Photo: Karen Huttenga
Diane Plug shared her own experience with healing in the denomination
Photo by Karen Huttenga

As the CRCNA works on its next ministry plan, a key area of focus will be on reconciliation thanks to a decision made by Synod 2018.

Detailing a 25-year decline in the denomination’s membership, Classis Pacific Northwest, sent an overture to synod that suggested that “a contributing cause of that change is the emotional and spiritual hurt and grief caused by the bitter conflict that remains unresolved. ...The hurt of that conflict has become institutionalized and normalized, and is at the root of the CRCNA’s failure to thrive.”

In response to this request, Synod 2018 agreed to urge the executive director to issue a purposeful and consistent call to the entire denomination to be intentional in prayer for reconciled relationships, with special focus toward brothers and sisters who have left the CRCNA for various reasons.

It also urged all church members and assemblies to use Matthew 5:23-25 as a model, recognizing where hurt has been given, and to actively seek to reconcile strained and broken relationships.

Lori Fieber, Classis B.C. North-West said, “I’m excited about all this language towards reconciliation.” She talked about her home church striving to become a gospel-centered community that incorporates restorative practice and noted that an environment that is conducive to restoration must include willingness.

“Let’s continue to make overtures and offers of reconciliation towards those we are in conflict with, but be patient,” she said.

Herbert Schreur, Classis Northcentral Iowa, emphatically affirmed that reconciliation is needed. He also stated that not acting because another party is unwilling, is not an option.

“We can only control one side but we are commanded to control that one side,” he said. “In the parable of the sower, 75 percent of the seed falls on bad ground but we are not excused from sowing that seed and we are not excused from reaching out to those who aren’t going to respond.”

Diane Plug, Classis Chatham, expressed gratitude to God for healing she has experienced from past conflict. As a woman advisor in 2003 and 2004, she found it “very, very difficult” to be one of only six women in a room full of men. This year, there wasn’t a need for female advisors because there were enough female delegates chosen by their classis.

“I want to acknowledge to this body that a lot of healing has happened,” she said.

In addition to this call to the churches, Synod also urged the executive director to work with the appropriate agencies and ministries to publicize existing resources addressing unresolved conflict in our history and the need for reconciliation.

Roger Sparks, Classis Minkota, wondered if synod was being too general in its talk of reconciliation. While leaving room for a miracle in the power of prayer, Sparks didn’t think that sharing resources about reconciliation would accomplish much.

Giving the example of a married couple seeking counseling, he suggested a counselor would have them discuss the reasons for their estrangement, confess sin if it was present and offer forgiveness.

“Pointing to resources is a good start but we actually have to get specific,” Sparks said. “We need to move toward each other, and deal with the things that have divided us. I wonder if we are ready to do that?”

Other delegates hoped that by intentionally highlighting reconciliation as a denomination, progress would be made. They mandated that reconciliation be an area of focus in the next denominational ministry plan.

John Medendorp, Classis Huron, supported this ideas by saying that including this in the next ministry plan will make it a major focus of ministry, in much the same way that faith formation is a focus of current cycle.

Synod closed its time discussing reconciliation with a reading of Matt. 5:23-25 and a time of prayer among the delegates.

For continuous coverage of Synod 2018 including the live webcast, news, video recordings, photos, reports, liveblog, social media links, and more visit www.crcna.org/synod.