fully realized with the U.S. and Canada Ministry Boards responsible for organizational governance of ministry taking place in each country and the full Council having oversight or governance of ecclesiastical matters for the binational church.
The ministry boards met concurrently on Oct. 12. Following are some of the decisions and actions of the two boards and the Council of Delegates.
Canada Board Takes Action on Conversations, Letter
The Canada Ministry Board received reports from its transitional executive director (Canada), Al Postma, and chief administrative officer (Canada), Terry Veldboom. It also approved its executive committee’s plan for the next Canada-wide Conversation, a gathering of Christian Reformed members from the Canadian classes, to be held January 27.
Previous conversations were convened in September 2022 and January 2023 after the board perceived a need, as it described in the conversation invitation, “to connect the CRCNA Canada (Ministry) Board with the classes and churches, and to connect the churches and classes with the board.”
Canada Ministry Board president Greta Luimes, an at-large Canadian member, told delegates that because “there is an expectation from the classes that the conversations would continue,” the board executive committee proposed what it thought would be a helpful topic for January 2024: church planting. Canadian classes are again invited to send four representatives to the discussion that will include where church planting in Canada currently sits, shared experiences, barriers, and more, Luimes said.
The conversation will not entertain discussion of a distinct and separate Canadian CRC, something a group of Canadian pastors and leaders had apparently sought from the board by way of a letter.
“Our mandate is to serve Canadian churches,” Luimes said, recognizing that allowing a group outside of the board to impact the plans for the upcoming Canada-Wide Conversation would be inappropriate. However, “We don’t want to bury our heads in the sand to what else is going on in the CRC,” Luimes said. The Canadian Ministry Board voted to engage with the signatories of the letter whose work Luimes said “is toward a Canadian CRC.”
The letter was not released but Luimes told delegates it was signed by 56 people who include mostly pastors and other leaders. “The Board will work with Canadian Ministries staff to facilitate the conversation,” the Canada Ministry Board minutes said.
Luimes said the board is taking two tracks: serving what it assumes to be the majority of the Canadian churches, “but we also want to continue in discussion with the group that signed this letter – part of our mandate is to serve them too. Just to see what they’re thinking, what they are perhaps going to do.”
U.S. Board Grants Officers Sale and Purchase Powers
The U.S. Ministry Board spent a fair portion of its meeting discussing the sale of its Grand Rapids office building, where the October meetings of the Council of Delegates and both ministry boards were being held. Board officers were given the authority to act both to accept an offer of sale and to make an offer of purchase should the opportunity arise.
It also reviewed its role as an organizational governance board, approved a new Joint Ministry Agreement document for Thrive–which the Canada Ministry Board also approved–and approved “designating the approximately $2 million expected from the Employment Retention Credit (ERC) for Capital expenses,” to ensure that operations are not encumbered through the Grand Rapids office relocation process.
“This designation would serve as ‘bridge financing’ and would be re-evaluated by the Directors once the relocation is complete and an assessment of our finances can be conducted,” the board minutes said. U.S. Ministry Board members briefly discussed this before passing it, with some questioning why the (U.S.) federal funding had been applied for.
Shirley De Vries, chief administrative officer within the Office of General Secretary, said the program was available to employers who retained employees through the COVID-19 pandemic and continued paying taxes on their behalf through that period.
Other Council of Delegates Actions
- Recommended that Synod 2024 extend the Our Journey 2025 Ministry Plan to 2030.
- Heard progress on synodical assignments including the Global Vision team, preparing a statement on medically assisted death, and the assignment on addressing membership decline.
- Received ministry updates from ReFrame Ministries, Resonate Global Mission, and Thrive, including the note that the new agency encompassing nine previous ministries lost eight staff between January and now, and that Elaine May, previously Women's Leadership Developer in the CRC, is now the new lead for Church Renewal.
- Entered into executive session to hear an update from staff on the charges against David Zandstra and the response of CRCNA staff and classes to the affected parties. The Council also spent time in prayer of lament and healing.
The Council of Delegates has 49 delegates, one from each classis (regional group of churches), plus up to 10 at-large delegates. The next meeting will be in February 2024, conducted by video conference.