Two or three times each year, Christian Reformed churches send representatives to their classis, a regional assembly of churches.
Many of the actions taken by classes are governed by the CRC’s Church Order, the rules that govern denominational life. Here are some of the actions by classes in the past several months. (Unless otherwise noted, quotations come from minutes of the classis. Links to the relevant articles of Church Order are included.)
Candidates examined and approved for ministry in the Christian Reformed Church (Arts. 6 and 10): Kevin Kornelis, Cameron Oegema, Joshua Carpenter, John VanderWindt, Matthew Guichelaar, Benjamin Snoek, William Jones, Kurtis Ritsema, Brad Diekema, Jeremy Engbers, Zachary Toth, Eunice Kim, Ryan VanderWees, Joseph Hwang, Tomas Axeland, Wendy Werkman and Peter Vos.
Ministers welcomed into CRC ministry from other denominations (Art. 8): Revs. Jefferey Kempton, Myung Kang, and Wilson Cunha, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary, appointed by Synod 2022.
Ministerial loans (Art. 13-c) extended for: Revs. Tony Meyer to the Mountainview International Church in Madrid, Spain; John Kim to Hebron Presbyterian Church in Prospect Heights, Ill.; and Zeke Nelson to the Antwerp (Netherlands) International Protestant Church.
Ministers released from a congregation (Art. 17-a): Revs. Pete Byma from Westview CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Ruth Folkerts from Connections Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo.; George Saylor from Connections Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo.; Marc Holland from City Life Church in Sacramento, Calif.; Kiseok (Daniel) Kang from his on-loan call to the Korean United Church of Modesto, Calif.; Sung Chul Lee from All Nations Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; Woodrow Dixon from Jubilee Fellowship CRC in St. Catharines, Ont.; and Tom Kok from Family of Faith CRC in Kennewick, Wash., which disbanded in March 2023.
Declared eligible for call: Rev. Dan Meyer; eligibility extended for: Rev. Marcel Kuiper.
Leaving Ministry in the CRC
Classes may end a pastor’s ordained ministry status, guided by Church Order articles 14 and 17. In the case of Art. 14, designations of release (reflecting the manner and spirit in which the minister acted during the time leading up to and including resignation from office) are “honorably released,” “released,” “dismissed,” or in the “status of one deposed.”
Dayna Vreeken, Brian Turnbull, Kyle Sandford and Mark Pluimer were honorably released.
Bruce Leiter and Daryl Meijer were released (Art. 17-c).
Jongpil Oh was dismissed (Art. 14-b); In Ho Jang was deposed (Arts. 82-4, 14).
Ministers retiring (Art. 18): Revs. Willem (Kobie) du Plessis, Pete VanderBeek, Neil Jasperse, Dirk van der Vorst, Steve Rusticus, Steve Boersma, Darren Roorda, Lambert Sikkema (effective Dec. 1), Russell Boersma (effective Jan. 1, 2024), Larry Doornbos (effective Feb. 11, 2024), Verlan Van Ee (effective June 8, 2024).
Approved as commissioned pastors called to specific roles within their classes (Art. 23): Bryce Langley (Illiana), Israel Ledee (Chicago South), Ben Buckley (Columbia), Russel Kent (North Cascades), Arturo Rojas (Holland), Jon Keyzer (Heartland), Victor Piscoya (Hackensack), David Shen (Central California), Ryan Nirula (Quinte), Sang Gyoo Kim (Greater Los Angeles), Marja Fledderus (Hamilton), Micah VanDyken (Chicago South); Stephan Human and Peter Carrion (Ontario Southwest); Mark Tiemersma, Sam Ashmore and Gail Ashmore (Iakota); and Fernando Carranza, Guadalupe Carranza and Ana Carranza (Rocky Mountain).
Doug Kennedy (Rocky Mountain), Chris Avery (California South) and Mike Brummel (North Cascades) were honorably released from ministry as commissioned pastors (Art. 24-d) (Brummel has moved to Classis Columbia where he’s expected to be re-commissioned in Spring 2024).
Sean Taylor (North Cascades) was released in the status of one dismissed (Art. 24-d).
Commissioned pastor emeritus status (Art. 24-e) was granted to Michael Gulotta (Columbia) and Norman Viss (Hackensack).
New Ministries and Ministry Changes
An emerging (unorganized) church does not have its own council and is under the care of the council of a neighboring CRC. An organized church has its own council (Art. 38).
Korean CRC of St. Louis (Mo.), Napa Valley (Calif.) Community Church and New Hope Community Church of Shafter (Calif.) received organized status.
Hope Church, a Korean-speaking congregation in El Paso, Texas, was recognized as emerging.
Bethel CRC in London, Ont., merged with Forest City Community Church in London, becoming the "East Campus" of the multi-site congregation.
Orangewood Christian Reformed Church in Phoenix, Ariz. dissolved (previously Orangewood Community Church, a joint church plant with the Reformed Church in America, was recognized as a new ministry.)
West Olive (Mich.) CRC disaffiliated from the CRC.
The following congregations disbanded: New Street CRC in Burlington, Ont. (see related CRC communications story), Covenant Hope CRC in Battle Creek, Mich., Trinity CRC in Broomall, Pa., and Crossroads CRC in Ajax, Ont. (effective Dec. 31).
Name changes: Radical Grace CRC is the new name of Coit Community CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich., which marked 45 years of ministry this year.
The Classis Heartland education committee is “in conversation with the Abide Project Convention planning committee and Dordt University to work out logistics of hosting the 2024 convention in Iowa.”
Classis Illiana noted ecumenical relation developments that connect to some of its pastors. “Currently Illiana has two pastors (Larry Howerzyl and Joel Zuidema) and two commissioned pastors (Barry Foster and Andrew Wahlstrom) who are currently involved in churches associated with the Alliance of Reformed Churches. Illiana will continue to hold their credentials while the church order arrangements for an ‘orderly exchange’ of officebearers between the CRC and the ARC are finalized.” The Alliance of Reformed Churches formed in May 2021 and includes pastors and congregations who left the Reformed Church in America, with which the CRC already had an established exchange of officebearers. Synod 2023 of the CRCNA adopted a “church in cooperation” status with the ARC.
Classis Lake Superior noted a growing partnership between Covenant CRC in Winnipeg, Man., and Amber Church, a recently-planted ministry focused on reaching Brazilian immigrants in that city. The classis voted to support the Latin America Mission Canada-planted Amber Church with $60,000 over three years. Ben Verkerk, pastor of Covenant CRC said, “As a plant and parent church, we continue to develop partnerships in this work with other local churches, with the classis, with Resonate Global Mission, and through the candidacy process to transfer Pastor Marcelo's credentials to the CRC.” Currently Marcelo Viana, who pastors Amber Church, is ordained through the Presbyterian Church of Brazil.
Classis Grand Rapids North, recognizing the death of active and beloved pastor Rev. Jerome Burton, passed a Resolution of Respect for the pastor of Coit Community CRC (now called Radical Grace CRC) in Grand Rapids, Mich. Embracing Burton’s bereaved family and the congregation he served “in our common bond of grief and remembrance of this beloved soul,” the resolution read, “we bow in acceptance of the perfection of God's plan to gather each of us into His merciful arms when we have fulfilled our task on this earth.”
Classis Iakota adopted a process for dealing with confessional difficulty gravamina for officebearers within its classis. Gravamina are formal expressions of a difficulty with a doctrine taught in the confessions. How gravamina are to be resolved and how officebearers who have filed a gravamen ought to be treated were matters left unfinished by Synod 2023. Those matters have been deferred to Synod 2024 but for its own assembly, Classis Iakota agreed: “An officebearer who has an unresolved (gravamen) cannot be delegated to a higher body (classis or synod);” the officebearer “must work towards resolving the confessional difficulty” and “not contradict the confessions openly and deliberately while the gravamen is still unresolved.” Classis Iakota set the time for resolution as “six months, or until the next classis meeting, whichever is greater.” A further six months is afforded if the gravamen is forwarded to classis. “If at the end of these periods the officebearer still has confessional difficulty, he or she must appeal to synod or be honorably released from office,” Classis Iakota said.
Further, Classis Iakota addressed “those who have taken a confessional difficulty gravamen with respect to the definition of unchastity,” instructing that because “synods 2022 and 2023 have already defined unchastity in Heidelberg Catechism 108 as confessionally binding,” they must “resolve their difficulty by affirming the standards, resigning, or being suspended from office by the end of the year in which the (gravamen) was filed. This would also include, if applicable, the officebearer’s resigning from any position(s) on broader assemblies, boards, or committees.”
And Iakota instructed church councils “to begin special discipline of officebearers who are suspended from office at the end of 2023 if they refuse to adhere to the definition of unchastity reflected in the standards.”
Classis Central California concurred with the decision of the council of Fairfield CRC to suspend the honor, title, and authority to perform official acts of ministry from Minister-Emeritus David G. Zandstra (Arts. 82-84) until there is a court judgment on crimes he has been charged with.
Classes may direct requests or communications to synod, according to the Rules of Synodical Procedure.
Classis Chicago South will ask Synod 2024 to “reaffirm the declaration from the 1996 report, ‘God’s Diverse and Unified Family,’ ‘that to be in Christ is in principle to be reconciled as a community of racially and ethnically diverse people and that to ignore his calling to turn this principle into experienced reality is sinful according to God’s Word and the Reformed confessions.’ (Acts of Synod 1996, pg. 513). Although it may not ordinarily be wise to reaffirm past synodical decisions, the ongoing gravity of this issue makes it reasonable to do so in this case.” It further asks that synod, “urge all classes in the CRCNA to encourage observance of this declaration by officebearers of their constituent churches and by congregation members, repenting of past sins and diligently pursuing paths of reconciliation and obedience.”
Classis Rocky Mountain will forward a communication to Synod 2024 advocating to keep the gravamen process as currently described in Church Order (supplement to Art. 5) and not to impose a six-month timeline as proposed by the majority report from the 2023 synodical advisory committee. Deliberation over that committee’s report was not completed before the end of Synod 2024 and the matters it advised on are deferred to Synod 2024.
Classis Zeeland sent a communication to the Office of General Secretary and the director of synodical services to request some time-saving measures for Synod 2024, “including the election of officers via Zoom … online Advisory Committee meetings prior to Synod, (and) distribution of various addresses by video.” General Secretary Zachary King told The Banner, “We are always grateful to receive the input of the church with regard to supporting synod and other governance functions.” He said the Council of Delegates leadership will discuss these suggestions and determine how to respond.