Photo: Karen Huttenga
Rev. Archie Vander Hart: “Not all pastors are administrators, not all ordained ministers have a pastor’s heart, and there are people without ordination that have a deep pastoral heart.”
Photo by Karen Huttenga

The Christian Reformed Church may consider non-clergy candidates for the denomination’s top executive position, Synod 2013 decided.

Delegates approved allowing an exception to the rule that the executive director must be an ordained minister of the Word. That could diversify the pool of candidates for the next executive director, whom synod hopes to hire in 2014.

But synod stipulated that a non-clergy candidate would have to be or become a CRC officebearer such as elder, deacon or commissioned pastor, which would include signing the Covenant for Officebearers.

The Board of Trustees had hoped to appoint a new executive director this year, but the nominee withdrew. The search committee had to pass over people with “wonderful qualifications” because they were not ordained pastors, said Rev. Archie VanderHart, speaking for an advisory committee that recommended the change

“Not all pastors are administrators, not all ordained ministers have a pastor’s heart, and there are people without ordination that have a deep pastoral heart,” VanderHart said.

Delegates supported the measure as a way to possibly attract gifted leaders and foster diversity.

“We talk so much about it, but the leadership should represent diversity,” said Rev. Stanley Jim of Classis Red Mesa. “This helps us to have a larger pool of diverse peoples.”

Elder delegate Ruby Meekhof of Classis Northern Michigan said a calling from God should be primary, whether the candidate is ordained or not.

“As pastors and elders who serve within the church, we are all called,” Meekhof said. “I believe whoever is called to this position will be able to do what is needed in order to perform their duties.”

Others insisted that the executive director needs theological education and wisdom to properly lead and represent the CRC.

“It’s hard for me to imagine we would be served as well by an unordained person as by someone who had a theological degree and an M.Div.,” said elder delegate Paul Boersma of Classis Wisconsin.

Rev. Peter Borgdorff, the CRC’s deputy executive director who has also served as executive director, said that while being an ordained pastor helps in dealing with other denominations, it’s not essential.

“I have never been asked in ecumenical settings whether I graduated from seminary,” Borgdorff said. “While it is an advantage, it’s not a deal-breaker.”

For continuous coverage of Synod 2013 including the live webcast, news, video recordings, photos, liveblog, social media links, and more visit


This is probably a good idea but there may be unintended consequences for all of the other CRCNA ministries. Changing the qualifications to not being ordained is ok but having the Educational Qualification of an M-Div degree might still be a requirement. We want to make sure a leader in the CRCNA can speak intelligently about scripture. And have the proof that he or she has that quality.

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