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Classis Clerks Gather in California

February 1, 2023
Stated clerks and denominational staff
Stated clerks and denominational staff
Photo: Catheryn Jo Kim

Stated clerks of all CRCNA classes were invited to spend three days in California for training, fellowship, and support. The conference took place Jan. 11-13, 2023, and was the first such gathering since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CRCNA has 49 classes. Each classis is a group of churches within a geographical area that meet together to offer one another mutual support and accountability, find ways to live out their collective calling in various ministries, and connect to the wider denomination.

Each classis has a stated clerk, who ensures accurate records are kept of all classis proceedings and manages the various communications of classis. This includes routine correspondence between churches as well as official communications related to ministerial credentials, congregational status, and overtures to synod. The stated clerks ensure that the protocols and decisions conform to the Church Order of the CRCNA.

“When you are a stated clerk, very often you are called on to make decisions and are expected to be the expert,” said Gary Duthler, who serves Classis Alberta North. They may be asked how to process an overture, give advice on the correct procedure for parting ways with a pastor, or how to archive meeting minutes.

“At a conference like this you grow a lot, and you meet people to whom you can go for help and ideas. It helps you feel less alone in the work,” he said.

Stated clerks of all 49 CRCNA classes were invited to spend three days in California for training, fellowship, and support. Thirty-two stated clerks were able to attend.

“It was a joy to meet with the stated clerks again,” said Al Postma, who had been involved in initiating this gathering while serving the denomination as a classis renewal leader.

“We started this practice of meeting in order to build capacity for the stated clerks – no matter who they were, where they served, or what their specific role looked like in their own context. It gives an opportunity to learn with one another and learn from one another,” he explained.

This year’s conference included presentations and small group discussions on topics such as church planting, Church Order, ministry shares, CRCNA membership trends, and resources available for stated clerks.

“I really appreciated the session with Resonate talking about church planting,” said Duthler. “The vision for that is invigorating because it really represents the future of the church. I grew up in a time when church planting was not very important – it was just sort of assumed that churches would grow by themselves. That vision for church planting is something I’ve seen in action in Classis Alberta North. We have a church plant in Fort Saskatchewan that is just growing by leaps and bounds because it meets a need in the community that the established churches have been unable to fill.”

For Drew Sweetman of Classis Muskegon, the presentation on ministry shares was a highlight. “I have had an interest in ministry shares for a long time, and our classis was kind of at the forefront of making some changes to the ministry-share system,” he explained. “Being part of that conversation was helpful and good, and it increases awareness to all the stated clerks that we need to keep looking at ministry shares, continue to think about [this system], and make it better.”

Several others appreciated a discussion about Church Order and upcoming changes to it.

“Sometimes it is very confusing [to try] to sort through Church Order things. When it is clarified, that helps a lot,” said Glenda Tebben of Classis Georgetown.

But overwhelmingly the most appreciated part of the three days was the opportunity to be together with other stated clerks and denominational staff.

“It is a good experience to get together with other stated clerks to talk about what we share in common, learn what other classes are doing, and build a sense of teamwork among the classes within the denomination,” said Larry Fryling of Classis Central California.

“It is nice to see people from all over the United States and Canada,” added Tebben. “You can just get so much wisdom from different people as you learn how they deal with stuff, and it gives you ideas for your own context.”

“Every time we've gathered clerks together, there are always elements of surprise as they discover that another classis does something different from them, opening up all sorts of imaginative space,” said Postma.

For Scott DeVries, the conference was one of his first tasks in his new role as director of synodical services.

“I enjoyed getting to know the stated clerks over these few days,” he said. “I was able to see their heart for the Christian Reformed Church as a whole and to hear how carefully they want to think through the issues they are facing in their own contexts. Each of them wants to help churches walk through the issues they are facing in a good, healthy process with a lot of grace.”

DeVries noted that one such faithful servant was Cornelius Pool, who served as stated clerk for Classis California South. Pool passed away unexpectedly about a week after the gathering while on a vacation with his siblings.

“I was heartbroken by the news of Cor’s passing,” said DeVries. “He was such a strong encourager. We extend our prayers and condolences to his family as they grieve his loss, and we celebrate that Cor is now with our Father.”