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The CRC’s Synod

Synod affirms the work of the CRC’s social justice ministries while adding new oversight committee.

The Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) met in Grand Rapids, Michigan from June 7-14. The Reformed Church in America (RCA) met simultaneously, and the two groups shared various times of worship, joint sessions and seminars. How the two churches can further cooperate and share ministry was discussed, but a proposal to join and “radically reconfigure” the two denominations was rejected. Among other synod events and decisions:

The 52-member Council of Delegates, which replaced the denominational Board of Trustees, reported to synod for the first time. The bi-national council meets three times a year. Its recommendations must be approved by synod.

Each of three congregations will be allowed to transfer to a different classis, for geographical reasons (Stephenville, TX to Cl. Rocky Mt.; Hope Community, Indianapolis, to Cl . Kalamazoo) and for better theological affinity (also Indianapolis; and Peace, Menno, SD to Cl. Minnkota).

Ongoing decline in CRC membership was noted and reasons discussed, among them demographics: family size has shrunk. “When you look at the change in numbers of ‘professing members’ (usually 18 or older) compared to the decline in ‘total members,’ which also includes children, CRCNA membership looks a lot more stable,” synod was told. However, classes growing the most are organized ethnically: Red Mesa and Hanmi/Ko-am. Metropolitan areas are also becoming more important.

Synod 2016 initiated a review of all denominational ministries, with the goal of streamlining church administration. Synod 2017 received an update, and this year a conclusion was drawn: no ministry was considered expendable; all were (to slightly varying degrees) considered doing important, necessary work.

In response to three overtures, synod discussed how the church should address social justice and political issues, and whether or how it should engage in political activity (see background story in CC, May 28). The requests came over differences of opinion about what constitutes advocating biblical principles on issues in the public square, and what constitutes lobbying or advocating specific political views. In the end, it was decided that a new oversight committee for the U.S. part of the church will be formed to provide guidance and support for its existing Office of Social Justice (OSJ). The model for the new committee is the Canadian Committee for Contact with the Government (CCG).

Delegates were generally happy with this solution, described as “a good middle ground.” The new committee was seen as both a way of tempering the OSJ and protecting it from unfair criticism. Delegates were reminded that “we are Christians first and member of political parties second.” Synod then urged that the existing social justice ministries carefully connect their political advocacy with theological reflection, basing it on “biblical principles for public discipleship,” and that, when they do call for the public action by church members, they “provide rationale that is biblical, theologically Reformed, and grounded in . . . denominational positions.” Church members were urged to continue to pray for their denomination “as it speaks the gospel to the nations, and for growth in wisdom with respect to these matters.” 

  • Marian Van Til is a former CC editor who lived in Canada from 1975-2000. She now freelances for journals and writes books. Marian is also a classical musician and the music director at a Lutheran Church. She and her husband, Ed Cassidy, live in Youngstown, NY.

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