There are 49 regional assemblies, or classes, in the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Two or three times each year they gather to take action on matters together, guided by articles of Church Order, the rules that govern denominational life. Here are actions of the past few 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): Blake Philips, Jenn Richards, Josephine Wong, and Jonathan Hwang. From other denominations (Art. 8-c): Revs. Eun J. Park and D’Vante Rolle.
Ministerial loans (Art. 13-c) extended for: Revs. David Shin to Cornerstone Community Church in Redwood City, Calif., and Dawei (David) Shao to the Chinese Church of Farmington Hills, Mich.
Eligibility of call extended for: Revs. Daniel Vos and Youngjo Choi.
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.”
Ryan Hoekstra was honorably released.
Kwan Yong Chae was released.
Paul Yu was released in the status of one dismissed.
Ministers retiring, granted emeritus status (Art. 18): Revs. Pete VanderBeek (effective June 24, 2023), Bokjin Kim, Gerrit Besteman, Karl Van Harn (effective May 1, 2024), and Peter De Vries (effective Aug. 7, 2024).
Approved as commissioned pastors called to specific roles within their classes (Art. 23): Chad Boorsma (Grand Rapids South), Mike Gafa (Muskegon), and Dan Schultz, Victor Chua, and Dai Shi (B.C. North-West).
Randy Green (B.C. North-West) was honorably released from ministry as a commissioned pastor (Art. 24-d).
Commissioned pastor emeritus status (Art. 24-e) was granted to Liz Tolkamp (B.C. South-East).
Classis Grand Rapids East sustained an appeal from Matthew Tuininga objecting to a decision of the council of Grace CRC in Grand Rapids. The appeal, dated Jan. 4, 2023, relates to a September 2022 decision of Grace’s council to adopt a statement that Tuininga said “violates and undermines the confessional teachings of the CRC as defined by Synod 2022 (specifically the teaching that homosexual intercourse is unchaste)” (parenthesis original). Tuininga requested “that Classis Grand Rapids East instruct Grace CRC’s council to: 1) rescind the statement and policies … 2) express its commitment to CRC confessional teaching and to promoting chastity … 3) require its office bearers who object to this teaching to submit themselves to the gravamen process in accord with CRC church order.”
In its response to the appeal, the council of Grace CRC recommended sustaining the appeal, saying, “We acknowledge that we currently hold to a policy that is not in line with the current standards of the CRCNA and submit ourselves to discipline under Classis.” It also said, “Grace Church remains committed to our statement, as changing it would be contrary to the expressed will and conscience of the council and congregation of Grace Church. Rescinding our statement would have a catastrophic effect on our congregational integrity and be contrary to our understanding of God’s Word.”
Classis adopted a mandate for the “Creative Next Steps Committee” at its September meeting: “This Classis GRE ad hoc committee will explore creative next steps by: identifying issues, articulating desired attributes, researching various possible options, connecting with experts, and convening conversations with stakeholders within and beyond our Classis, with the goal of finding the best paths forward that allow our global ministry to flourish.”
Classis Grand Rapids East voted to have its executive team establish a committee to help classis address confessional alignment issues, including matters related to the sustained Tuininga appeal and “alignment-related mandates received from Synod 2023.”
Classis Grand Rapids East hosted an executive-session classis meeting October 26 “with the intention of speaking and listening with the above issues in mind.” Participants shared in listening circles, according to public minutes, responding to questions such as, “As some churches wrestle with these questions and consider possible next steps, what do you want them or the classis to keep in mind as they do so?” and “What do you think your church needs in order to move forward in the mission God is calling you to?” Minutes say input from each listening circle will be provided to the Creative Next Steps Committee.
The council of High River (Alta.) CRC protested the Oct. 27 meeting of Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan as noted in the minutes: “In keeping with the decision of Synod 2023, ‘That synod instruct all classes to guide into compliance the office bearers of their constituent churches who publicly reject the biblical guidelines affirmed by Synod 2022 regarding same-sex relationships,’ the council of High River CRC protests the seating of any delegate or delegation to this meeting which has rejected the biblical guidelines affirmed by Synod 2022 regarding same-sex relationships.’” The minutes note eight delegates, apart from the High River delegation, who added their names to the protest.
Classis Alberta South/Saskatchewan voted to end the current University of Calgary Campus Ministry effective December 31, 2024, tasking the current Campus Ministry committee with enabling the closing of the 20-year-old, classis-supported ministry and transitioning to one that would operate independent of classis.
Classis B.C. North-West received a disaffiliation request from Christ Community Church in Nanaimo, B.C., and appointed classis representatives to meet with the church’s council. The classis minutes note, “CCC Nanaimo shared their report and that the primary reason council is recommending disaffiliation is because of the confessional status piece of synod’s approval of the Human Sexuality Report.”
Classes may direct requests or communications to synod according to the Rules of Synodical Procedure.
Classis Atlantic Northeast is asking Synod 2024 not to adopt the Church Order changes proposed by Synod 2023 regarding the addition of the CRCNA Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders. It instead suggests referencing the Code of Conduct in supplements to the Church Order. (For background, see Synod 2023 Adopts Modified Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders, June 14, 2023.)
About the Author
Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.