Unity Without Uniformity

Highlights from CRC Synod 2019.

We might be tempted to view Synod 2019 as a placeholder: We gave feedback on the interim human sexuality report; we recommended numerous church order changes (about worship services, commissioned pastors, the judicial code, and synod itself) that will need to be approved by next year’s meeting; we didn’t change any of our positions on things like climate change or our response to the conflict in the Middle East; and we asked that committee work continue regarding abuse of power and bivocational ministry. These acts connect synods of past and future. However, it may be helpful to think of Synod 2019 as laying important groundwork for what we believe will be key synods in the future. 

The substantive work of Synod 2019 consisted in accepting the Synod Review Task Force’s work as we approved the majority of their recommendations to improve and transform the way that synod prepares delegates and runs. These changes will hopefully increase the confidence that newer delegates – especially non-pastors – have in participating, and it includes the possibility of “theme” synods (where worship and workshops center on a major agenda issue/item or denominational ministry priority).

Synod also received the Abuse of Power report mandated last year. We were given a definition of abuse of power and were presented with a number of examples of ways that lay people and those in authority abuse power. Delegates shared stories with one another about their own experiences of abuse of power, and we heard from one pastor about the lingering effects of past abuse on a church community. We paused our business of deliberating to get to the business of praying and lamenting, especially for those who have been abused within our churches. Among other things, Synod propelled the work into the future by assigning a committee to develop a code of conduct for all levels of the denomination. Synod also formed a Guardian Team to continue to evaluate our culture and to get involved early in situations of complaints about abuse of power. This report is just the beginning of transforming an undercurrent in our church.

Based on some of the overtures we considered on the last day of deliberations, Synod asked for the Council of Delegates to provide two key definitions to future synods: what constitutes “heresy” and what are the boundaries on “ecclesiastical matters?” Synod took the step of condemning Kinism theology as heresy, and spent time in prayer and lament over its existence within our church.

It is worth noting the historic event of Synod 2019. At one point during this synod, every executive officer had to chair our deliberations. This included the first time a Deacon delegate presided! Deacon Melissa Van Dyk, at varying points of synod, was the Second Clerk, Vice-All, and Chair (when the presiding Chair, First Clerk Jose Rayas, was challenged on a decision).
With the excitement of musical “chairs,” the soberness of our prayer times, the anticipation of the changes we decided, this synod covered a lot of ground and provided delegates ample opportunity to express unity without uniformity. 

  • Chelsey Harmon is the Pastor of Christ Community Church in Nanaimo, BC, just barely in her 30s and enjoying life on Vancouver Island. She always writes sermons while wearing hoodies, knits like crazy as an excuse to watch large amounts of TV and blogs at chelseyharmon.wordpress.com.

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