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Classis Watch: Late Spring 2022

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Two or three times each year, Christian Reformed churches send representatives to their classis, a regional group 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.)

Those welcomed into ministry in the Christian Reformed Church (Arts. 6 and 10) include candidates Travis Jamieson, Ram Aryal, and David Bouma.

Those welcomed into ministry in the CRC from other denominations: Rev. Brandon Smith (Art. 8-b); Revs. Insoo Oh, Jeremy Rhodes (Art. 8-c).

Ministers released from a congregation (Art. 17-a): Revs. Jeff Janssens from Heartland Fellowship in Chilliwack, B.C.; Ed Gerber from Willoughby CRC in Langley, B.C.; Robert Byker from Rehoboth (N.M.) CRC; and Jonathan Fischer from New Hope CRC in Bangor, Maine.

Bill Weber and Timothy Howerzyl (previously ordained in the CRC) were declared eligible for call (Art. 14-e).

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.” 

Shannon Jammal Hollemans, Shu-Min Cheng, Jeffrey Funk, and George Keulen were honorably released. Glenn Gerdes and Matthew A. Riddle were released. Garrett Saul was released to seek ordination in the Anglican denomination. Jonathan Owens was dismissed (Art. 14-c). 

Ministers retiring (Art. 18) (granted emeritus status): Revs. Steve Elzinga, Lyle Bierma, Mike VanderKwaak, Sheldon Starkenburg (effective June 30), Bart Velthuizen (effective Aug. 22).

Commissioned Pastors 

Approved as commissioned pastors called to specific roles within their classes (Art. 23): Danny Vera (Classis Southeast U.S.), Youngja Yun Kim (Northcentral Iowa), Jon Pollnow (Classis Ontario Southwest), Frances Griffith (Classis Greater Los Angeles), Evelyn Bennally (Classis Red Mesa), and Miguel Nava (Classis Greater Los Angeles). 

Eric Graef (Classis Central California) was released and Ben Buckley (Classis Northern Cascades) was honorably released from ministry as a commissioned pastor (Art. 24-d).

Commissioned pastor emeritus status (Art. 24-e) was granted to JoAnn Swart (Classis Grand Rapids East), Colin Watson Sr. (effective June 30, Classis Grand Rapids East), Mike Collins (Classis Niagara), and Alvern Boetsma (effective Aug. 31, Classis Central Plains).

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).

Seed Church in Queens, N.Y., (Classis Hudson) was recognized as emerging.

First CRC in Ripon, Calif., disaffiliated from the CRC (Art. 38-f). (See “Historic California Congregation Disaffiliates From the CRC.”)

Name change: Middleville (Mich.) CRC is now Restoration CRC.

Other Matters

Classis Northcentral Iowa at its March 2022 meeting made “an exception to the position of Classis not to call women as pastors to allow for Rev. Lora Copley (formerly ministering in Red Mesa classis) to be called to serve Areopagus Campus Ministry in Ames with full rights and benefits of a Minister of the Word in classis.” 

Synod

Classes may direct requests or communications to synod, the broadest assembly of the Christian Reformed Church, awaiting its next convening. 

Classis Southeast U.S. is asking synod to develop a strategy to reverse the trend of membership decline in the Christian Reformed Church and require annual  reporting of progress. It’s a reiteration of a request this classis made in 2017. The new request says since that time the decline hasn’t improved but has gotten worse. (This overture was submitted after the deadline to receive material for the agenda for Synod 2022 and will go to Synod 2023.)

Classis Arizona endorsed a position statement by the Consejo Latino, a network of Hispanic ministry leaders, supporting the human sexuality report. Two other classes, Rocky Mountain and California South, also have endorsed the position and have forwarded the communication, written in Spanish and English, to synod. 

The human sexuality report is formally known as the report to synod of the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality. The committee was mandated by Synod 2016 to “provide concise yet clear ethical guidance for what constitutes a holy and healthy Christian sexual life, and in light of this to serve the church with pastoral, ecclesial, and missional guidance that explains how the gospel provides redemptive affirmation and hope for those experiencing sexual questioning, temptation, and sin” (Acts of Synod 2016). Originally destined to come to Synod 2021, which was canceled, the report makes up a significant portion of the agenda for Synod 2022. Earlier communications related to the human sexuality report have been noted in Classis Watch: Winter 2021, Classis Watch: Spring 2021, Classis Watch: Late Spring 2021, Classis Watch: Fall 2021, Classis Watch: Late Fall 2021, Classis Watch: Winter 2022, and Classis Watch: Spring 2022.

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