Photo: CRCNA
Photo by CRCNA

The Agenda for Synod 2017 is now available on the Synod Resources page of the Christian Reformed Church website  and on the Synod 2017 web page, where you can also sign up to receive synod news updates during the week of synod.

Holding synod this year at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., will offer delegates, Christian Reformed Church ministry leaders, and others the opportunity to celebrate what God is doing in the church and in the greater Chicago area, said Steven Timmermans, executive director of the CRC in North America.

“It will be exciting to be in that area and to be in a different place where the church is alive and at work,” said Timmermans, who served for several years as Trinity’s president before assuming his present role with the CRC.

Last year’s synod, held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., wrestled with a range of important issues, including same-sex marriage and the Doctrine of Discovery, said Timmermans.

Synod 2017 will also be addressing significant issues such as the formation of the Council of Delegates, the body that will be replacing the Board of Trustees in the governance of the church. Synod will be asked to approve a handbook that spells out the authority and guidelines by which the Council of Delegates will operate.

This year’s synod will begin on Friday, June 9, at 8:30 a.m., and Crossroads Community CRC, Schererville, Ind., will serve as the convening church. Rev. Drew Brown, pastor of Crossroads Community, will serve as the president pro-tem until synod is constituted and its officers have been elected.

At 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 11, a community-wide Synodical Service of Prayer and Praise will be held at Crossroads, located at 1538 Janice Drive in Schererville.

Reviewing this year’s agenda, Timmermans said he is grateful to see included an overture asking the CRC to study and seek to discover the cause for CRC’s ongoing membership decline. The overture has been submitted by Classis Southeast U.S.

The overture also asks synod to develop a strategy to reverse the trend of decline through such efforts as church renewal and planting, and to require annual reporting on how much progress has been made in assessing the decline and coming up with strategies to deal with it.

“It is important to quantify what is happening and to seek explanations,” said Timmermans. “This can help us see how we are doing and give us fresh ideas of how we can better respond to God’s call.”

Also on the agenda is a report from the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee (EIRC) relating to the Belhar Confession, which emerged from churches in South Africa to address the issue of racial reconciliation.

Currently the CRC refers to the Belhar Confession as an Ecumenical Faith Declaration. But Synod 2016 recommended recategorizing it to the status of a contemporary testimony.

Meanwhile, there are also six related overtures, two supporting the recommendation to place the Belhar in the Contemporary Testimony category and four opposed.

“The category that the Belhar is now in is confusing to ecumenical partners, and synod has asked about the validity of the category,” said Timmermans.

Timmermans said he is especially looking forward to synod’s approving the formal unification of Christian Reformed Home Missions and Christian Reformed World Missions into one agency to perform outreach and mission for the church.

“This is an important step,” said Timmermans. “There will be a new name and identity. As this occurs, we’ll also have a chance to look at the background and be gratified for what God has done through these two agencies.”

In addition, synod will be asked to approve the appointment of Rev. Zachary J. King to serve as the director of the new mission agency. Most recently, King has been a church and leadership developer in Haiti for Christian Reformed World Missions.

During this year’s synod, the CRC will set aside an hour in which delegates and representatives of the Reformed Church in America will have a chance to discuss progress they have made in working together with CRC partners and ministries since Synod 2014,when the two denominations met on the campus of Central College in Pella, Iowa, for worship, discussion, and the formation of an agreement to find ways to work together more intentionally in ministry.

“In 2014, we had what some are calling the ‘Pella Accord’ that established the principle of working together as much as possible without detailing specific directions as to where we want to go together,” said Timmermans.

“We won’t be making any further decisions this year, but that might happen when our synods meet concurrently next year again at Calvin College.”

Regarding a request from Synod 2016, this year’s synod will also have before it “a detailed chart of all existing ministries that includes the following information: ministry description, date the ministry began, account of synod that established the ministry, and current financial ministry-share allocation” (Acts of Synod 2016, p. 858).

Included with this summary will be a program evaluation overview of all ministries, titled “Our Calling: Understanding the Breadth and Depth of the Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.”

The report from the Task Force on Funding for Calvin Theological Seminary Students, which was mandated by Synod 2016, will also be discussed at synod.

The task force was asked to address the following (see Acts of Synod 2016, p. 854):

  • Issues of equity in classis-based funding of seminary students.
  • Financial challenges faced by students from Canada who desire to attend Calvin Theological Seminary.
  • The impact of these financial circumstances on CRC members accessing a Reformed preparation for ministry within the church.

As Synod 2017 approaches, said Timmermans, CRC congregations are requested to remember the synodical assembly in intercessory prayers on the Sundays of June 4 and 11.

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