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The Agenda for Synod 2024 was published online last week, two months ahead of Christian Reformed delegates coming together in Grand Rapids, Mich., to attend to the various reports, requests, nominations, and communications. Synod 2024 will convene in one online session May 29 to elect officers and hear opening remarks and then do the bulk of its work June 14-20 on the campus of Calvin University. One hundred eighty-seven ministers, elders, and deacons are being sent as delegates by their classes, the 49 regional assemblies of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Here’s a summary of what to watch for.


One significant question, lingering from Synod 2023, is how completely do church officebearers have to adhere to the church confessions, and who decides? Can an elder or deacon express difficulty with one of the church’s confessed doctrines, using a confessional-difficulty gravamen (see more about that here), and remain an officebearer? Or must they resolve their difficulty before being able to serve? Does a church council need to disclose such difficulties to wider assemblies? The gravamen tool, described in Church Order Supplement, Article 5, got a lot of attention after Synod 2022 when delegates to that synod declared as confessional the understanding that homosexual sex is among sexual behaviors to be considered unchaste and a violation of the seventh commandment. Several overtures (requests) were sent to Synod 2023 on those matters, and an advisory committee drew up recommendations, but after some discussion the officers for Synod 2023 determined there wasn’t sufficient time to reach a decision. The majority report called for gravamina to be temporary and resolved by either the officebearer’s full subscription or resigning their office; a minority report suggested a gravamen not have a specified timeframe but “be revisited yearly by the council” that received the difficulty. Being added to last year’s requests (pp. 351-410 in the Agenda for Synod 2024) and the advisory committee reports (pp. 540-546) are 14 new overtures related to the covenant for officebearers and gravamina (Overtures 18, 19, 20, 22, 27, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43) and one overture (21) requesting that Synod 2024 go directly back to where Synod 2023 left off and take up the previous synod’s advisory committee reports.

While the work left unfinished from last year’s synod might be top of mind, there is a lot more in the agenda—a total of 614 pages—worth noting.

Related to the questions about an officebearer’s obligations to the confessions is a request from an Alberta pastor that synod “Articulate What Is Expected of Confessing Members When Agreeing with the Confessions,” such as when making profession of faith or presenting a child for baptism (Overture 17). A request from Classis Minnkota (Overture 44) asks that no exceptions to the “Covenant for Faculty Members” (similar to that of officebearers) be allowed for faculty of Calvin University. And Classis Alberta North asks that synod “review and clarify the implications of its decisions concerning the definition of ‘unchastity’ in Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108,” including to answer questions such as, “Will compliance be pursued and ensured equally for all the matters identified as ‘unchaste’—including premarital sex and pornography—and other areas of the confessions? How would this be achieved?” (Overture 32).

Further on confessional matters, synod will consider a request to reassess a decision made in 1985 to footnote a paragraph of Article 36 of the Belgic Confession, the oldest of the three confessional documents to which the CRC holds. The council of the Christian Reformed Church of St. Joseph, Mich., makes a request to reinstate this paragraph, footnoted “because the language related to the Anabaptists seemed harsh, divisive, inaccurate, or inappropriate” (Overture 14, Acts of Synod 2024, p. 444). “While this compromise may have been sufficient to bring the disputes at Synod 1985 to an end,” writes the St. Joseph council, “it has removed from the body of our confession important content that the church is desperately in need of in the days in which we live. Specifically, it has removed content related to the subversion of justice through the introduction of common ownership of goods, and the way in which this serves to corrupt the moral order that God has established among human beings.”


There are several requests about administering church discipline for classes or congregations seen to be acting contrary to decisions of synod or the confessed teachings of the church (Overtures 23, 25, 26, 30, 31, 34), along with requests to refrain from enacting discipline on narrower assemblies (Overtures 27 and 38) and to rescind the 2023 synodical instruction for “classes to guide into compliance the officebearers of their constituent churches who publicly reject the biblical guidelines affirmed by Synod 2022 regarding same-sex relationships,” on the basis of faulty grounds (Overture 33). Classis Atlantic Northeast asks that the Church Order Supplement, Articles 82-84, dealing with discipline, include procedures for when “broader assemblies may apply special discipline in extraordinary circumstances” (Overture 24).

A couple of overtures ask for more explicit denunciation of sexual immorality and the prohibition of homosexual sex in particular. Overture 28, from an Illinois church, asks synod “to declare as heresy the belief that Scripture sanctions homosexual marriage or relationships,” and Overture 29, from Classis Iakota, asks synod to “declare that Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108, along with all cases of unrepentant sin, addresses a salvation issue.”

Resources for Belonging or Leaving

Two more overtures relate to teachings on sexuality and their implications: An Indiana church asks synod “to solicit resources and tools for LGBTQ ministry from Christian Reformed churches who are in agreement with the CRC’s position on homosexuality,” noting “we have had less opportunity to hear from congregations who have become places of belonging for LGBTQ people while maintaining the CRC’s position on homosexuality” (Overture 16); and an overture from an Alberta church “born out of lament that our unity in Christ is breaking, and out of a desire to love well those who have discerned it is time to leave” requests that synod “appoint a Gentle Pathway Task Force for the purpose of providing support for … congregations and pastors who have discerned a need to leave the CRCNA” (Overture 45).


There are also communications from individuals, churches, and classes addressing sexuality and past actions of synod. Communications differ from overtures in that they don’t request a specific action of synod but instead communicate concern, protest, or other expressions of importance. This year three of the included communications (5,7, and 9) were originally sent as overtures but were judged by the Office of General Secretary to fall short of presenting “sufficient and new grounds for a revision of a synodical decision.” Being included in the agenda as communications allows “for transparency and for the officers of synod, or a motion from the floor, to decide otherwise.”

Classis Grand Rapids East, which was given directives by Synod 2023 regarding Neland Avenue CRC and other congregations out of compliance with synodical decisions, sends Communication 8 “to provide information about the new Alignment Committee appointed by our classis” and inviting “conversation with other classes who are engaged in similar work and would like to support each other by sharing their best practices and challenges.” Grand Rapids East also has a communication of protest from six of its member churches (Communication 26) and there are 11 other communications of protest from churches or members of churches in Michigan, Alberta, British Columbia, Indiana, and Ontario, contesting the “confessional status” declaration of Synod 2022 regarding the prohibition of same-sex sex, even in a legal marriage (Communications 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).

Classis Minnkota has communications protesting the ordination and seating of women as delegates to synod (Communication 14), protesting the seating of delegates who have filed a confessional-difficulty gravamen (Communication 13), and endorsing or rejecting parts of the 2023 advisory committee report shared with Synod 2024 (Communication 6).

Classis Rocky Mountain expresses concern over any change to the current gravamen procedure (Communication 4), and the Council of River Park CRC in Calgary, Alta., expresses “concerns with the trajectory of the CRCNA,” particularly “going further down this path of ‘guiding into compliance’ the local church with the heavy hand of classical discipline” (Communication 12).

Communications 10 and 11 are unusual because communications sent on behalf of a single individual are rare. Material that is properly before synod must first be processed by a church council and then by the classis to which that council belongs. If neither of those bodies adopts the communication as its own, the individual member has to pursue the matter to the next assembly. A member of Ivanrest CRC in Grandville, Mich., writes, “The CRCNA has long said that it wants to hear from young and LGBTQ+ voices. Mine is one of those. I'm a 23-year-old in the church. I also identify as LGBTQ+.” Lain Martinez Vasquez, who is also a young adult representative to synod this year, goes on to share what she calls a psalm, encouraging:

The children of God are everywhere—they are in churches that are independent,

And they worship and serve him in other denominations too.

So, if the Christian Reformed Church is no longer a good fit,

Do not fret, but rather, take comfort in knowing there’s still a place for you

In the body of Christ. As a matter of fact, it could be

That you were never meant to stay indefinitely

In this one particular part of the body that is the CRC.

Another young adult, Aaliyah Verhoef, a member of River Park CRC, Calgary, Alta., writes: “It is my belief, one that I share with many people in my community, that it is more important to be united and find ways to respect and care for each other despite disagreement than to hold the same stance on certain issues.” She includes quotations from seven other young people about sexuality and the church. (See "Young CRC Members Send Messages to Synod," April 29, 2024)


There are other significant matters on synod’s agenda, including a report from the Church Order Review Task Force with recommendations for Church Order articles related to the calling, supervision, release, and readmission of Ministers of the Word. Church Order is the established set of rules that govern how congregations and other assemblies will work together in the denomination. It can be changed only by a vote of synod, with recommendations for changes being proposed by one synod and adopted by a subsequent synod. Synod 2022 asked for a review of Articles 8, 12, 13, 14, 16, and 17 and their supplements, seeking to “develop suggestions for clearer guidelines to pastors and churches in times of conflict, as well as assistance for positive pastoral transitions and more effective oversight of individuals in specialized ministries” (Acts of Synod 2022, p. 849). The report, found in Appendix B of the Council of Delegates’ report to Synod 2024, suggests some updates for consistency and clarity, but recommends no substantive change for pastor and church separations governed by Article 17a.

Synod 2024 also will consider adopting changes to Church Order Articles 14, 15, and 23 and their Supplements as proposed by Synod 2023 in support of bivocational pastors (Agenda for Synod 2024, Council of Delegates Report, p. 53). There is one request from Classis Atlantic Northeast to not adopt the proposed addition to Article 23-d and its supplement. “While well intentioned and aimed at developing a parity in terms of the ways churches support ministers of the Word and commissioned pastors, the proposal obscures the very real differences between these offices, particularly in the distinct ways in which these two offices serve the denomination” (Overture 13).

The Candidacy Committee recently conducted a survey on the leadership landscape of the CRCNA, which it includes in its report (Agenda for Synod 2024, pp. 299-311). There are notes on vacancies, “defined as a church with no ordained pastor—neither minister of the Word nor commissioned pastor—serving in a solo or senior role,” classis support for leadership development, the various pathways to ordained ministry and how often they’re used, and additional feedback. “We hope that the data compiled through this survey can fuel conversations and inform strategies to move the denomination toward the desired positive growth trend,” the committee writes.

Ecumenical Relations

Along with Candidacy, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee and Historical Committee make up the three standing committees of synod who report to synod every year. The EIRC is recommending no change to the current “church in cooperation” status with the relatively new Alliance of Reformed Churches, a network of mostly formerly Reformed Church in America congregations that formed in 2021. Synod 2023 recognized “the Alliance of Reformed Churches as a church in cooperation for the purpose of continued pursuit toward designation as a church in communion” (Acts of Synod 2023, p. 990). “After ongoing conversations and deliberation by the EIRC, the committee determined that as the Alliance of Reformed Churches is currently in a period of significant change, which includes adding new member congregations, developing their structural guidelines, and formalizing the procedures for their ordination process, the status of church in cooperation should be maintained with a view toward transitioning to that of church in communion in the future,” the committee reports (Agenda for Synod 2024, p. 321).

The EIRC notes “a significant time of upheaval” for the CRCNA as well as for its closest ecumenical partner, the Reformed Church in America. “Unfortunately, all of the internal focus of our two denominations has resulted in decreased collaboration despite strong relationships between the leaders of these two denominations,” the EIRC reports (Agenda for Synod 2024, p. 322), while noting ongoing shared projects between Resonate Global Mission (CRCNA) and RCA Global Mission, collaboration on ecumenical efforts, and two bilateral meetings of CRCNA and RCA senior leaders “to learn together about critical ministry challenges and opportunities facing our two denominations.”

With these reports, Synod 2024 also will consider a request from Classis Iakota to reexamine the CRCNA’s ecumenical relationship with the RCA, “to begin a dialogue about current RCA practices and whether we really are aligned in doctrine and practice” (Overture 15).

The EIRC asks synod to approve the Christian Reformed Church in Liberia as a church in cooperation (Agenda for Synod 2024, p. 322) and it determined not to join the World Council of Churches at this time (Agenda for Synod 2024, p. 321). It also will ask synod to appoint three new EIRC members to replace outgoing members William Koopmans, Jim Joosse, and Ruth Hofman (nominations will come in the supplement to the Agenda for Synod 2024) and to reappoint Joy Engelsman to a second three-year term.

Historical Committee

There are no major recommendations from the historical committee, save recognition of a retiring committee member and the appointment of one of two nominees. Its report, however, notes a significant amount of ongoing work, including the following (Report of the Historical Committee, Agenda for Synod 2024, pp. 323-331):

  • digitization projects connected to the 150th anniversary of Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary in 2026
  • ethnic-specific history collection projects among the Navajo and Zuni CRC communities, Korean ethnic congregations in the denomination, and relations between the CRCNA and denominations in Korea
  • obtaining and archiving D.Min. degree theses by CRC pastors done at seminaries other than Calvin Theological Seminary
  • creating a record for other advanced degree work (M.A., M.T.S., Th.M., Ph.D.) beyond Calvin Seminary

Revisiting Race Relations

Synod 2024 will consider two requests (Overtures 8 and 9) to “reaffirm the decision of 1996 regarding racial reconciliation” and “encourage observance of the 1996 declaration on racial reconciliation.” Classis Chicago South says Synod 1996’s requests to classes (Agenda and Acts of Synod 1996, p. 514) “were not fully and universally implemented by the classes of the CRCNA.” It wants synod to reaffirm “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” (Agenda and Acts of Synod 1996, p. 513).

This follows a request to Synod 2022 to “oppose white supremacy and systemic racism.” Synod’s response to that request included asking the executive director (now general secretary) to “encourage leaders at all levels of the church to continue to provide opportunities for listening, learning, and practicing civil dialogue on the difficult conversations needed to better understand one another’s perspectives on racism and biblical justice; encourage the churches to make use of denominational resources; solicit input from all the classes on providing the above opportunities; and report to Synod 2023” (Acts of Synod 2022, p. 952). Zachary King’s report to synod was included in Appendix K of the supplement to the Agenda for Synod 2023. It received very little discussion during that synod.

An effort to pursue a “One Family Conversation” among classes “related to the topic of diversity and its key place in the CRCNA” has begun in several classes “but there are still many to go,” reports the Council of Delegates (Agenda, p. 28).


The Office of General Secretary and the CRC’s Thrive ministry have begun working on an assignment from Synod 2023, to work with “each agency, and churches and classes to develop a comprehensive unified strategy and plan to arrest and reverse the trend of decline and bring about a positive trend of membership growth to our denomination” (Acts of Synod 2023 p. 976). An early response to that is to host 10 conversational gatherings inviting five classes at a time to discover together “how God is already at work renewing the church” (Agenda, p. 61). Called “Gather” these two-day sessions have already begun. The Council of Delegates presents the plan to synod for information.

In pursuit of renewal, the Council of Delegates is also asking synod to extend the Our Journey 2025 ministry plan to the year 2030. This plan with the milestones of cultivating prayer and spiritual disciplines, listening to the voices of all generations, growing in diversity and unity, and sharing the gospel and living it missionally “fits well in the present context and is oriented toward the kind of congregational renewal envisioned in recent synodical directives such as reversing membership decline,” the Council says in its report (Agenda p. 25).


Along with a loss of membership has come a decrease in contributions to the shared denominational expenses. A few years ago the system for collecting those ministry shares had an overhaul. Instead of requesting a per-member amount from the churches to fund a set budget, synod asks the churches to pledge what they will contribute in support, and a budget is drawn up based on the expected funds. Since the change, synod has been reviewing participation and Synod 2023 asked the Council of Delegates to make recommendations for further changes based on review findings. The Council’s report on its progress is on page 47 of the Agenda for Synod 2024.

The Council is also submitting to synod its Financial Reserve Policy, Cash Holding Policy, Fundraising Ethical Guidelines Policy, Investment Policy, and the Condensed Financial Statements of the Agencies and Institutions.

The Christian Reformed Church Loan Fund has its own report to synod, p. 254 in the Agenda, and there is a report on the pension and insurance plans held by the denomination, starting on p. 260. Two classes are sending requests to synod about the Ministers’ Pension Fund (Overtures 3 and 4), and the fund trustees will provide comments on these in the supplement to the Agenda.

Matters Relating to Disputes and Abuse of Power

Synod 2019 adopted several recommendations to see, end, and prevent the abuse of power in CRC organizations and churches, including ongoing reporting on the efforts. The Council of Delegates report to synod has updates on that (Agenda, pp. 34-35). A request from a church council wants one part of that effort, the work of the dignity team, suspended (Overture 10). Originally envisioned as a team “that would act as a guardian of our commitment to foster a culture characterized by respect for all and mutual service” (Acts of Synod 2019, p. 798), the group was to be appointed by the Council of Delegates, “designed to allow early intervention in response to complaints,” and have its role reviewed after three years for effectiveness.

Related: Abuse Prevention Updates Include Dignity Team Members, Code of Conduct Feedback, Oct. 7, 2022

A review of the judicial code and appointment and reappointment of judicial code committee members is also on the agenda. The Judicial Code of Rights and Procedures is included in the Church Order, Supplement, Art. 30-c. Intended “to be a dispute-resolution mechanism of last resort,” it does “provide rights for all parties and a fair process toward resolution,” but “it does not purport to restore the mutual trust that may have been lost as any given dispute may have raged and festered.” Synod 2019 initiated a plan to review the judicial code every five years, and the Council of Delegates formed a team for this task in late 2022. “The task force reviewed the existing Judicial Code line by line and is currently writing recommendations for revisions,” the Council of Delegates’ report to synod says. “Their report is planned for submission to the COD prior to its May 2024 meeting for inclusion in the COD Supplement report to synod.”

Two requests from an individual member of Hancock (Minn.) CRC connect to matters of preventing abuse and properly reviewing appeals. Overture 11 asks synod to consider the need for a CRCNA licensing board for pastors. “Licensing boards serve to protect the public from misconduct, maltreatment, and abuse by being accessible to persons harmed so that such persons may file a complaint or grievance against a licensed professional whom they believe has violated them,” writes Hancock CRC member Judy deWitt. Overture 12 wants synod to “ensure that advisory committees review and present all pertinent information when synod receives overtures or appeals on abuse.”

Agencies, Institutions, and Ministries

Synod 2024 also will receive annual updates from all of the denomination’s agencies, ministries, and institutions, contributed in a unified report from the Council of Delegates. These start on p. 221 of the Agenda.

The report from Calvin Theological Seminary notes an anticipated faculty search in the area of theology with the expected retirement of professor Mary VandenBerg in July 2025, details a new competency-based theological education program called Empower, and includes a statement of confessional commitment, a response to a Synod 2023 matter deferred to Synod 2024.

The report from Calvin University notes “the challenge of an abrupt presidential transition” during this school year. It also notes enrollment growth, local and global engagement, a summary of faculty’s scholarly work over the past year, and students’ experience of faith, worship, and church partnerships on campus. Synod will ratify appointments of trustees to the boards of Calvin University and the seminary.

Related: Calvin University Board Reports ‘Concerning and Inappropriate’ Alleged Conduct, President Resigns, Feb. 28, 2024; Chimes Reports Due Process Concerns Around Boer Resignation, Board Response, April 4, 2024; Lawsuit Against Calvin University Alleges Breach of Contract and Defamation; Board Statement Counters ‘Misrepresentations’, April 17, 2024

Two Canadian ministries, the Centre for Public Dialogue (Agenda, p. 251) and Indigenous Ministry (p. 257), contributed reports that include mention of their participation in the Canadian National Gathering in May 2023, advocacy, and “working with CRCNA partners to bring justice-themed learning experiences to churches.”

The CRC’s newest agency, Thrive, formed just last year out of nine former denominational ministries, has its first report starting on p. 277 of the Agenda. “Thrive engages Christian Reformed congregations through six primary activities: consultations and workshops for churches and classes; coaching and network facilitation for ministry leaders; and resource curation and creation for a wider range of audiences,” the report says. “During its first six months as a CRC ministry agency, Thrive has directly served more than 550 ministry leaders, provided consultation support related to safer church and other intervention and crisis response requests from 61 congregations, guided 39 churches through the PastorSearch process, and interacted with more than half of the Christian Reformed classes (regional groups of churches) throughout Canada and the United States.”


ReFrame Ministries and Resonate Global Mission, the CRC’s worldwide media outreach and mission agency in North America and abroad, have reports starting on p. 265 and p. 272, respectively. ReFrame reports on its work in 10 major world languages, noting that it “works with about 170 indigenous staff members and more than 300 volunteers around the world. Through its partnerships, ReFrame has a ministry presence in 55 countries through production and discipleship centers, broadcast locations, and resource distribution.” Resonate’s report focuses on its “core initiatives: mobilizing congregations, sending missionaries, and planting churches.”


World Renew, the CRC’s relief and development agency first formed in 1962, partnered “globally with 66 Christian churches and outreach partners, helping 478,504 participants change their stories of fear, despair, and trauma to stories of newfound strength and hope” over the last year. Its report to synod starts on p. 283.

Global Vision Team?

The Council of Delegates notes the CRC’s “long and vibrant dedication to mission work at home and abroad” by way of these agencies and references how the more than 100 years of mission work outside of North America established new or helped to support existing denominations. “Happily, many of these denominations came to have ecumenical relations with the CRCNA as churches in cooperation or communion. In recent years various changes have led churches from outside of North America to seek affiliation with the CRCNA,” the Council notes in its report (Agenda, p. 33).

“In response to this development the Council of Delegates instructed the General Secretary ‘to gather a discussion group to study the integration of international churches into the composition of the CRC.’ The General Secretary assembled a binational team of globally experienced and connected CRC leaders—called the Global Vision Team—to develop ‘a conceptual framework for a global Christian Reformed Church. The framework would include general principles/models of partnership, shared ministry, organization, governance, and communication.’ In February the COD gave the team some feedback on initial findings and ideas. A report to the COD is expected in May for possible approval and inclusion in the COD Supplement report to synod.”

The supplement to the Agenda, available in late May on the synod resources page, could include that framework and will include final nominations for various boards and additional and up-to-date financial information.

With a 614-page Agenda and more coming in the supplement, delegates to Synod 2024 have a lot of work ahead of them, not least the intractable questions of confessional subscription, discipline, and the future of the CRCNA.

As with the recent synods of 2022 and 2023, denominational staff are facilitating focused prayer for and during synod. Find more about that here.

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