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The Structure and Leadership Task Force (SALT)

A new partnership in the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA).

Sponsored Content: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the editorial perspective of Christian Courier.

The process of hiring three new CRCNA executives is well underway. As you read this article, the new General Secretary will have been identified and the selection process for a new Chief Administrative Officer and a new Executive Director Canada will be in its final stages. As the three candidates begin their new positions in July 2022, they will be guided by changes to the governance and leadership structure of the CRCNA.

In this article we share what this new governance and leadership structure will mean for the churches and the ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in Canada.

A New Model

Central to the SALT Report is the introduction of the partnership model. While recognizing that each CRCNA executive position is unique, the partnership model will require the individuals in these positions to work together as equals, partners and peers within their spheres of influence and responsibility.

The Executive Director Canada will direct the new Canada Office to implement contextualized ministries on behalf of the Canadian churches. The Executive Director Canada will be selected and employed by the CRCNA Canada Board. This individual will be the sole executive lead for the administrative staff in Canada.

The Canada Board, like other CRCNA ministry boards, agencies and institutions, will remain directly accountable to the Synod. It will continue to function cooperatively with other CRCNA ministry boards, agencies and institutions, given their shared vision and purpose.

To ensure that these changes take hold, Synod 2022 will issue an ecclesiastical mandate letter to the CRCNA Canada Board granting it authority to formally establish the Canada Office, contextualize denominational ministry in Canada, and initiate agreed upon ministries on behalf of the Canadian churches.

From Corporate Model to Partnership Model

SALT recommends that the partnership model replace the current corporate model reaffirmed by multiple synods of the CRCNA in order to begin the healing of fractured administrative, ministry and board relationships between Canada and the United States.

For most of the past twenty-five years, the corporate model has centralized administration and decision making of the CRCNA into a single executive leader in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While the corporate model may have been necessary to help the complex CRCNA organization address bureaucratic infighting and communication challenges, there were also significant downsides.

The question of how Canada fit into this corporate model remained unanswered. Despite efforts of multiple synodical committees and efforts by leaders on both sides of the border, the corporate model was not able to address the many cultural, governance, regulatory and financial challenges that come with a binational relationship. SALT recognizes that decades of simmering resentment and tension between the two countries has made it difficult for executive and governance leaders to trust each other and work together as equal partners.

SALT sought to address this mix of structural inadequacies and toxic culture by shifting the balance of power in Canada’s favor. For reasons of need and ministry uniqueness, SALT recommends that the Canada Board and the Executive Director Canada be empowered to enact ministry in Canada in ways that are culturally appropriate and aligned with synodical purposes.

Joint Ministry Agreements

The SALT Report recommends the use of Joint Ministry Agreements to structure the binational partnership between Canada and the U.S. Joint Ministry Agreements provide a means to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each partner, address issues of authority and power, identify opportunities for collaboration, growth and expansion, and set patterns for effective communication. Joint Ministry Agreements will equip the three new executive leaders to succeed as partners as they clarify their respective ecclesiastical, ecumenical, and synodical responsibilities.

As you read this article, a new Joint Ministry Agreement will likely have been approved by the CRCNA Canada and the CRCNA U.S. boards. If approved, it will be a legal and binding joint venture contract designed to address the long-standing concerns regarding the Canada Revenue regulations for CRCNA Canada as a registered Canadian charity. If approved, it will ensure that more than twenty ministry programs will continue to be jointly operated in Canada and the U.S.

Governance Reform

The SALT Report addresses a number of other topics including the need for governance reform.

The CRCNA is a complex binational organization struggling to align its commitment to Reformed polity and the current means of governance. SALT recommends the formation of an Office of Governance. This Office would provide a high-level forum to engage all ministry partners in an ongoing process of board re-design and organizational development.

An important issue that needs to be addressed, for example, is the current structure of the Council of Delegates (COD). The COD membership is based on a representative model that keeps Canada in a perpetual minority status. This has made it difficult to address ministry issues that are uniquely Canadian. The recommended Office of Governance would bring a variety of people together to resolve difficult governance issues such as the COD membership issue.

Will the new model for Governance and Leadership work?

We believe that a renewed governance and leadership structure will work if mature and experienced leaders are appointed to the three executive positions described in SALT. We believe that this new model will work if Canadian and U.S. ministry boards and leaders remain committed to furthering their binational partnership. We believe that this new model will work if the needed reforms recommended in SALT are adopted by Synod 2022 and jointly implemented by the respective Canada and U.S. Boards.

Authors

  • Frederic Koning

    Rev. Koning is a retired CRC Pastor and Medical Ethicist. He served as the Reporter for the Structure and Leadership Task Force (SALT), and co-facilitator of the SALT Steering Committee and the Joint Ministry Agreement Task Force.

  • Lloyd Vanderkwaak

    Dr. Vanderkwaak is a retired CEO and has conducted research on the governance partnership in nonprofit organizations. He served as a co-facilitator of the SALT Steering Committee and the Joint Ministry Agreement Task Force.

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