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A Note from the General Secretary Following Synod

June 26, 2024

Synod 2024 concluded its annual deliberations last week Thursday with an encouragement from its president, Rev. Derek Buikema, to be gentle in the coming days, weeks, and months. In Ephesians 4:2 (and other places), the apostle Paul exhorts believers to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” I would like to take a moment to reflect pastorally on what that might mean.

Synod is the broadest assembly of ecclesiastical governance for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Local church councils delegate authority to regional classes to make decisions for a geographic group of churches. Classes delegate authority to synod to make decisions for all the classes and churches in the denomination. Each of these assemblies involves a deliberative process with prayer, worship, discussion, and discernment from the men and women involved.

Synod 2024 stood on the shoulders of the previous two synods. Synod 2022 declared the CRC’s prohibition on same-sex relations (in addition to adultery, pornography, and other sexual sins) to be an interpretation of Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108 and therefore to have the status of confessional teaching. At the same time, Synod 2022 encouraged the churches to be places of welcome, grace, and hospitality for LGBTQ+ people who face temptations just as heterosexual people do. Although it received many objections and requests to revise its confessional teaching on sexuality, Synod 2023 upheld the position and instructed churches to adhere to it. Now Synod 2024 has clarified procedures for officebearers who may wrestle with this understanding, with a commitment to help guide them in their discernment and their ability to serve in church office. Synod 2024 also clarified procedures and expectations for churches that have expressed disagreement with the positions of the denomination, giving them an opportunity to come into alignment or providing a pathway for disaffiliation if their convictions are settled.

Synod 2024’s decisions have broad-reaching consequences for our denomination. As we move forward, we recognize that feelings and emotions about these decisions are high. Discipline, and the possibility of disaffiliation, feel scary. For those who now find themselves under church discipline, we know that synod’s decisions are causing pain. We hurt because part of our body is hurting. We also know that some will choose to leave our denomination, and that hurts us all. Yet we pray that the clarity that has been established will help us move forward.

In the spirit of Ephesians 4:2, I urge us to choose gentleness. Rev. Buikema reminded us that “gentleness is strong. The good fight in which we engage is not a fight against other churches, or peoples, or denominations . . . no person here is the enemy of another person here.” Instead, we are all part of the same fight against the devil and his powers in the world. For that fight, gentleness with each other is necessary.

Lord willing, by the end of July or the beginning of August, the Office of General Secretary will publish an informative Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that will respond to questions that you, your congregation, or classis may have regarding the decisions of Synod 2024. In the meantime, please join me in prayer for gentleness and wisdom as we entrust our future to a God who is faithful.

Finally, please note that Synod 2024 made several other important decisions unrelated to human sexuality. We adopted a Global Vision report that points us toward an exciting future of relationships with Reformed congregations around the world, heard wonderful testimonies from our growing Korean and Hispanic congregations, approved 25 new candidates for ministry, and celebrated plans to plant 33 new churches in the coming year. We are grateful for what God is doing despite our human struggles and divisions. We pray that he will continue to endow us with gentleness for all as we step into the future.

Coverage of the decisions of Synod 2024 has been provided by The Banner. You can find a list of stories from the first five days of synod here. In addition, a list of stories from the remainder of synod follows: