Respect for the dignity of each person, as equally created and called by God to contribute to the life of the church, is one of the core stated values of the CRCNA. When incidents happen that erode, infringe upon, or violate this dignity, there needs to be a place to go for help to address the wrong done and to restore respectful relationships.
This is the function of the CRCNA Dignity Team. Established in 2022, the dignity team exists to respond to less tangible and less clearly defined abuses of power that occur within CRC circles, but may fall between or outside the scopes of the systems addressed elsewhere in the CRCNA’s system to prevent the abuse of power.
The Dignity Team of the CRCNA is made up of five members from across North America who:
represent the diversity of the denomination in terms of gender, ethnicity and culture;
demonstrate moral authority within the denomination;
have a track record of strong listening, interpersonal, and communication skills and high levels of respect within the denomination; and
are accountable to the COD through regular reporting on their work.
The current members are:
Sherry is a retired teacher, school administrator, and public school superintendent. She is a member of Anacortes Christian Reformed Church in Washington state. She has served and continues to serve in various classical and denominational roles, including on the Council of Delegates and as Classis Safe Church Coordinator for Classis Pacific Northwest. She was a member of the 2019 Addressing Abuse of Power committee and the 2021 Ad Hoc committee on Abuse of Power. She has had training in mediation. Sherry has been married for 61 years and loves music, flowers, road trips, and her family.
Rev. Carel Geleynse is a retired CRC pastor who served five congregations throughout Canada. During his years of ministry, Carel has gained insight into Safe Church matters. He has served on two different classical Safe Church teams and was a member of the 2018 Abuse of Power Taskforce. Carel has also served on various denominational boards including co-chair of the New Mission Agency board which led to the birth of Resonate Global Mission. Carel and his wife, Irene, have four children and two grandchildren, and are members of Community CRC in Kitchener, Ontario.
Lee is a retired American-Canadian educator who taught in Christian schools in both countries and served a number of years as a principal. At his retirement nearly twenty years ago, Lee served as director of the Society of Christian Schools of British Columbia. While in that position he was involved in shaping conflict resolution mechanisms and developing and promoting procedural fairness practices for schools. He holds a MACS from Calvin University and a PhD in the area of organizational leadership. Currently he is involved in a local restorative justice program that seeks to advance healing rather than retribution. Lee and Ilean, his partner of sixty years, have four children, twelve grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren scattered around the globe. Lee has taught Christian worldview and leadership courses in a number of countries, having spent quite a bit of time in Africa and in the Ukraine. Having completed a number of terms in church councils, he has been asked to be involved in some conflictual church and community settings. He is one of the charter members of Hillside CRC in Abbotsford, BC.
Rev. Sheila Holmes is the pastor of Northside Community CRC in Paterson, NJ. She has been trained in trauma resilience and is a trained disaster Chaplain for Bergen County in New Jersey, a previous member of the Red Cross, Ceasefire, and Chaplain for Paterson Police and Fire department. She has been an advocate for those in need and has a heart to walk alongside those who are struggling. She has been president of the CRCNA Board of Trustees, Vice Chair of Synod, and on many denominational study committees and search committees. Sheila is currently a member of the Council of Delegates, Stated Clerk of Classis Hackensack, and has a master's degree in mental health coaching.
Cecil Van Niejenhuis
Cecil served in ministry in the CRC for 40 years—first with four churches in Ontario and Alberta, and then for 11 years as a consulting pastor with Pastor Church Resources. In this role, he paid specific attention to situations involving relational tension and stress. Cecil is keenly interested in the ways our own stories intersect with the Story of Scripture. Currently retired and living in Edmonton, Cecil now serves on the Healthy Church Taskforce of Classis Alberta North, and occasionally preaches and teaches. Cecil is married to Karen and has three adult children and numerous grandchildren in Canada and the U.S. He says that life itself is an experience of grace, and an opportunity to serve.
The approved mandate of the Dignity Team is:
to prevent abuse of power by being available to advise those within CRC arenas on how to promote the value and dignity of all persons;
to respond to abuses of power that occur within CRC circles in nimble, less formal, pastoral ways in coordination with Safe Church Ministry, Pastor Church Resources, and Human Resources in ways that promote reconciliation, healing, and restoration; and
to report trends of abuse and gaps related to response to abuse within the denomination.
The CRCNA has a code of conduct for all staff and ministry leaders; it has strong, consistent, and clear policies and processes; it does regular monitoring and reporting; and it also provides employees and others with regular training in the prevention of the abuse of power. The dignity team is designed to complement those systems, not to duplicate or substitute for them.