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Overture and Communication Process

What is an overture?

Simply put, an overture is a formal written proposal sent to an assembly. An overture raises a question or concern about something the assembly (council, classis, or synod) has authority over.

What is a communication?

A communication is a formal way of presenting information, ideas, thoughts, opinions, or protests to an assembly. A protest expresses a complaint or objection against something the assembly has authority over. A communication is distinguished from an overture in that an overture asks for action, and a communication does not.  An assembly is not required to take any action with respect to a communication.

What is the process? (Council, Classis, Synod)

Overtures and communications must be addressed to synod and each sent by way of a separate document with the signature of the stated clerk of classis (a typed name and title is sufficient). Please send your overture or communication to [email protected]. It will be shared with the General Secretary and Director of Synodical Services, and you will receive an acknowledgement of receipt of your submission.

But before an overture or communication can come to synod, it first needs to be weighed by your classis.  This creates 3 starting points of an overture or communication.

  1. An individual (or group of individuals) may send an overture or communication to their local council for approval. If the council adopts it as their own, then they send it to classis. If the council does not adopt it then the individual may send it him/herself to classis.
  2. A local council may prepare an overture or communication and send it to classis.
  3. A classis may prepare its own original overture or communication, perhaps using a subcommittee to draft it.

An overture or communication is then discussed at the classis meeting and, if adopted, sent to the Office of Synodical Services ([email protected]) by March 15 for review by the Director of Synodical Services and the General Secretary.  If it is not adopted by classis, the individual or council may still send it on their own behalf.

Upon receipt of the overture or communication it will quickly be reviewed for the following four items and sent back to the submitter if any are missing:

  • It must be in a Word document (or Google doc) submitted electronically. We are not equipped to accept hard copies or pdfs.
  • It must be “signed” (typed name and title if applicable) by the individual(s), council clerk, or classis stated clerk of whichever is the last to adopt it.
  • It must be rewritten as necessary to reflect that it comes from the last body to adopt it.
  • Overtures must clearly identify what action is requested (ex. “Classis overtures synod to do xyz”), preferably in a short statement with clear grounds. Communications must not ask for any action, or they will be sent back to either rewrite and submit as an overture, or to remove any requests for action.

What is the format/language used? (like recommendations, grounds, etc.)

Beyond the instructions above there is no set formula for how an overture must be written. However we do reformat each to fit the style of the Agenda for Synod ( fonts, tabbing, and numbering, etc.).  We also copy edit to correct typos, grammar, and make minor clarifications. We never change content or meaning, and we will ask for your input if we think any of our edits might change what you intended to communicate.

Formatting communications and overtures is a major portion of several staff’s work each spring. We are happy to do that, and don’t want formatting to stand in the way of you submitting important agenda items to synod. But if you’re handy with a word processor here are some tips for how you can be helpful to staff as you write an overture or communication:

  • The recommendations of an overture must all begin with something very close to  “We [classis, council, individual] overture that synod…”
  • Please use alphabetization for your recommendations (ie. A. That synod…. B. That synod….etc.) and numerals for grounds (ie. Grounds: 1. The CRCNA…2. Synod 2022 declared…etc.)
  • Church Order is always capitalized
  • Synod is only capitalized when followed by a year (ie. “synod is a…” vs. “Synod 2018 declared…”)
  • Be aware of the number of spaces you use, just one space between words and sentences. No extra spaces at the end of paragraphs.
  • Any URLs should be used in parenthesis ( and need to be written out.
  • Use clear headings (ie. I. Introduction, II. Background, III. Overture, etc.)

Some other important things to note: (Rules for Synodical Procedure, page 10)

Assemblies and members should refrain from overtures, appeals, or communications which are repetitious or mere expressions of agreement or disagreement with matters already on the agenda of synod.

  • The general secretary is authorized to omit such items from the printed Agenda. In such cases they shall merely be listed and accepted as communications. The senders shall be notified, and their materials shall be given to one of the advisory committees of synod to be received as information. Matters received as information will not ordinarily be mentioned in advisory committee reports or the Acts of Synod.

Unprocessed Overtures or Communications

  • Overtures or communications of an individual when such a person has been unable first to present such to council and classis. Such matters shall be received as information, provided that the general secretary receives evidence that it was impossible for the communicant to present the matter to council and classis. Synod shall decide whether to act upon such matters received as information.

Late Reports and Overtures

  • No study reports or recommendations from boards or standing committees which affect doctrinal or ethical statements or Church Order provisions received by the general secretary after September 15 or overtures received after March 15 shall be considered by synod, with the exception of overtures which deal with matters relevant to reports found in the printed Agenda. Any other overture or study report shall be considered only by special decision of synod on the basis of most weighty grounds.

Any further questions regarding the process can be sent to [email protected].