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Given the deferred material from Synod 2023, an anticipated large number of overtures from the classes, and anxiety in the churches about synod not having enough time to adequately complete its work, the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church in North America is making allowances for the June 2024 general assembly to work more effectively with its in-person time.

Although details can be adjusted by the program committee (comprised of the officers of the previous synod), the Council of Delegates agreed to “allow an online convening session of Synod 2024 to be held the evening of Wednesday, May 29th consisting of the elements laid out in the proposal of the director of Synodical Services” and to “allow for one hour meetings of advisory committees on the evening of Wednesday, June 5th for introductions only.” Synod 2024 is scheduled to gather June 14-20 on the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The Council of Delegates is the ecclesiastical governing board of the CRCNA, working on behalf of synod in between meetings of synod. It meets three times a year, most recently by video conference Feb. 14-16.

The elements making up the May 29 session include opening worship led by the president pro-tem (usually the pastor of the host congregation), roll call and introductions of advisers and guests by the general secretary, election of officers for Synod 2024, opening remarks from the newly elected president of synod, and the presentation of the program committee report for the approval of advisory committees.

William Koopmans, Classis Hamilton, served on the program committee for Synod 2022, which first proposed an online start to that synod. He said, “I think the results were quite favorable. And the feedback that we got was not negative in terms of it was implemented as a necessity (because of the extraordinary circumstance of synod not having met for two years), but it seemed to expedite the process and make synod function well. So personally I think that this is a good idea.”

The Council had received two formal correspondences requesting adjustments like these for 2024, and Scott DeVries, director of Synodical Services, noted in his proposal that several informal suggestions had also been made.

Herb Schreur, Classis Northcentral Iowa, who had been a delegate to Synod 2023, said, “I’m in favor of anything that can possibly be done so that nobody who goes to synod ever has to feel what those of us that were there last year felt, in that we look back at all the time we spent not doing the work of synod while we were in Grand Rapids and that we did not get the work done that we were sent there to do.”

Matt Ackerman, Classis Lake Erie, acknowledged that “the work of synod is deliberation, but it's also and perhaps more importantly carrying forward the vision of the church and our sense of where God is calling us as a denomination.” Ackerman did not want the hearing of ministry reports from the denomination’s agencies and institutions to be diminished as not the work of synod. “I think that's vital work of synod too, and I don't want to disparage it and cut it out of what we do.”

Requests Sent to Classes to Promote Efficiency

In addition to these two allowances for online actions, DeVries’ proposal noted efforts being made by staff toward effective use of time that do not require Council approval and included recommendations to share with classes about ways those assemblies can contribute to the effectiveness of synod.

The Council of Delegates voted to share those recommendations, which include a suggestion to “Minimize the number of overtures that specifically address the deferred overtures and the advisory committee reports, 8D and 8E majority and minority, communicated by Synod 2023 to Synod 2024.” Those reports are last year’s synodical committee’s recommendations on the gravamen process—guidelines for how officebearers may communicate a personal difficulty with a part of a confession of the church.

“Every new overture that is based on those materials will have to go to the (2024) advisory committee addressing those materials and will slow down Synod 2024’s ability to get the issue to the floor,” the suggestions shared with classes say.

Two delegates spoke against sharing the recommendations to classes. Amy Nydham, Classis Alberta North, said, “For better or for worse, the synod work that was not able to get completed on those reports (8D and 8E majority and minority) gave classes new information to which they should be able to respond.” Nydham didn’t want that discouraged. Thea Leunk, Classis Grand Rapids East, said, “I think that it's important that classes and churches be allowed to respond, perhaps in a different way than they would have responded last year, to some of those issues that were on the agenda last year and will be on the agenda this year.”

Five negative votes were recorded on the decision to send to classes the requests for efficiency at synod.

Efficiency on the Floor of Synod

The Council of Delegates also instructed the general secretary to make recommendations to the officers for Synod 2024 regarding how to manage plenary times. Among them, “leave the speaking clock in a location visible to delegates” (the clock was at times removed from delegates’ view during Synod 2023), and “encourage the chair to exercise his/her right to set time limits on debates that are expected to go long (Rules for Synodical Procedure, VIII,J,5).”

Nydham said she appreciated that recommendation to the chair and wanted leadership “to see to it that the chair is looking after that more so than the members” who might cut discussion short by way of “calling the question” in debate.

Worship Theme: God With Us

The Council of Delegates approved “God With Us” as the theme for the worship and prayer times of Synod 2024. It was proposed by the denomination’s prayer shepherd, Jon Hoekema, in consultation with a team of 10 staff in November.

“It was discerned through our sharing that many in our denomination feel we are in uncertain times as a denomination, and others are excited about what the Holy Spirit is doing in new mission opportunities and in renewing congregations,” Hoekema wrote. “The theme, then, had to be honest about both of those realities. … In this time of uncertainty and the new work of the Holy Spirit in the CRC, being reminded of the truth that God is with us—in our fear, in peace, in our anxiety, in trust, in community, in joy, in doubt, in our mission, in the unknown, in all of life—should be foundational for us.”

The Council also approved two ethnic advisers and seven young adult representatives to serve Synod 2024. Joao Pedro Macimiano Trabbold and Patrick Lin will serve as ethnic advisers and Samantha Sebastia, Gavin Schaefer, Ireland Bosworth, Verity Johnston, Eric Katerberg, Lain Martinez Vasquez, and Iain Monroe as Young Adult Representatives, with Joshua Vermeer as an alternate. Sebastia and Schaefer previously served in that role at Synod 2023.

Young adult representatives, non-voting 18- to 26-year-olds, have been welcomed to synod since 2009. “These individuals bring a valuable and unique perspective to the issues we face as a denomination by listening, engaging delegates during advisory committee meetings, and offering input on matters that arise in plenary” (Agenda for Synod 2023, p. 35).

Ethnic advisers, non-voting participants belonging to an ethnic minority population in the CRC, are appointed in years where the ethnic diversity of synod, through the appointment of delegates, is lacking. That’s determined by the rolling three-year average of ethnically diverse delegates. If it’s less than 25, advisers are appointed for the upcoming synod (Rules for Synodical Procedure, III, B, 2b).

The host church for Synod 2024 is Lee Street CRC in Wyoming, Mich., as approved by synod last year. The Council of Delegates is recommending that synod accept the invitation of First CRC in Chatham, Ont., to serve as the convening church of Synod 2025. That church will celebrate 100 years in 2026. Synod 2025 is to take place at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ont. The Council is recommending that synod approve Calvin University as the location for Synod 2026, with the host church to be determined.

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