Synod 2012 spent more than three hours Tuesday night debating the Belhar Confession, finally adopting it as an Ecumenical Faith Declaration rather than a confession.
The most extended debate was about whether to create a category of “Ecumenical Faith Declarations” for statements such as the Belhar. In the end, synod voted by a large majority to create the new category.
Many delegates expressed disappointment that synod was not voting directly about adopting the Belhar as a full confession, saying that is what they came to synod to do.
Asked how the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee (EIRC) views adopting the Belhar as something less than a full confession, Rev. William Koopmans said the committee supports every effort to let the voice of the Belhar be heard.
Synod voted against a recommendation to appoint a study committee to explore and define confessions and the role they play in the church. Another motion to revisit the Belhar in three years was withdrawn.
As the debate ended, Koopmans, whose term on the EIRC is finishing, spoke to delegates.
“[As] my last official act on behalf of EIRC, I wish and I dream that we can find a way to submit ourselves to the binding force of the Belhar Confession with regard to these marvelous principles of unity and reconciliation—perhaps through something like a web page—where officebearers could voluntarily bind themselves from the heart,” he said.
“It is my dream that hundreds and hundreds would line up to do that.”
The Belhar Confession was written by the Uniting Reformed Churches in Southern Africa during the apartheid era, and focuses on themes of unity, justice, and reconciliation. It has been adopted by the Reformed Church in America.
Synod 2009 proposed that the CRC adopt the Belhar as a full confession in 2012. The church spent three years learning about it and discussing it.
Another major item on Synod 2012’s agenda is the report from the Creation Stewardship Task Force, to be discussed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
For continuous coverage of Synod 2012, including a live webcast, visit www.crcna.org/Synod.