This year’s synod had its heated moments, as do synods every year.
But Synod 2012 also had notable instances of compromise and reconciliation — especially when delegates addressed the big issues of the Belhar Confession and Creation Care.
Other issues included whether to agree to the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s request to change its name and replacing the Form of Subscription, which CRC officebearers have been asked to sign since the early 1900s.
Synod delegates delegates took up the Belhar Confession on Tuesday night, discussing for more than three hours whether or not to adopt the Belhar as a fourth confession of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).
Given that this was probably the most talked-about and prayed-about issue facing synod, many people gathered to watch and listen to the debate at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, where synod was meeting. Hundreds of others watched via the synod webcast.
But instead of the polarized debate that many expected, Synod 2012 steered a steady, carefully-balanced course.
Seeking to accept the Belhar in a way that some may find more acceptable and inviting, synod voted to place it in a new category of “Ecumenical Faith Declarations” rather than make it a fourth confession.
This places the Belhar, which emerged from the struggle over apartheid in South Africa, before Christian Reformed churches as an important document addressing issues of unity, justice and reconciliation.
Prior to synod, the issue of climate change, popularly known as global warming, and the CRC’s Creation Stewardship report on the topic, drew a great deal of discussion among delegates and others.
Many people strongly believed, as did the members of the Creation Stewardship Task Force, that man is a major cause of climate change. But others strongly beleieved that there is not enough scientific data to prove it.
The Creation Care discussion by delegates to synod was lengthy and reflected a range of opinions about climate change and man’s role in it, but delegates spoke almost with one voice at the end. They voted to accept the recommendations of the report and to direct churches to address the compelling need for Christians to care for God’s world.
Synod 2012, in adopting the the Creation Stewardship report, also recommended that churches and members should learn all that they can and then to do all that they can to address ecological problems, including man’s role in climate change and the growing scarcity of energy resources.
Synod 2012 also:
- Adjudicated a dispute between Classis Quinte and Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in Belleville, Ontario.
- Decided to set aside its historic Form of Subscription in favor of a new Covenant for Officebearers. The new covenant will be used by the churches “as a means to encourage ongoing, vital engagement of officebearers with the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions.”
- Agreed to change the name of Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) to World Renew, a change that delegates agreed would be advantageous by making it easier to work in partnership with other organizations and to work in predominantly Muslim countries.
- Restored a requirement that public profession of faith include a commitment to the creeds and confessions of the CRC. Synod 2011 had removed the requirement from the Church Order. Synod also asked the Faith Formation Committee to review the matter and determine where this requirement might best fit in the Church Order.
- Declined to appoint a committee to study what extent the church should speak out on politicized issues. But it did ask the task force studying the church’s structure and culture to take note of the concern some people expressed about the church speaking on issues on their behalf. It instructed the CRC’s executive director to write a pastoral letter to the churches, urging them to reflect on the extent to which the church should advocate or lobby on controversial issues.
- Ratified the appointment of Rev. Kurt Selles as the new director of Back to God Ministries International. Selles, a former Christian Reformed World Missions missionary and teacher, will take up his new post in August. Synod also recognized with appreciation the work of Rev. Jimmy Tae-On Lin as interim director of the agency, which works in media ministry worldwide in 10 languages, and noted with sadness the passing of the former director, Rev. Robert Heerspink.
- Thanked Rev. William Koopmans and Rev. Peter Borgdorff for the work they did as leading members of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee (EIRC) and especially as they brought the issue of the Belhar Confession before churches and before synod this year.
- Endorsed Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, the new hymnal for the CRC. They did this following a presentation describing the hymnal by representatives of Faith Alive Christian Resources, the publishing ministry of the CRC and resource provider for the Reformed Church in America (RCA). The RCA will also use the hymnal.
- Acknowledged the retirements of ministers and ministry associates and then prayed for these ministers as they move into retirement.
- Changed the name of ministry associates to "commissioned pastors" to better reflect the scope and practice of the ministries that they perform. Also, the change was made to encourage others to study and to train to be commissioned pastors.
- Nearly 70 young adults attended re:kindle, a leadership summit put on by YALT (the Young Adult Leadership Task Force) for young adults in the Christian Reformed Church. Most of them, ages 18 to 31, were nominated by local pastors and churches to attend the conference after showing leadership in their home churches. The summit took place in Ancaster, Ontario, just as Synod 2012 was convening. During the summit, the group gathered to worship, listen to speakers, watch short films, and discuss issues facing young adults. Then they divided up into small groups for discussion and devotions each night.
Synod also heard from and thanked Gaylen Byker for his 17 years of service as president at Calvin College and interviewed and ratified the appointment of Michael Le Roy as new president of Calvin College.
It also approved the appointment of Rev. Michael Goheen as a professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary. Goheen has served as the Geneva Professor of Worldview and Religious Studies at Trinity Western University in British Columbia and has written widely and published books on the topic of missions.
On its final morning, synod dealt with the remaining sections of the Creation Stewardship report and also formally noted that the status of “Our World Belongs to God,” the Contemporary Testimony, is unchanged by the adoption of the new Covenant for Officebearers, which makes reference to the Contemporary Testimony.
For news, photos, video recordings of all synod sessions and more, visit: crcna.org/synod