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Synod 2024: Officebearers to Uphold Behavior Standards in CRC Code of Conduct

Karen Bastian, Classis Eastern Canada: “I think it’s important that we have a code of conduct so that … when we represent the church we understand how to behave.”
Steven Herppich

Synod 2024 adopted an addition to Church Order, proposed by Synod 2023, stating that all officebearers shall “uphold the standards of behavior” of the Christian Reformed Church Code of Conduct for Ministry Leaders—a document approved by Synod 2023 after being originally proposed in a set of recommendations from Synod 2019.

The Code of Conduct, which received feedback from churches and classes before being approved last year, applies to officebearers (pastors, elders, and deacons), CRC staff members, and members of the Council of Delegates, but local councils are encouraged to use it for all church staff and volunteers “who are providing leadership in the church as ministry leaders.”

Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It is meeting June 14-20 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Church Order is a record of guidelines the CRC member churches have covenanted together to keep. Articles may only be changed by the proposal of one synod and adoption by a subsequent synod.

The recommendation to adopt Synod 2023’s proposed Church Order addition prompted some discussion.

Rob Braun, Classis Lake Superior, said he “never quite understood why we’re doing a code of conduct” when the denomination already has “several layers of accountability,” such as the Covenant for Officebearers, the Church Order, the Scriptures, and the Judicial Code. Peter Jonker, Classis Grand Rapids South, chair of the committee bringing the recommendation, responded that the purpose of the code is to “make explicit what we already know.”

Herb Scheur, Classis Northcentral Iowa, said he was “not opposed to a code of conduct,” but thought the creation of one should be left to “each congregation, each council.”

Todd Ritzema, Classis Grand Rapids North, raised the concern that differences in legal standards in different regions of the denomination—which spans the United States and Canada—might pose challenges to the usefulness of a single code. “I don’t know how one-size-fits all could possibly fit this,” said Ritzema.

Karen Bastian, Classis Eastern Canada, said the code of conduct was important because it could apply to ministry leaders—such as nursery workers and Sunday school teachers—who don’t sign the Covenant for Officebearers. “I think it’s important that we have a code of conduct so that … when we represent the church we understand how to behave.”

The motion carried after a close voice vote with two negative votes recorded.

The committee also brought a recommendation not to suspend the work of the Dignity Team, which synod accepted. The Council of the CRC of St. Joseph, Mich., sent a request (Overture 10) to disband the five-member team introduced in 2022, saying “Our great concern is that although this team is mandated to respond to ‘abuses of power that occur within CRC circles,’ there is no process identified through which those abuses of power are to be justly and objectively determined.” But synod declined to do that. “The Dignity Team is very new,” the committee’s report said. “To accede to the overture’s request … risks losing the unique pastoral function of the Dignity Team,” which the report said, has been “overwhelmed with requests” since its creation.

At the recommendation of the reporting committee, synod rejected Overture 11, from Judy DeWit, Hancock (Minn.) CRC that asked synod to explore the need for a licensing board for CRCNA pastors. The committee said that such a board would conflict with church polity, and that its purpose is already addressed by groups such as Thrive (which comprises former Safe Church staff).

Synod rejected another overture from DeWit that requested “advisory committees review and present all pertinent information when synod receives overtures or appeals on abuse” on the grounds that there are “limitations” to how much information synod can process.

Synod 2024 is meeting June 14-20 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at Visit for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.

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